In early September, a collection of seven hotels in Hawai‘i, including the ‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach and the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, became the first in the state to require proof of vaccination from guests.
“It’s our top priority that everyone in the state remains safe and healthy,” Kelly Sanders, senior vice president of operations for Highgate Hawaii, said in a statement. Highgate Hawaii includes the two properties above as well as Park Shore Waikiki, Ambassador Waikiki Hotel, Pearl Waikiki Hotel, Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach, and Courtyard by Marriott Waikiki.
The Highgate policy will take effect October 15, 2021, and it was announced just as Hawai‘i faces a rise in COVID cases amid the latest Delta surge. On July 8, Hawai‘i updated its entry requirements for domestic travelers, allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors to bypass a pretravel COVID test or quarantine as vaccination rates on the islands were climbing—66 percent of Hawai‘i residents are now fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University. But last month, Governor Ige urged visitors to reconsider travel to the islands due to the current surge.
While destinations, including cities such as San Francisco and New York and several countries in Europe, as well as cruise lines and tour operators have already been introducing vaccine requirements over the last several weeks and months, hotels are newer adoptees of vaccine mandate policies. Highgate hotel group joins a gradually mounting number of hotels that have more recently started requiring that guests—as well as staff—are fully vaccinated at a time when the United States is experiencing a Delta variant–fueled wave of COVID cases.
Elite Island Resorts, a collection of nine hotels throughout the Caribbean, recently announced that as of September 1, 2021, all guests 16 and older will be required to show proof of vaccination upon arrival.
“We have a commitment to our communities and the destinations in which we operate,” Elite Island Resorts founder and CEO Robert Barrett said in a statement. The company’s decision was based in part on not wanting to burden “a fragile medical environment such as the Caribbean,” according to Barrett, who noted how crucial it is to protect healthcare resources on smaller island nations.
Elite Island Resorts represents Galley Bay Resort & Spa, Hammock Cove, St. James’s Club & Villas, Pineapple Beach Club, and the Verandah Resort in Antigua; St. James’s Club Morgan Bay in St. Lucia; the Club Barbados; Palm Island Resort in the Grenadines; and Los Establos Boutique Hotel in Panama.
“While we understand that news of our vaccine mandate may be disappointing to select travelers, it will be uplifting and encouraging to others,” said Barrett, adding that the company feels that mandating vaccines is the only way to keep travel and tourism going strong throughout the upcoming fall and winter season.
Last month, Ian Schrager’s Public hotel in New York became the first in the city to require that all staff, guests, and visitors over the age of 12 show proof of COVID vaccination upon arrival, a policy that went into effect on September 5.
“We need to beat COVID-19 together,” stated Schrager, a well-known New York hotelier and entrepreneur. “Looking after people is our business—we just didn’t see how to fulfill this responsibility without taking action.”
The move was followed by vaccine mandates at New York City’s Equinox Hotel (in Manhattan) and Wythe Hotel (in Brooklyn) as well as at Urban Cowboy Lodge, a boutique hotel in New York’s Catskills Mountains.
In San Francisco, hotels don’t require proof of vaccination for checking in, but hotels must enforce a vaccine mandate that went into effect on August 20 for indoor dining, bars, and fitness centers. New York’s vaccine mandate for indoor dining, gyms, and performances went into full force on September 13; similarly, hotels with indoor venues that fall under the regulations will need to enforce the rules.
In Puerto Rico, hotel and short-term rental guests must provide proof of vaccination or present a negative COVID PCR or antigen within 72 hours after checking in.
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Michelle Baran Michelle Baran is the senior travel news editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, pandemic coverage, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.