Airport TSA

TSA Warns Of Travel ‘Hiccups For Very, Very Busy Summer’

David Pekoske, the nation’s TSA chief, and airport and airline leaders throughout the nation have stated that there will be inevitable “hiccups” this summer, as the agency is expecting the largest airport passenger crowds since the Covid-19 pandemic first began. 

Pkoske said that labor shortages and an increased demand for travel have already begun to overwhelm airlines. The agency is gearing up to deploy as many as 1,000 TSA agents and K-9 units to the nation’s busiest airports to ideally counter any potential delays at security checkpoints. 

“We expect the summer to be very, very busy. That’s not to say that there will not be some hiccups along the way — those things will happen, but we’ll do everything we can to recover quickly.”

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Some expect airport crowds surpass 3 million passengers per day on the busiest travel days for the summer. The increased demand for travel has also led to pilots complaining about fatigue and flight cancellations heading into the summer at airlines including American Airlines, Southwest, Alaska, and Delta. 

 “Everybody is facing labor shortages; airlines and TSA are no different. At just about every level you can think of in the airline industry we can speak of we’re having labor shortages,” said Paul Doell, vice president for the National Air Carrier Association.

Airline restaurants and car rental companies have also been dealing with labor shortages. Customer service call centers for airlines and passengers who need wheelchair assistance, as well as ground airport employers, have also been struggling to maintain a steady supply of workers to deal with the demand for flights. 

Airlines themselves are cutting thousands of flights from their schedules as a means of helping scheduled flights run on time. This also means that TSA agents and other airline workers will likely have to work harder to get travelers to their flights on time.

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“But regional air carriers, which fly about 43% of all scheduled flights in the U.S., say they are facing labor shortages as employees such as pilots are being poached by the larger airlines. That could create issues connecting smaller destinations to larger hub airports,” said Kevin Burke, head of Airports Council International-North America.

“The pilot shortage is impacting the regionals, and we expect to see the small communities hit the hardest. We expect this to continue to be a trend, but those pain points will assert themselves at hubs as well.”

Pekoske warned that “many travelers this summer could be getting on a plane for the first time in three years, especially as masking and Covid-19 restrictions have fallen in many parts of the country and international travel restrictions are being lifted.”

“The amount of people that worked concessions prior to the pandemic are not there now, they’ve come back, but they’re nowhere near where they need to be,” Burke explained. 

“So we really ask that we try to have patience and understanding when they are dealing with employees at the airport. Everybody’s trying to do the best job they can to make sure this is safe, secure and also as comfortable as it can be under normal circumstances but especially when you have those tough days where you have storms that are disrupting the system,” Doell said. 

Airbnb

Airbnb Cracks Down On Memorial Day, Fourth Of July Parties With Restrictions

If you were hoping to rent a house and throw some parties during the upcoming summer holidays, Airbnb just put a pin in those plans. The vacation rental company has announced that they’re instituting strict-anti party measures for the Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends in order to cut down on unauthorized parties.

Guests without a history of positive reviews on Airbnb will be prohibited from making one-night reservations, while two-night reservations will see more “stringent restrictions,” which include certain local or last-minute bookings by guests without positives reviews. Guests with positive reviews won’t be subjected to these guidelines.

“Anti-party attestations” will also be introduced, meaning guests making local reservations must attest to understanding the guidelines and will be subject to legal action from the company should they break the rules.

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It isn’t the first time Airbnb has instituted a crackdown on sizeable get-togethers. The company attempted similar plans during Halloween and New Year’s Eve of 2020, as well as during Memorial Day and Fourth of July in 2021. Airbnb claimed their attempts succeeded, with 126,000 guests without a history of positive reviews being impacted by the anti-party system.

Certainly, Airbnb’s system — while effective — also runs the risk of losing customers that don’t plan on throwing a party, yet don’t have a history of reviews on the company’s site. They acknowledged the dilemma, saying they don’t take these measures lightly and that it’s a necessary business decision in order to promote safety.

“We also understand that the simple fact of not yet having reviews does not mean that a guest is trying to throw a party — this is a trade-off we are willing to make in the interest of trust and safety.”

