B.C. hotels won't be cancelling out-of-town bookings, despite government saying otherwise

'We are not policing this'

During the B.C. government's announcement Friday about the province's new travel restrictions, Minister Mike Farnworth said hotels would be cancelling bookings from recreational, out-of-town travellers. But that doesn't appear to be the case.

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced Friday that all “non-essential” travel into and out of the Lower Mainland will be immediately restricted and police will enforce the new order with road checks in key areas.

But with no order stopping Albertans from entering the province, Farnworth said his government had been working with “tourism and accommodation industry leaders” to encourage hotels to cancel non-essential bookings from out of town, and to not take any future bookings from out-of-town travellers as well.

“We are working with the tourism association to encourage tourism operators, for example let's say in the Okanagan, to not accept out-of-area, out-of-province bookings, and to cancel bookings that have already been made,” Farnworth said. “We've been very pleased with the response.”

But Ingrid Jarrett, President and CEO of the BC Hotel Association, said they are simply encouraging hotels to educate travellers on the new orders, and leaving the decision to cancel with those travelling.

“Some hotels may be [cancelling bookings], and it would be their choice. What our position is, on behalf of the industry, is that we're sending out the information about the new orders, so the person who has booked the room can determine whether or not they are travelling for essential purposes," Jarrett said.

“The reason for that is we don't know where their home community is and we don't know why they're travelling and very specifically, we are not the authority to police whether someone is on essential travel or whether they're travelling for pleasure.

“We are not policing this, it's not our role to do that.”

The BC Hotel Association, the “advocate and spokesperson” for the province's hotel industry, has developed a "communications toolkit" that hospitality businesses can use to educate their guests.

Jarrett said her organization has been working closely with the government in the week leading up to Friday's announcement, but she had “no comment” about why Farnworth announced “accommodation industry leaders” would be encouraging hotels to cancel bookings.

“The role that the accommodation community can play is educating our public and our citizens and the travellers,” she said.

“Many, many businesses are on the brink of bankruptcy ... We've received very little financial support unlike other industries.”

Farnworth said the travel restrictions will be in place until after May 25.

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