Six Hawaii hotels owned or operated by Highgate Hotels, including the Alohilani Resort on Waikiki Beach, have become the first in the state to require all of its employees and guests to show proof they are fully vaccinated.
The mandate kicks in on October 15. There will be exemptions for any guests under the age of 12 and for employees with strong religious or medical reasons.
“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,” Kelly Sanders, a senior vice president with Highgate, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “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 also owns or operates the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, Park Shore Waikiki, Courtyard Marriott Waikiki, Pearl Hotel Waikiki, and Ambassador Hotel Waikiki.
Highgate’s move has the support of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association. CEO Mufi Hannemann said the decision will resonate with other hotels.
“It will set a standard. It will be an example that we need to do as we go forward,” Hannemann said. “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.”
The move also has the backing of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, with CEO John De Fries telling the Associated Press he hopes other hotels take notice and act as well.
“What I appreciate about it is that our community, our workforce, and the guests are all mutual beneficiaries of this decision by Highgate,” De Fries said. “I anticipate that it will receive much attention from others in the industry.”
Sanders said about 80 percent of Highgate’s employees in Hawaii are already vaccinated.
“I’ve got over 1,000 employees in my hotels, and my responsibility is to them first,” he said.
While Highgate’s hotels are the first to mandate vaccinations for its guests, other properties have made moves regarding employees. Aulani Disney Resort requires employees to be vaccinated, and Kahala Hotel and Resort has a mandate for employees starting September 30.
“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,” said Kahala general manager Joe Ibarra.
The new policy at Highgate properties comes in the wake of emergency orders in Oahu and Maui that will severely restrict access to restaurants and other indoor establishments. Those orders begin next week.
Sanders said those emergency orders helped Highgate officials come to their decision.
“We’re trying to do the right thing, and sometimes the right thing is really hard,” he said.