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Travellers experience ‘insane wait time on phones’ to book quarantine hotels in Richmond

Federal government's three-day mandatory quarantine causing havoc for travelers
Travellers complained of long waits to access the hotel-booking system.

Day One of the mandatory three-day hotel quarantine policy is not going well, according to numerous travel agents.

The “insane wait time on phones” as travellers try to access the hotel booking system is the biggest problem, according to David Lin, president of Richmond-based GS Travel.

“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,” said Lin, noting that people who travelled to Asia for Lunar New Year celebrations are now having trouble returning to Canada. 

What makes the situation even more frustrating for Lin is the fact he can do nothing to help his clients.

“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,” added Lin. 

The federal government announced a list of 18 hotels across Canada where travellers are required to wait out a mandatory quarantine period upon arriving in Canada. There are a total of five in B.C., all of which are in Richmond.

According to the government’s website, hotel bookings are managed by GB Travel Canada Inc, the company in charge of all bookings for all hotels designated for quarantine purposes and are only available by phone calls. Bookings can’t be made directly with the hotel. 

“There are many questions left in the air, such as if the government-appointed travel agency has enough resources and manpower to deal with tens of thousands of phone calls from overseas,” said Lin.

“We are more than delighted to offer more help, but now we are being left and forgotten here.”

Another travel agent Charles Chang voiced similar concerns, stressing that travellers need more booking options. 

“The policy only went into effect today, but already there are so many problems. The government needs to launch other booking methods, such as an online booking,” said Chang, adding that a new method could help alleviate the current situation. 

At a press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Trudeau acknowledged there had been issues with the phone lines but said the problems would be cleared up shortly.

“Our officials are working very hard to ensure that the 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,” Trudeau said at the time.

Most incoming air travellers will need to get tested for the virus upon arrival and again toward the end of their mandatory 14-day quarantine. 

Travellers arriving at land borders will be given self-swab kits, and testing will be provided on site at five, high-volume border crossings. The new rules are in addition to previous orders that require a negative test result within 72 hours of arrival. Travellers will need to complete a second test on Day 10 of their self-isolation period. 

Below is a current list of approved hotels in B.C.:

Days Inn by Wyndham

Fairmont Vancouver Airport

Four Points by Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel

Radisson Vancouver Airport

Westin Wall Centre Vancouver Airport 

-With files from the Canadian Press