‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach and Highgate’s Hawaii collection of seven hotels announced Wednesday that they soon will require full COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees, guests and patrons.
The hotel company, which will implement its new policy Oct. 15, is the first in Hawaii to announce a vaccination mandate of this breadth.
Kelly Sanders, senior vice president of operations for Highgate Hawaii, said Safe Access O‘ahu, which starts Monday, prompted Highgate’s decision. Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s Safe Access O‘ahu requires proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test to enter or work at many Oahu establishments.
“The thing that sticks out in my mind more than anything is that we’ve got to keep our employees safe — they are our family and they our priority — and if we can do that then we’ve done our job,” Sanders said. “And the only way to do that is to make sure that everyone has the vaccination and that guests, patrons and the like are also held to the same level of responsibility.”
Highgate’s vaccination policy applies to all employees and to all guests and patrons ages 12 and above regardless of whether they have had COVID-19. Sanders said very few religious or medical exemptions will be granted to employees.
Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, said Highgate’s announcement “will resonate. It will set a standard. It will be an example that we need to do as we go forward.”
“Now more than ever, we also have to maintain a reputation as being a healthy place to visit first for our residents who call Hawaii home and then for our guests who come here,” he said.
Most COVID-19 cases in Hawaii are community spread, and the majority of visitors coming to Hawaii are vaccinated or have taken a pre-test.
John Monahan, president and CEO of the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, said for the 10-day period at the end of August some 75% of visitors came to Hawaii on a vaccination exemption, 24% arrived with a pre-test exemption and only 1% opted to quarantine.
Monahan said during the same period, 77% of returning residents were vaccinated, 16% arrived with a negative test and 7% opted to quarantine.
“We all know that the (major) issue in Hawaii really with the spread is that we need to get the vaccination numbers up,” he said. “Highgate has once again shown leadership in helping us to achieve this.”
It’s unclear if other members of Hawaii’s visitor industry will adopt a similar stance to Highgate. However, they are increasingly adopting their own vaccination requirements, especially where employees are concerned.
Hannemann said Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa is following Disney’s lead in mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for employees.
Hawaiian Airlines is requiring all of its U.S.-based employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by Nov. 1.
Kahala Hotel & Resort announced that starting Sept. 30 it will require employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations or undergo weekly testing.
Joe Ibarra, general manager of Kahala Hotel & Resort, said in a statement, “The health and safety of our employees and guests is always our number one priority and vaccines have proven to be an effective tool in preventing serious illness and hospitalizations.”