Airbnb has had a long history with parties, with some tragic instances included that have emphasized the dangers involved. In April, 11 people were shot, along with two children killed, at an Airbnb party in Pittsburgh that saw around 200 attendees. Many of those guests were minors.

Airbnb condemned the shooting and announced they permanently banned the renter from hosting. In 2019, meanwhile, five people were shot during a Halloween party in California that saw a crowd of 100. “We must do better, and we will. This is unacceptable,” CEO Brian Chesky stated following the tragedy.

Airbnb’s current party and events policy prohibits gatherings of 16 or more people regardless of host authorization, along with all “disruptive” parties and events that create disturbances — such as loud and excessive noise and damages — within the community. In order to ensure those policies were enforced, Airbnb launched a 24/7 neighborhood support hotline.

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These kind of changes haven’t hurt the company’s outlook, however. Airbnb’s second quarter revenue forecast of $2.03 to $2.13 billion growth surpasses Wall Street’s ($1.97 billion) as travel is set to ramp up following two years of intense COVID-19 restrictions.

There’s reason for optimism, as Airbnb is coming off a first quarter increase that saw 120.1 million nights and experiences booked, 1.23 million more than analyst predictions. Chesky also noted they’re seeing “higher than historical demand” for the fourth quarter of this year, a sign that travel will continue to be boosted beyond the summer months.

CDC Adds No New Destinations To Highest Travel Risk Category, Though Airfare Set To Rise

For the first time in months, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not added any new destinations to its “very high” COVID-19 travel risk category. The absence of additions is a welcome sight to a category that currently contains 115 destinations, which includes hot tourist spots like France, Turkey, and Spain.

The last addition to the “very high” category came on March 21, when Madagascar — the world’s fourth largest island, located off the coast of Africa — was included. It’s just one of two total destinations added to the CDC’s fourth level since March 14, the other being the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.

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The CDC has four levels of COVID-19 travel risk: level four, or “very high”; level three, or “high”; level two, or “moderate”; and level one, or “low.” Level three currently has 33 destinations, level two has 14 destinations, and level one has 36 destinations. Destinations are ranked based on the amount of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population over the last 28 days.

There weren’t zero changes across the board when looking at the four categories altogether. Level three saw five countries added Monday — which includes Bosnia, Peru, and Qatar — while level two had six new destinations added. Among those are the popular Bahamas, which have seen a 129% search increase this year when compared to 2019.

As CNN Travel notes, the amount of level four countries has seen a droppage of over two dozen the last several weeks. The surging Omicron variant contributed to a high rise in winter, with 22 countries being added to level four on Jan. 18. In late February, the total level four destinations hovered around 140. Still, level four currently contains more countries than the other three levels combined.

Another positive CDC development is their lifting of the travel advisory for cruise ships, marking it the first time this has happened since the pandemic began. The CDC moved the advisory to the highest level in late December before moving it down a category in February. There are currently 34 cruise ships that have no reported cases, and 69 cruises that are below the CDC’s threshold for investigation.

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While the outlook for travel on all fronts is gradually improving, one area that isn’t a ray of sunshine are costs. According to Hopper, international airfare costs from the U.S. currently match 2019 costs at $810/round-trip. However, predictions suggest they’re set to rise to $940/round-trip in June, a 15% jump from current prices and 5% rise from 2019 costs.

Meanwhile, U.S. domestic travel is taking a greater beating with $330/round-trip airfare, a 7% rise from 2019 costs. Domestic will continue to see spikes, with predictions calling for a 10% increase ($360/round-trip) through May. Both domestic and international airfare are expected to decline into the fall.

The increase in ticket prices can be contributed as a fight to offset costs due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which has resulted in jet fuel prices of $3.07/gallon, the highest totals since January 2014 and up 40% from January 2022’s $2.20/gallon, Hopper noted.

Those dollar signs won’t be detering passengers, however. According to a joint report by Trip.com and the World Travel & Tourism Council, 70% of leisure travelers in major countries plan to spend more on travel in 2022 than in the past five years. The report also found that the important factor for travelers is getting the best value for their money.

