Officials in Hawaii are working on a system that would allow visitors with proof of vaccination to skip quarantine requirements – with hopes of opening it up to travelers from the mainland U.S. this spring.
After months of being closed off to tourists during the pandemic, Hawaii re-opened to travel last October with COVID-19 testing requirements. But those restrictions have continually changed and vary from island to island.
Lt. Gov Josh Green, who has led much of Hawaii’s travel entry programs, first raised the prospect of using so-called vaccine passports to bypass the current requirements last month. This week, he told Hawaii News Now that system is already in development. Green said it will roll out for residents and inter-island travel first, with hopes of making it available to travelers from the mainland by May 1.
The vaccine passport would also allow travelers to travel freely from island-to-island, too, Green said. Currently, several islands require an additional test or even quarantines when hopping from island to island.
“This is the way we restore our economy very quickly,” Green said. “We would likely see a huge uptick in visitors by, say, the fall this way.”
It’s unclear whether travelers with proof of vaccination would also be able to bypass the current testing requirements in addition to quarantine. Currently, all visitors must provide a negative COVID-19 test from an approved source taken no more than 72 hours before departing for Hawaii. Those who don’t face a 10-day mandatory quarantine.
Read our master guide to Hawaii’s current testing and entry requirements!
Despite the constant allure of Hawaii, travel to the islands remains way down during the pandemic. December visits were down by 75% compared to a year earlier, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Hawaii clearly hopes that easing entry with proof-of-vaccination could change that. Vaccine distribution is underway across the country, with roughly 1.5 million doses being administered daily.
Green said the state hopes this new approach will triple visitors to the state by the fall to about 22,000 daily arrivals. That would still leave tourism to Hawaii down by about 17% compared to 2019.
Hawaii is a tourism magnet, and COVID-19 won’t change that. But the current patchwork of ever-changing rules and restrictions has warded off even the most die-hard Hawaii fans from heading for the islands.
It’s clear that proof-of-vaccination is the way forward for travel – for Hawaii, and for the rest of the globe.