British Columbia

B.C. Hotel Association says it's not up to its members to police travel restrictions

The B.C. Hotel Association says its members are willing to cancel or reschedule bookings because of the province's new travel restrictions, but it's not up to them to determine whether their guests should be there or not. 

Small campsite operator says he'd like to see the association take more responsibility on enforcement

The president of the B.C. Hotel Association says the industry had hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of cancellations last Monday when the new intra-provincial travel restrictions were announced. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The B.C. Hotel Association says its members are willing to cancel or reschedule bookings because of the province's new travel restrictions, but it's not up to them to determine whether their guests should be there or not.

Ingrid Jarrett, the association's president and CEO, said her members are focusing on educating guests about the restrictions and letting them disclose if they would like to cancel or book for another time. 

"We cannot be the police of this," Jarrett said. 

"If we can play a role in educating [guests] and making sure that people are aware, then if everybody does their part, then I think we'll be successful over the next five weeks to bend the curve." 

Thousands of dollars' worth of cancellations

On Friday, the province restricted non-essential travel between three regional zones within the province in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Anyone who contravenes the order may be subject to a $575 fine. 

Earlier in the week, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the province was working with the Tourism Association of B.C. to get tourism operators to turn away travellers from outside jurisdictions. 

But Jarrett says the hotel industry's approach is similar to that of the food and beverage industry.

Restaurants have long maintained that it is not up to their front-line staff to determine if groups of customers are from the same household. Similarly, Jarrett says, the hotel association's members will not determine if customers are travelling for essential purposes or not. 

Jarrett says the industry had hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of cancellations last Monday when the new intra-provincial travel restrictions were announced, but members hope that supporting health officials' efforts in the short term will lead to a more prosperous summer. 

'Passing the buck'

Chris Mathieson, operator of the Old Grist Mill campground and heritage site in the Similkameen town of Keremeos, says he'd like to see the hotel association take a stronger stand. 

"I'm really disappointed," Mathieson said. "This is a real opportunity to engage in some leadership and be proactive on behalf of your community. It feels like it's kind of passing the buck."

Mathieson's campground has 13 sites that normally bring in a few hundred dollars a night — a substantial sum, he says, for his small operation. All the same, he says he cancelled all bookings from out-of-town guests as soon as the province announced that restrictions were on the way. 

The Old Grist Mill campground in Keremeos, B.C., has cancelled all of its bookings from out-of-town guests. (Old Grist Mill/Facebook)

"Every single person in the books provides payment information. We know where they live," he said. 

Mathieson acknowledges the pandemic has been hard on many people, businesses and individuals alike.

But given the high number of cases throughout the province and country, he thinks the right thing is for people to stay put. 

"We're all getting tired. Our lives have been turned upside down over the last year. There's still so much uncertainty," he said.

"But to get through this and to and to be in a better place at the end of it, we need to all be together ... And I hope people really think about that and take that to heart." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.

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