US Unlikely To End Covid Testing Rules For International Travel 

Throughout the past month many countries have made international travel a lot easier as the Covid-19 pandemic continues around the world. Vaccinated travelers have found it much easier to book and experience travel again, however, US travelers returning from abroad must still present negative Covid-19 test results before they’re able to safely return.

The US Virgin Islands became the latest territory to announce that vaccinated travelers no longer need to provide a negative test upon arrival, a move that other international countries, like the UK, have had in place for nearly a month. 

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According to the US Centers for Disease Control And Prevention’s (CDC) last updated guidance for international travel, which was made in December, the US requires all incoming travelers over the age of 2 to submit a negative Covid test taken within one day of departure from a foreign country in order to enter the US. 

It’s become much easier to find at-home Covid-19 tests in the US, which will allow travelers to have greater access to testing in order to go abroad and return safely. The US government’s international travel guidance allows at-home tests as an accurate result for re-entry into the country. 

The provision within the guidelines also provides a list of approved at-home tests that travelers can take before and after traveling abroad. The CDC accepts Ellume, Quered, and BinaxNow at-home tests, which are some of the most commonly sold brands throughout the US. 

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The CDC also requires that the tests are supervised by a live attendant via a video call. BinaxNow tests can even be purchased through the website eMed, which will provide an at-home test shipped directly to your home prior to your trip with instructions on how to take it with live video guidance. 

In a statement to the media, a CVS spokesperson said the company’s stores “have the ability to meet our customers’ needs with at-home test kits both in store and at CVS.com,. We have simplified the digital process so customers can order and pick up a test kit with no up-front, out-of-pocket cost or the need to submit a claim to insurance.”

Walgreens said it “worked diligently with our suppliers to ensure we have enough supply to meet customer demand at nearly all locations.”

While other countries may continue to lift certain Covid-19 protocols for international travel, the US is unlikely to follow suit anytime soon, as it is one of the nation’s with the highest rate of infection.

Vietnam Coronavirus

 CDC Adds Vietnam to List Of Highest-Risk Travel Destinations 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added Vietnam to it’s Level 4 risk category for travel this week. Level 4 is the highest-risk level when it comes to traveling during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

There are currently nearly 140 places within the Level 4 category of risk; which is more destinations than all other levels combined. In the beginning of 2022 about 80 places were on the list. 

The CDC places a location at “Level 4: Very High Covid-19 Risk” when more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents are registered within 28 days. 

Vietnam has become the only destination to be added to the list within recent weeks. Previously, the nation was listed at Level 3 for “high risk.” Global case numbers in general have been declining since peaking in late January, but experts are continuing to caution that the pandemic is nowhere near over. 

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New Zealand has had relatively few Covid cases due to strict pandemic protocol restrictions. Recently, however, the nation has recorded record numbers of cases in the past week. The country remains at “high risk” on Level 3 after moving up from Level 2 last week. 

The CDC advises avoiding all travel to countries deemed Level 4. The CDC does not include the US in its list of advisories, but the nation is currently coded at Level 4. Mexico, Canada, France, Peru, Singapore, and Spain are some of the other countries that have remained at Level 4 for over a month. The United Kingdom has remained there since July 2021. 

The Level 3 “high risk” category applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents within 28 days. Comoros, Hong Kong, São Tomé and Príncipe were added to the category this week. 

Hong Kong went from Level 1 to Level 3 this week, it previously was on Level 1 since May 2021. Hong Kong is currently dealing with their worst Covid-19 outbreak since the start of the pandemic, and is planning on testing its entire population in March. 

Destinations at a Level 2 are considered “Covid-19 moderate,” meaning they have around 50 to 99 cases per 100,000 residents within 28 days. 

This week, 10 destinations moved down to Level 2, including Uganda, Ghana, Republic Of Congo, Montserrat, Rwanda, Togo, Lesotho, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Liberia. 

