The Hawaii government could announce plans for a vaccine passport program by the end of the week, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat.
The outlet reports that the program, which would allow vaccinated visitors to bypass the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, could be implemented as early as May.
So far, Gov. David Ige hasn’t publicly commented on the plan, but other officials have hinted that the process is underway.
For example, Dr. Libby Char, Hawaii’s public health director, recently said that a vaccine passport program is “a possibility” for the state. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who helped create Hawaii’s popular Safe Travels program, said he believes that vaccine passports could be enacted by May 15, though “there’s no official date.”
However, the most promising sign came from CommonPass, the firm hired to develop the state’s vaccine passport program. In an email to the Civil Beat, a spokesperson for the company said that there would be “some news” about the program “going out [the week of March 28-April 3].”
Several companies, including IBM, Verifly and the International Air Transportation Association, are developing vaccine passport apps that let travelers upload COVID-19 test results and proof of vaccination.
According to Green, Hawaii’s passport program would “make it easier to travel” to the islands and potentially make it possible to hold large weddings, concerts and sporting events, including the Honolulu Marathon and the Ironman World Championship Triathlon, in the state.
“The marathon and the Ironman become possible if you have a vaccine passport to help,” Green said.
Hawaii’s Safe Travels program has already boosted tourism numbers since it launched in mid-October. Transpacific and interisland arrivals are currently averaging around 15,000 per day, which is 50% of the state’s pre-COVID-19 levels.
Green believes a vaccine passport program could restore tourist arrivals to 75% of pre-pandemic levels.
However, according to travel industry experts, officials need to move quickly and transparently for the program to help tourism in 2021.
Hawaii is an expensive destination, and many travelers prefer to book their trips to the state months in advance.
“People generally book Hawaii in the 60- to 90-day time frame,” said Keith Vieira, a hotel industry consultant based in Honolulu. “So if you’re going to book for the summer, you need to know now.”
A clear vaccine passport plan from Ige’s administration would help, but “we never know what the governor is going to do and when he’s going to do it,” said Vieira.
For now, Hawaii’s tourism numbers continue to improve. On March 13, spring break travelers helped arrivals hit 26,400, a single-day record for the pandemic. Meanwhile, hotel occupancy is expected to exceed 70% over the upcoming Easter holiday.