Hawaii to consider changes to Safe Travels program after latest CDC guidance

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Lanai Hawaii beach [Credit: Pierre Leclerc/Shutterstock.com]
A sunset on Lanai. Hawaii's Safe Travels program could see some changes as a result of the CDC's latest guidance for travel. Photo Credit: Pierre Leclerc/Shutterstock.com

Following the CDC's announcement on Friday declaring it is safe for those fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel, there is some talk in Hawaii's statehouse of the new guidance leading to an easing of the protocols in the Islands' strict Safe Travels screening program.

A spokesperson from Lt. Gov. Josh Green's office said that while there will be no immediate change to Hawaii's protocols, meaning vaccinated travelers to the Islands must still produce a negative Covid-19 test from an approved provider to bypass a 10-day quarantine, the state hopes to incorporate the new CDC policy into the existing Safe Travels program. Prior to implementing the change, state officials must decide what mechanism they will use to verify the vaccination record of travelers. Green would like to see the revamped system in place by May 1 to help boost the summer travel season, the spokesperson added.

Gov. David Ige ultimately must approve any changes to the protocol; the governor's office did not immediately return a request for comment from Travel Weekly on Friday.

Honolulu-based travel advisor Bruce Fisher said the state moving deliberately on changes to the protocol has been the norm, so he is not surprised that no immediate changes are in store.

• Related: Industry leaders applaud new CDC guidance for travel

"I think a vaccine passport will open up for locals to travel interisland first in Hawaii and then perhaps by June let people from the mainland come here with vaccinations," he said. "Once it does happen, it will make a difference, but I think the state of Hawaii will keep the Safe Travels program as it is now, and people will need to upload the information."

New programs help clients meet Hawaii's Safe Travels Covid-19 screening program guidelines.

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Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, said testing is an additional cost that may discourage some from traveling to the Aloha State, and eliminating that hurdle for vaccinated travelers would be a boost for the state's hospitality and tourism industry.

Even with an uptick in travel to the Islands as spring break arrived in March, the state is still receiving roughly half of the daily arrivals it typically welcomed prior to the pandemic.

"Every little piece helps, anything that makes it easier for people to come to Hawaii and safely enjoy themselves," Hannemann said.

Hawaii's Safe Travels program currently requires all travelers age 5 and older to take a Covid-19 test from a trusted testing partner within 72 hours of their departure to Hawaii. Visitors must upload negative results to their Safe Travels profile prior to departure of the Hawaii-bound flight or self-quarantine for 10 days or the duration of their stay, whichever is shorter, and there are no exemptions for vaccinated travelers.

The new guidance from the CDC declares it safe for fully vaccinated people to travel within the U.S. without testing for Covid-19 or quarantining, although they are still advised to wear a mask, socially distance and avoid crowds. For international destinations, the agency said vaccinated people do not need to get a Covid-19 test before leaving, though some destinations may require it, and it does call for Covid-19 testing even for vaccinated travelers prior to flying to the U.S. from abroad. Unvaccinated people are still advised to avoid unnecessary travel.

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