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To be considered “Level 1: Covid Low” a destination must have less than 50 cases per 100,000 residents over 28 days. Nigeria was the sole destination that moved to Level 1 this week. There are only 5 other locations considered Level 1, including China where the 2022 Winter Olympics were hosted. 

Finally, the CDC also has a risk level for “unknown” risk due to a lack of information and Covid data. These are typically smaller remote places, or places with ongoing warfare/civil unrest. 

Transmission rates are “one guidepost for travelers’ personal risk calculations,” according to CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen.

“We are entering a phase in the pandemic where people need to make their own decisions based on their medical circumstances as well as their risk tolerance when it comes to contracting Covid-19,” Wen said.

“You should interpret Level 4 to mean this is a place with a lot of community transmission of Covid-19. So if you go, there is a higher chance that you could contract the coronavirus,” said Wen.

“Some people will decide the risk is too high for them, other people will say, ‘Because I am vaccinated and boosted, I am willing to take on that risk. So this really needs to be a personal decision that people weigh understanding that right now the CDC is classifying the different levels based on community transmission rates, and basically only that. They’re not taking into account individual circumstances,” Wen explained. 

You can review the CDC’s risk levels for any global destination on its travel recommendations page.

Cruise Line on Water

CDC Lowers Cruise Travel Warning From “Very High” To “High”

For those who can’t get enough of setting sail, a worry-free cruise world looks to be — slowly — coming back. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has announced it’s lowered the travel warning of cruise ships from “very high,” which was declared back on Dec. 31, to “high.”

At the time of the upgrade, Omicron had been slowly upticking COVID-19 cases, which would eventually culminate in a pandemic-high 3.8 million cases worldwide on Jan 21 (along with a seven-day average of 3.2).

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According to Axios, cruise ships reported 14,803 cases from Dec. 31 to Jan. 12, while the CDC reported in early January that all 91 U.S. cruise ships at sea at the time were confirmed or suspected to have the virus on board.

Now, it appears that — while still present — the variant is slowing down. Insider points out that cases in the U.S. have dropped 85% since that January peak. Meanwhile, the total new worldwide cases for Feb. 15 sat at 1.7 million, down 55%.

The CDC has four travel warning levels: “very high,” “high,” “moderate,” and “low.” For “very high,” the CDC recommends avoiding travel at all cost — regardless of vaccination status — while the agency states that only vaccinated travelers should consider going to “high” labeled destinations and trips. Destinations are labeled “very high” when there are more than 500 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents or travelers in the last 28 days.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) recognized the downgrade, calling it a “step in the right direction” in a press release while recognizing “the leadership and effectiveness of the cruise sector’s health and safety protocols that are unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting.”

“Cruise ships have medical, isolation and quarantine facilities on site, implement extensive response plans using private shoreside resources, and have created an environment where almost every single person is fully vaccinated,” the group explained. “As a result, cases of COVID-19 are very low with the vast majority mild or asymptomatic – making cruise unequaled in its multi-layered approach to effectively mitigating COVID-19.”

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Along with possessing a cruise ship program, the CDC maintains a dashboard that keeps track of cruises’ safety in relation to COVID-19 cases. There are three color codes for defining how safe a ship is: green (no reported cases), yellow (reported cases that are below the CDC’s threshold for investigation), orange (cases have met the CDC’s threshold), and red (cases are well above the CDC’s threshold).

Currently, there are 31 ships that are registered as green, 40 ships that are yellow, and 41 ships as orange with no red. If a ship did register red, the CDC may require the cruise to test passengers both mid voyage and at the end — regardless of vaccination status — along with screen testing of crew and requiring the use of masks both inside and outside.

In 2021, 13.9 million passengers set sail. Royal Caribbean led all cruise liners with 2.6 million passengers, while Carnaval and MSC Cruises came in with 2.5 million and 1.4 million, respectively. While the total numbers are up 6.9 million from 2020’s 7 million passengers, they’re still down nearly 13.6 million — or 49% — from 2019’s 27.5 million passengers.

Australia Will Reopen Borders To Vaccinated International Travelers 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced this week that Australia will open its borders up fully for vaccinated international travelers starting later this month. The decision was made after Prime Minister Morrison met with the government’s national security committee. 

