Fewer Restrictions Brought A Surge In Visitors
Hawaii has experienced an incredible amount of ups and downs during the pandemic. By imposing restrictions such as testing before arrival, including testing to fly inter-island and quarantines, strictly enforced by the state with $5000 fines, Hawaii became a struggle to visit from March 2020 to October 15th, 2020.
The state began losing its restrictions, dropping testing requirements in June and allowing fully vaccinated people to travel to the islands and between islands with no quarantine. This loosening of regulations set off a huge surge in arrivals, and Hawaii was caught off-guard by the volume. Many businesses were understaffed, making restaurant and activities reservations difficult to get. Adding to the difficulty was a shortage of rental cars which drove prices as high as $3000 per week, and accommodations also became expensive and hard to find. This left visitors feeling price gouged and frustrated.
While visitors struggled, residents became frustrated with the sheer volume of people arriving in such a short time. Popular places like the road to Hana on Maui became overrun as visitors looking for anything to do were becoming unruly and illegally parking and blocking the road. Maui’s mayor even asked the airlines to limit the number of visitors to the islands.
Now things have changed.
COVID-19 Restrictions Implemented Again = Fewer Visitors
In August 2021, the Delta variant increased the number of cases and hospitalizations until Hawaii’s governor asked people to curtail their travel to the islands through October. By September, Hawaii and many mainland states began limiting indoor and outdoor group sizes, with capacities allowed in restaurants going from 75% back down to 50%.
Indoor mask requirements have stayed in place throughout the summer, which has helped limit the spread.
In September, measures were introduced with the Hawaii Safe Travels Program, including proof of vaccination with the newly created Hawaii SMART Health Card. There are similar digital health pass systems used in California, New York, Louisiana, and France for use by residents. Visitors will need to bring proof of their CDC vaccination cards (hard copy) to enter businesses like restaurants, bars and movie theaters through October.
What Do The Fall 2021 Restrictions Mean For Travel To Hawaii Going Forward?
If you're vaccinated, now would be a great time to book a Hawaii vacation. This may sound contrary to government restrictions, but the truth is if you’re vaccinated, Hawaii has availability for almost all luaus, sightseeing tours, and attractions due to the slowdown. The visitors who are here are getting upgraded hotel views, smaller group tours, and more Aloha than ever before.
Hawaii is also probably one of the safest states to visit too. Visitors must be vaccinated or have a negative COVID test even to get here, and currently, over 70% of Hawaii’s residents have had at least one dose of the vaccine. Yes, COVID is surging here too, but visitors account for less than 2% of cases.
It is predominantly community-spread. Dr. Elizabeth Char, director of Hawaii’s Department of Health, stated: “The surge of COVID cases is mainly due to community spread, followed by residents flying to hot spots and bringing COVID back into their households and community.”
This resident surge has brought the limited hospital beds in the state to near capacity, which triggered the increased restrictions. However, cases have trended down since August as vaccinations have increased. A large majority of new cases are unvaccinated residents who have traveled to places on the mainland this summer.
With the availability of flights, better hotels for your travel budget, and great activities right now, this is the time to book and take a Hawaiian vacation before winter sets in and restrictions are dropped, possibly bringing another rush of visitors.
No matter when you plan to visit, Hawaii will be ready for you and in a much better position to deliver a great vacation experience, safely.