A traveler who arrived here recently and had to spend twice what she budgeted for at a hotel has lashed out at local authorities for the manner in which they implemented the new Covid protocols for travelers.
In an almost overnight move, the authorities recently extended the period from five days to ten days in quarantine at a hotel for persons arriving from high-risk countries.
The traveler, who is living abroad but has Vincentian connection, described the sudden move as “disrespectful and distasteful.”
“When we got to the airport at JFK, is when we learned that, overnight, the rules changed and we no longer have to spend five days in a hotel, we have to spend ten.
“Now, I arranged for a decent place because I’m travelling with my two kids and we wanted enough space. So, I agreed and said okay, it looks like we’re gonna spend somewhere around US$800 for the hotel and everything, plus taxes.
“So, immediately, I wanted to call my lawyer – a high profile lawyer in New York. I just think that’s illegal to not give notice, and at my expense have to spend an additional five days through no fault of mine,” the visitor said.
The traveler said they paid EC$60 to get from the airport to the hotel.
“We came in, we said to them; ‘well, how is this gonna go, because we only have enough money for five days,” the traveler said.
She said she would have preferred to go and spend the rest of the money elsewhere supporting local businesses, getting fruits and travelling around the islands instead of spending it at a hotel.
“Like, we have an apartment with three rooms, we could each be in a room that we don’t even have to see our parents until, you know, for the nine days or whatever.
“There’s no need for us to be here. I don’t plan on going anywhere, you know. I have my kids to take care of. I will spend my nine days happily at home cooking my own food with my money. Instead, I had to dish out another $900 to Beachcombers, you know, for five more days,” she said.
The traveler said that when the authorities released the information they should have said persons booking after the 23rd (of December) will now have to spend their ten days or whatever. She, however, believes the ten-day period in quarantine in a hotel is too long.
“I think the ten days is too much. I could book a flight to Haiti right now and just go home,” she said.
The traveler said that before traveling here they had two PCR Covid-!9 tests in 48 hours which had negative (Covid-19) results. However, having taken a test here on Tuesday she was still awaiting test result.
“No one has emailed me, no one has called me. That’s neither here nor there.
The disgruntled traveler said she called the the people at NEMO and told them it was disrespectful that they would at a moment’s notice just say that anybody coming tomorrow would now have to quarantine for ten days.
“It’s like, where do you think people are gonna find money for that?” she asked.
The traveler also spoke of the hassle of filling caused by the required COVID-19 travel forms and the instant notice of the extended quarantine period.
“Everyone there who came off the plane, it took forever to get through Immigration because it was just arguments over and over as to why we weren’t given proper notice for that. Where do you do that?
“The folks at the airport I thought were rude. They were like: ‘yeah, tek alyo ten days. Alyo come in with alyo disease’ and this and that.
“We tesed twice before we even got to St Vincent because we were supposed to be on that flight on the 19th (of December).
And just the drama of getting to the airport, this form that you have to fill out, it’s not in the system. People are getting held up at the airport because of this form. You fill it out, you put it in the system, you get to the airport it’s not in the system,” she said.
The traveler further stated: “Okay, when I tried again for the 23rd, I missed that flight because everyone was being held up. I made sure I had a hard copy of it. And still when I got to the airport they had myself and my older son, and my younger son was not on it. His form was not in the system. I don’t know how that happened. So that holds up everything.”
The traveler spoke of the situation that confronted her and her two sons at the hotel.
“The first apartment we were in, the air conditioner didn’t work for two days. They had to move us to another room,” she said. She said that when she asked whether they would get water or anything, she was asked if they didn’t get the welcoming package and she said no, “there’s nothing in here.”
“They sent me three 8 ounce bottles of water. I mean, it’s the smallest bottles of water I’ve ever seen. It’s smaller than the small Ju-C bottle. I think the small Ju-C bottle is about 11 ounces. Yeah, three of those and three bags of chips. The chips were like the size of my cell phone – some local chips or whatever. That’s it.
“No breakfast, no lunch, no dinner. Not some bread, not some bagel. Nothing!” she said.
The traveler added: “One morning, the kids were like: ‘Mom, can we at least order some breakfast?’
“And it was US$96 for breakfast for three. And it was just breakfast. There was no tea. It was just the food. No tea, not some orange juice, some mango juice, a glass of water. Nothing!
“It’s insane, the amount of money we spent, through no fault of ours and with no notice. I would have changed places, you know, and gone somewhere a little bit cheaper, you know, to save my money.
“You know, the money I had to go spend to have fun, it’s spent here doing absolutely nothing. We don’t get an hour to go outside to stretch our legs, you know. We have a little balcony you can get some fresh air but the kids need to walk about. Even people in solitary confinement get an hour, you know. It’s being run wrong and I think what they did to us coming in on the 23rd was disrespectful.”
The traveler also complained that when she booked the hotel, the daily rate at booking.com, was US$150.
“When I got here, they said it’s US$218. They didn’t offer me the discount,” she said.
She said the hotel told her it was because she did not book it directly with them she had to pay that rate.
She said that for the second five days, she called and asked if they could give a discount because she did not have another US$1,100 to them. She said they agreed to charge her at their rate of US$177.00 – nothing included in the rate, just the room. “I mean, I understand we can’t use the amenities, but nothing, just four walls,” she said.
She noted that everything was quoted in US currency.
“I’m keeping all of my receipts and giving them to by accountant because Covid is gonna pay me back for all of my stuff.
This is definitely one for the authorities,” the traveler said.
She further stated: “There has to be protocol. I don’t see the need for you to just target… It’s the equivalent of you having a contract, you’re coming in to rent an apartment and it’s a thousand dollars a month. And you pay your money and you show up to the residence with all your clothes and everything and you’re ready to go in there.
And the landlord hands you the keys and say, okay, it’s no longer a thousand dollars, beginning today it’s two thousand dollars a month.’
“What do you do?
“Where’s the respect? That’s disrespectful. First of all, that has to be illegal.
“No one will put up for that. Had I known that it was going to be ten days, I would have done things differently. I could have gone for somewhere that’s maybe a bit cheaper, you know.
“I found that this place was close to where my relatives were so they didn’t have to go far away to come and bring stuff for us. And, I wanted the children to be comfortable.
“So, this rate, I already calculated how much I had to take out of my budget to do it. And that’s what I did.
“To come here and have it doubled, I find is just disrespectful. The hotel is gonna do what the hotel’s gonna do. That’s their rate, you know what I mean. They could have brought it (rate) down but if they’re gonna keep their rate that high they could have offered something, you know, seeing that we didn’t know.”
She said everyone who was coming in and booking agreed that “it was distasteful to have not informed us in advance, you know, give us more time to pivot.”
“I couldn’t change a flight. The time to change the hotel was gone. I would have lost money anyway because I had until the 16th (of December) to cancel. So, it’s not even within the cancellation time period,” she said.
She said that as it relates to flights there are certain number of days one has to cancel a flight without incurring a fee and the hotel gives a time period to change booking rate or cancel.
“That’s how things are done. The authorities need to know that. Not just because we’re coming from America we’re picking up money on the streets. It’s disrespectful,” she said.