“The National Security Committee and Cabinet has decided today that Australia will reopen our borders to all remaining visa holders on the 21st of February,” Morrison said.

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Australia has remained mostly closed since early 2020 when the pandemic began. Through travel program collaborations with New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan, they’ve been able to slowly start reopening their borders for vaccinated travelers. 

As it currently stands, citizens, permanent residents and their families, as well as international students, backpackers, and migrant workers are allowed to enter the country if they can provide proof of two doses of an approved Covid-19 vaccine. Tourists will have to abide by the same rules as well. 

“The condition is you must be double vaccinated to come to Australia. That’s the rule. Everyone is expected to abide by it. State-based caps on quarantine will continue and those caps will still be determined by state and territory governments,” Morrison explained. 

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Morrison went on to explain how visa requirements are different from the vaccination requirements being put in place for entry into the nation: “Your visa is one thing, but your entry into Australia requires you also to be double vaccinated and I think events earlier in the year should have sent a very clear message I think to everyone around the world that that is the requirement to enter into Australia.”

Morrison also explained that one of the biggest goals with the reopening it to help the travel industry recover within the country: “I know the tourism industry will be looking forward to that, and over the next two weeks they’ll get the opportunity both for visitors to be coming and for them to be gearing up to welcome international visitors back to Australia.”

Currently about 80% of eligible adults in Australia are fully vaccinated, a majority of which occurred after Tourism Australia released an ad campaign titled “Our Best Shot For Travel” across all online and physical news platforms to encourage citizens to get their inoculations so they could return to some level of normalcy when it comes to traveling. 

As of February 7th, Australia has over 2.7 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, of which there were also around 4,200 deaths. 

CDC Adds Five Caribbean Islands, 15 Total Destinations To Its Highest Level Of Travel Risk

The Center for Disease and Control (CDC) have moved five Caribbean islands — Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and the French territories of Guadeloupe, Saint Barthélemy, and Saint Martin — to its level 4 travel advisory assessment due to “very high” COVID-19 risks.

Additionally, the CDC designated 10 other locations to level 4, which include Niger, Peru, Mongolia, Romania, Tunisia, Fiji, Kuwait, Columbia, Costa Rica, and United Arab Emirates. The total number of level 4 destinations now sits at 116.

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Other Caribbean destinations like Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, Sint Maarten, Belize, and the Turks and Caicos had been previously added to level 4. Among the notable level 4 countries worldwide include Greece, France, the United Kingdom, and Spain.

As for other levels, 54 destinations are considered level 3 (“high” risk), 13 are level 2 (“moderate” risk), and 13 are level 1 (“low” risk). The CDC also has an unknown level, which includes a mix of countries that are either places of unrest and restrictions — such as North Korea and Syria — or far less-traveled, like Antarctica.

Countries are moved to the highest level when more than 500 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents are reported in the last 28 days. While the CDC urges to avoid travel to level 4 locations, the agency adds that if you must go, you should be fully vaccinated while wearing a mask and staying six feet away from others at all times.

The CDC additions are a tough blow to many vacationers. The Seattle Times noted that 4.6 million U.S. citizens traveled to the Caribbean from January through September of last year, which is more than the number of U.S. visitors to any other overseas region.

On Jan. 25, Jamaica saw 754 new COVID-19 cases while possessing a seven-day average of 921, while the Dominican Republic had 2,272 new cases and a seven-day average of 4,839. Meanwhile, on Jan. 20, Saint Martin reported 1,430 new cases and an average of over 200.

Though transmission rates and trends are solid — if not the most important —  guidelines to follow when debating whether to travel, CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen explained there are other considerations one could weigh.

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“The transmission rates are one guidepost. Another is what precautions are required and followed in the place that you’re going and then the third is what are you planning to do once you’re there,” Wen said.

She also added that a trip involving going to lots of attractions, bars, and areas with high volumes of on-goers is very different than a visit that involves little interaction, such as sitting on a beach. “Those are very different levels of risk.”

