Hawaii ended restrictions on intercounty travel between the Hawaiian Islands on Tuesday and extended the quarantine exemption to domestic travelers who were fully vaccinated with at least one shot in Hawaii.
Hilo resident Fabinita Franco was all smiles Tuesday as she prepared to leave Daniel K. Inouye International Airport after a work trip.
“It was so easy compared to when I went to Alabama and I had to look for my health code. They don’t need it anymore for Hilo,” Franco said. “I come from the Philippines, and I don’t have much knowledge of computers. I’m more confident to travel now. I was nervous before.”
The latest change to Safe Travels helped Franco get back to work as a caregiver and represents another step toward normalcy and the broader reopening of Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy. It’s also expected to drive more tourism to Hawaii and between the islands, although the largest gains won’t occur until Hawaii offers vaccination exemptions to all domestic travelers or ends Safe Travels entirely.
Sherilyn Kajiwara, a special-projects administrator assigned to Safe Travels Hawaii, said Tuesday during an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser at the airport that travel “is busy today, but not any busier with the new restrictions lifted than yesterday.”
Testing is still allowed, but more people have begun to use a vaccination card, Kajiwara said.
“By 10 a.m. (Tuesday) we had already had about 770 travelers that used the vaccination card.”
Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association President and CEO Mufi Hannemann said this latest loosening of some travel restrictions is not as much about bolstering tourism as it is about getting Hawaii to the next step of tourism’s reopening.
“We’re anticipating a robust summer, and this enables it to go smoothly while demonstrating that we aren’t going to sacrifice the health and safety of our community,” Hannemann said.
Trans-Pacific travelers who weren’t vaccinated in Hawaii still have to comply with the requirements of Safe Travels, which requires a negative COVID test from a “trusted travel partner.” Gov. David Ige has said that the state would allow domestic trans-Pacific travelers who were vaccinated outside of Hawaii to begin using vaccination exemptions when 60% of Hawaii’s population is vaccinated for COVID.
But even then Hawaii’s not likely to see a full tourism recovery, as families make up a large portion of Hawaii’s leisure tourism market and travelers 5 to 11 years old are not eligible for vaccines, so they must test to bypass the quarantine, said longtime Hawaii hotelier Jerry Gibson.
“The family market takes over from June 15 to Aug. 15, and the last thing that parents want is to be hung up by a procedural problem,” Gibson said. “We are watching the vaccination stats every day because it’s very important that we make travel to Hawaii as easy as possible. We are looking forward to the day that we can open completely and get back to normal travel.”
Ige has said the state would end Safe Travels when 70% of Hawaii’s population is vaccinated