TORONTO — The hotel quarantine measures taking effect today have brought leisure travel “to a standstill,” says one travel retailer.
The unprecedented new measures, requiring international travellers to quarantine at an airport hotel for up to three days while waiting for PCR test results, are now in effect.
With a negative test result, travellers can wait out the rest of the 14-day quarantine at home.
With a positive test result, they will be transferred to a government facility.
The new measures were announced on Jan. 29, on the same day that the federal government announced that all four of Canada’s major airlines had agreed to suspend winter sun flights through April 30. They’re on top of Canada’s warning against all non-essential travel, in place for close to a year now, and the 14-day quarantine, plus mandatory 72-hour PCR testing before flying to Canada.
Though the hotel quarantine price was originally pegged at up to $2,000 per person, initial reports suggest that prices are considerably lower.
Airport hotels at the 4 airports currently accepting international travellers – Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal – are listed at the government’s site, with more hotels expected to be added in the coming days.
The hotel info site went live as promised on Feb. 18. The site notes that hotel stopover bookings will be managed by American Express Global Business Travel and are available by phone only. Travellers are directed to call 1-800-294-8253 to book their mandatory 3-night hotel stopover.
At the federal government’s COVID-19 briefing on Feb. 19, a reporter told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that “the phone system isn’t working at all.” In response Trudeau outlined the government’s measures to keep Canadians safe when it comes to travel, and then added “there are always challenges when it comes to the implementation” of new initiatives.
Travelweek called the number and the call was dropped on the first try, however two subsequent calls went through. Consumer media reports indicate problems with unanswered calls and long wait times.
Asked how the hotel quarantine will impact business, Cindy Gaudet, Chief Operations Officer, fareconnect.com, says: “The hotel quarantine has basically brought our non-essential leisure travel to a standstill. We were starting to see a few bookings coming in prior to Christmas, but the latest announcement has caused clients to stay away from any future bookings.”
Gaudet adds that clients travelling Internationally for compassionate reasons are now dealing with an extra burden at already very difficult times. “No clients want to deal with extra financial cost as they already have to spend the high cost at a last-minute decision to travel,” she says.
Gaudet says her team makes sure to communicate to clients that it’s a personal choice to travel or not. “We explain to them the current restrictions and policies and allow them to make their own decisions.”
Thankfully a few bookings are still coming in. “We are booking some clients 6 – 18 months or so out as long as the supplier has cancellation policies that protect their future decisions.”