VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – New rules this week around mandatory hotel quarantines for travellers coming into Canada are already causing huge headaches for some air passengers.
There are complaints it can take hours or even days to book a room, forcing some travellers to delay or even cancel flights.
Nationally, there are 18 federally approved hotels where air travellers can book their minimum three-day quarantine while they are tested for COVID-19 — there are five around Vancouver International Airport, all in Richmond.
The issue is that the government has contracted a single company — GB Travel Canada — to run the quarantine booking system and rooms can only be secured over the phone through its agents. Travellers can not book their quarantines directly with the hotels.
One local travel agent says the launch of the system has not gone well, calling the wait times “insane.” David Lin with GS Travel tells the Richmond News he’s never seen anything like it.
“It takes at least three hours over the phone for you to get through — if you are lucky. One of my clients spent almost a day trying to get hold of someone from the booking system, but he didn’t have any luck,” Lin tells the paper.
“Only customers are allowed to make bookings with the travel agency appointed by the federal government, and they need to provide a list of detailed information. I’ve been in this industry for many years, but this is the first time I’ve felt so helpless.”
Lin suggests that people who travelled to Asia for the Lunar New Year are having trouble returning to Canada and he wonders if the government-appointed travel agency has the resources to deal with the demand.
At a news conference last Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed issues travellers have had with reaching the reservation phone line.
“Our officials are working very hard to ensure that quarantine system is in place by Monday, and we will be able to communicate with Canadians with regard to instructions on how to comply with those measures.”
The hotel stays — which must be paid for by the travellers — are just one of a series of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 and more highly contagious variants in Canada.
-with files from the Canadian Press