Travel demand for Hawaii is already picking up, and officials are looking to ease travel restrictions for all U.S. visitors by this summer.
Changes to the Safe Travels Hawaii, the state’s traveler entry program, will begin May 11 for state residents who were vaccinated in Hawaii. They will be able to bypass coronavirus testing requirements when they travel between islands, as long as at least 14 days have passed since their final shot.
During the announcement, Governor David Ige said at a news conference last week the vaccine exception will go into effect for visitors from the continental United States later in the summer; international travel will follow eventually.
“We anticipate it will happen this summer, but it depends on how quickly they can connect the networks to get access to vaccination information for all the states," Ige said at the press conference.
Currently, the state requires visitors to test negative within 72 hours of departure — via an approved testing partner — to avoid a 10-day self-quarantine. Inter-island travelers arriving in Kauai, Hawaii Island, or Maui County also must self-quarantine unless they have a negative test. The testing option was not even available until mid-October; before that, all travelers had to self-quarantine for 14 days.
To be eligible for the exemption, travelers must register on the state's Safe Travels digital platform, complete required health and travel forms and upload their vaccination card. The person then receives a QR code that is scanned at the airport.
Travelers must also carry their vaccination cards with them. Only those who are two weeks past their final dose of the vaccine, the point at which the CDC says the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are fully effective, can qualify for the exemption.
The state has already seen an increase in travel demand. Safe Travels Hawaii, which started Oct. 15, had screened nearly 2.67 million travelers, including nearly 2.01 million visitors. As many as 485,021, including 396,949 visitors, came during the first 20 days of April.
Occupancy at Hawaii hotels rose to 43% in March, up from about 31% in February and 23% in January, according to data from Nashville-based STR released Wednesday. It was Hawaii’s highest statewide occupancy in the last 11 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.