Relaxed inter-country restrictions give travel a boost
Hawaii on Tuesday ended restrictions on travel between the Hawaiian Islands and extended the quarantine exemption to domestic travelers who have been fully vaccinated with at least one injection in Hawaii.
Hilo resident Fabinita Franco was all smiles on Tuesday as she prepared to leave Daniel K. Inouye International Airport after a work trip.
âIt was so easy compared to when I went to Alabama and had to look up my health code. They no longer need it for Hilo, âsaid Franco. âI am from the Philippines and I don’t have a lot of computer knowledge. I am more confident to travel now. I was nervous before.
The latest change to Safe Travels has helped Franco get back to work as a caregiver and represents another step towards normalcy and the wider reopening of Hawaii’s tourism dependent economy. It is also expected to further boost tourism within Hawaii and between the islands, although the biggest gains will not occur until Hawaii offers vaccination exemptions to all domestic travelers. or terminate Safe Travels completely.
Sherilyn Kajiwara, special projects administrator assigned to Safe Travels Hawaii, said in an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser at the airport on Tuesday that travel “is busy today, but not busier with the new restrictions lifted. than yesterday “.
Testing is still allowed, but more and more people have started using a vaccination card, Kajiwara said.
“By 10 a.m. (Tuesday), we already had around 770 travelers who used the vaccination card.”
Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association president and CEO Mufi Hannemann said this latest easing of some travel restrictions was not so much about bolstering tourism as it was to move Hawaii to the next stage of reopening. tourism.
âWe are anticipating a robust summer, and this allows it to run smoothly while demonstrating that we are not going to sacrifice the health and safety of our community,â said Hannemann.
Transpacific travelers who have not been vaccinated in Hawaii must still comply with the requirements of Safe Travels, which requires a negative COVID test from a “trusted travel partner.” Governor David Ige said the state would allow domestic transpacific travelers who have been vaccinated outside of Hawaii to begin using immunization exemptions when 60% of Hawaii’s population is vaccinated against COVID.
But even then, Hawaii is unlikely to experience a full tourism recovery, as families make up a large portion of Hawaii’s leisure tourism market and travelers aged 5 to 11 are not eligible for vaccines, so they must test to bypass quarantine, longtime Hawaii said. hotelier Jerry Gibson.
âThe family market takes over from June 15 to August 15, and the last thing parents want is to be stuck with a procedural issue,â Gibson said. âWe are monitoring vaccination statistics every day because it is very important that we make the trip to Hawaii as easy as possible. We look forward to the day when we can fully open and resume normal travel. “
Ige said the state will end Safe Travels when 70% of Hawaii’s population is vaccinated against COVID. At this point, Ige has said he will essentially lift all COVID-19 travel and public health restrictions, including indoor mask warrants.
Keith Vieira, director of KV & Associates, Hospitality Consulting, said meeting these criteria became increasingly important as other destinations opened up more fully. Vieira said he was in San Francisco on Tuesday, the first day California lifted nearly all of its pandemic restrictions, including his mask tenure.
âFisherman’s Wharf was absolutely packed and no one was wearing a mask. Today, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, all of them did not advertise any masks in stores. You can say today that things have changed, âhe said. âThe hotel I’m staying at had 100 reservations just for check-in today.â
Vieira said Hawaii’s allure also resulted in a strong summer, with booking pace this week above 2019 levels.
However, he said some of the bookings were made in hopes the state would ease travel restrictions further, especially for fully vaccinated travelers.
If that doesn’t happen, Vieira said travelers could cancel or postpone their trips to Hawaii and instead head to places where travel requirements are non-existent or cheaper and easier to understand.
Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman Tara Shimooka said: “Testing remains a barrier to travel, especially as many other travel destinations begin to exempt vaccinated travelers from the restrictions.”
âWe also need to see a loosening of restrictions on international travel for our state’s economy to fully recover,â Shimooka said. âFinally, the screening associated with Safe Travels is expensive and consumes resources that could be devoted to other measures to ensure public health at this stage of the pandemic. “
But she said the Hawaiian was encouraged by demand for travel to nearby islands that has materialized since Ige’s June 4 announcement of Tuesday’s changes.
âWe saw an increase in travel bookings to neighboring islands during the last half of June. Demand continues through midsummer, with July bookings surpassing June levels, âShimooka said. “Most of the local residents are well informed of the travel changes and are eager to travel freely through the islands to visit family and friends and do business.”
Kajiwara advises travelers to keep abreast of Hawaii entry requirements by visiting the Travel tab on hawaiicovid19.com.
She said some domestic travelers have been trying to use their vaccination cards to enter Hawaii since the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines that fully vaccinated travelers can travel safely to the United States. United.
She said another common mistake is not getting a COVID test from one of the state’s 38 trusted testing partners.
Kajiwara said there were also still travelers who needed to quarantine in Hawaii because they passed the wrong test, missed the 72-hour testing window, or failed to collect results. before boarding the plane for the last leg of their flight to Hawaii.
Kajiwara said the pre-clearance programs offered on Hawaiian, Southwestern, Alaska and United airlines have helped travelers avoid frustration by verifying that they meet Safe Travels requirements and allowing them to bypass them. arrival control lines.
As of Tuesday, 1,693 people were in Hawaii travel quarantine. Kajiwara estimates that more than half of those in quarantine were returning residents, who are not afraid to stay in their homes for 10 days.
âIt’s a very small percentage of people who need to be quarantined,â Kajiwara said. âAt first, people didn’t understand the program. Now the word is out.
However, not widely enough, said Melanie Savage, who spent more than $ 3,000 to fly to Hawaii on June 3 from North Carolina with her husband DaJuan Savage for a vacation, only to learn they had to go. quarantine because their tests did not come from trusted testing partners.
âThe guy at the ticket said we were all clear in Charlotte,â Savage said. âIf we had known we weren’t, we wouldn’t have taken the flight for eight hours and then waited in line for two hours. We would have been returned. “
Savage said she was not against Hawaii’s COVID-related travel requirements, but said they should be clearer. She also said the state should consider allowing travelers who do not meet pre-entry requirements to bypass quarantine with a post-arrival test.
âIt was our first and last trip to Hawaii. We were like caged animals in our room, âshe said. “We thought, ‘What is this place? I felt like I was in a third world country.