While the CDC does not label the U.S. or its territories on its travel risk levels, the country has the color code of level 4 on their advisory map. In the last week, the U.S. has had over four million new cases, the most of any country in that span.

France Now Legally Requires Vaccine Pass From Citizens 

The French government passed a bill this weekend that legally requires citizens to be vaccinated against Covid-19 if they want access to cultural events, theme parks, restaurants, bars, and other public places where social gathering is normalized. 

The bill was passed on Sunday, and will likely begin to be enforced on Friday January 21st. Initially, European countries were using the EU Digital Covid Certificate to allow EU citizens to travel freely within EU countries; similar to the vaccine passes we have on our phones in America depending on where you live. 

Previously any citizen who is fully vaccinated, who has had Covid-19, or who can show proof of a negative Covid test was able to travel across EU borders freely. Each state within the EU, however, is responsible for their own system when it comes to vaccination requirements. 

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The French government has now made it a legal requirement to have a Vaccine Pass in order to go to public spaces or travel in or out of the country; a negative Covid-19 test will no longer be enough. 

The French senate voted in favor of the vaccine passes this past Sunday, which was the final government body that had to approve the bill before it can be made into law, which is expected to happen this Friday. 

90% of French people over the age of 12 are already vaccinated, so this new law will not impact them. Anyone who is not vaccinated, however, will be prohibited from eating out, going to theaters, or traveling long distances. 

There are a couple of exceptions to the new bill as well. Children between the ages of 12-16 will only be required to use a Health Pass; which is what most vaccinated EU citizens are currently using. This means kids within that age bracket can continue to use a negative test to stay up-to-date on their requirements. 

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Unvaccinated individuals will still have access to long-distance buses and trains if there is an “imperative reason of a family or health nature,” according to the bill. A negative test result will be allowed in the case of a dying relative or similar health emergency in which travel is required. 

The vaccination pass will not be required in hotels and holiday cottages unless the owners decide to enforce it. Owners have the right to refuse business to anyone and can make it a requirement as well for any traveler trying to stay at their establishment. Any communal spaces within these hotels, such as bars or restaurants, will be required to check for Vaccine Passes regardless. 

France defines an individual as “fully vaccinated” once their at least one week away from their second dose of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine, or one month away from their single Janssen dose. 

If the most recent vaccine dose was over 7 months ago, the individual must get a booster in order to maintain their Vaccine Pass and keep it active. 

For individuals living outside of France, a vaccine is required to enter the country. Travelers arriving from a non-EU country are also required to provide a negative Covid-19 test in addition to being vaccinated. 

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaii Likely To Tighten Travel Restrictions In 2022

Covid-19 cases are once again on the rise in the US due to the highly contagious Omicron variant and lack of vaccination throughout the nation. Restrictions on inbound international travel have already begun to tighten, as travelers need to show proof that they’re fully vaccinated with a negative test result that’s no more than one day old. 

The state of Hawaii already has limited on-island medical centers and resources, so they’re considering strengthening their own requirements for those arriving to the islands. Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Josh Green is pushing for tighter travel restrictions to be implemented in the near future. 

“The recommendation should be that you’re either boosted or tested, real straightforward, and I think that will come in the New Year.”

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Throughout the entire pandemic Hawaii has implemented some of the strictest interstate entry requirements. 

After Hawaii launched its Safe Travels program, the state was met with a large number of tourists who were looking to escape to the islands. Governor David Ige responded to this uptick in travel by pleading with visitors to delay their visits so the hospitality industry could recover from the past summer. 

With the sudden and rapid increase in Omicron infections, Hawaii-bound travelers may find themselves facing stricter restrictions in the coming weeks. 

According to Jessica Lani Rich at the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii (VASH), there’s been an “increase in calls coming in from visitors who test positive while they’re already in the destination. The new CDC guidance has encouraged some such infected vacationers to ride out their on-island isolation period and then salvage the remainder of their trip, rather than just returning home.”

“The majority of our visitors do not have the funds to spend an extra two weeks during the holidays and so, for those visitors, they are happy that the CDC has changed the rules,” she told local KITV4 News.