The 4th of July could be huge for Hawaii’s tourism industry. The state plans to let fully vaccinated tourists visit the islands over the Independence Day holiday without undergoing pre-travel COVID-19 tests, according to Hawaii Gov. David Ige.
The decision was made possible thanks to the success of the U.S. vaccination program, which has so far administered at least one vaccine dose to nearly 50% of the American public and fully inoculated almost 40%.
“Now across the country, we’re getting to 40-50% [of the population] fully vaccinated, and we do know the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance that there’s little risk,” Ige told KHON2.com. “We know that we have to get there, we have to be able to allow vaccinated travelers to come here transpacific because that will help us get more people back to work.”
Hawaii’s tourism numbers are already looking up. The latest Hawaii Hotel Performance Report found that room occupancies were up nearly 51% in April 2021 compared to April 2020. Meanwhile, revenue per available room was $153 for the month, which is 1,000% higher than the same period last year.
While Hawaiian officials intend to ease testing protocols for fully vaccinated visitors this summer, they are not yet on board with the CDC’s recent guidance to scale back mask mandates. In fact, Ige said he was “caught off guard” by the recommendation.
“It definitely came without notice,” Ige said. “And you know, we’re on a weekly call with the White House, and there was no indication that that was in the works. Clearly, we were concerned about what the impact of that announcement would have on vaccination rates and people getting vaccinated.”
Ige said that Hawaii’s mask mandate will stay in place until at least mid-June, when more of the state’s population has been vaccinated. Until then, the state is encouraging residents and visitors to continue to wear masks and “be respectful of our community.”
As of May 24, approximately 47% of Hawaii’s population has been fully vaccinated, according to USAFacts.org. To reach herd immunity, around 75% of the population has to be vaccinated.
In order to boost Hawaii’s vaccination rate, Ige said officials are “looking at” the possibility of offering incentives to reward individuals who have gotten their vaccine shots.