Some hotels and rentals violate California COVID-19 travel rules

Not sure if it’s okay to stay in a hotel or vacation rental under California’s stricter stay-at-home rules? You are not alone.

Our unscientific survey of more than 50 hotels, motels, and other accommodations showed largely mixed results, with the Order getting stronger allegiance in Northern California, weaker in Southern California.

The governor’s order of December 3 said housing in high COVID areas of the state is only open to “essential workers” or people who need to quarantine, not vacationers. Yet many accommodations let travelers make their own decisions. And many travelers continue to rack their brains or look for loopholes.

“Right now, it’s really the honor system”, California Hotel & Lodging Assn. Spokesman Peter Hillan said of the order, which will last until at least December 27 in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley and several more days in other areas.

“We have work to do,” Gov. Gavin Newsom told Californians on Tuesday, turning away from a discussion of new vaccine shipments to highlight the role of personal responsibility in fighting the spread of the coronavirus.

The hotel association’s website, noting guests’ legal right to privacy, tells hoteliers and innkeepers: “There is no obligation for a hotel to request proof / documentation from an essential worker nor an official. only type of travel authorization for essential workers. ”

The association suggests that hoteliers alert potential customers to the new rules on their websites and re-explain the rules before guests arrive, and possibly again when they check in.

What happens when customers contact hotels and short-term rentals? Do the accommodations refuse tourists?

To find out, we called, emailed, and surveyed the websites of more than 50 hotels and short-term rentals in areas from northern San Diego to Lake Tahoe, where the ban on leisure travel is in place.

We have described ourselves as “tourists”, “leisure travelers” or “non-essential travelers” seeking accommodation between December 18 and 26. ignoring the governor’s order.)

The state’s public health department said “essential” reasons for traveling include “work and school, supporting critical infrastructure, economic services and supply chains, health, medical care. immediate and safety and security ”.

The same agency said “non-essential” travel includes people taking trips “considered to be tourist or recreational in nature.”

Many of the hotels we contacted have updated their websites to point to the Governor’s Order and allow travelers to decide which category they fall into.

• In the LA and Ojai area, six of the seven hotels we called have recognized the rules but are leaving it up to travelers to decide if they are eligible to reserve a room. “We are open to essential travelers; we don’t define what that means to you, ”said one customer service operator. “It’s up to you to define. Only one, the Langham, Huntington, Pasadena, has discouraged booking because of the rules.

• In San Diego, four of five Airbnb hosts said yes on December 11 to a Christmas week sightseeing tour, even though it violates state order. The fifth host said it was closed for maintenance. (Airbnb’s format urges visitors to “review COVID-19 travel restrictions before booking” but does not address California’s very limited accommodation situation.)

• In Santa Barbara, three of the five hotels on December 14 were ready to book a guest despite the guest’s status as a leisure traveler. Of the two that did not accept reservations, one was temporarily closed (the Four Seasons Resort Biltmore Santa Barbara) and the other said, “We are no longer accepting reservations for this week.”

• In Palm Springs, four hotels have indicated they will allow reservations; one requires guests to sign a document stating that they are essential workers. The Ace Hotel & Swim Club has “temporarily suspended” operations due to the state’s stay-at-home order, according to its website. The city of Palm Springs initially said hotels could remain open to visitors to the state, but clarified in an email Monday that “short-term accommodations are only available to travelers in the state. whether these travelers are traveling for essential business or for COVID mitigation. purposes.

• In Mammoth, Airbnb schedules for December 11 showed that 18 of Mammoth’s 20 hosts were unavailable from December 20-27. It could mean that they were complying with the state’s order rejecting bookings or that they already had guests for those high-demand nights.

• In San Francisco, only one of five calls to hotels on December 14 resulted in a reservation. Two hotels have been temporarily closed due to the pandemic. Another, the Fairmont, warned non-essential travelers with a notice on its website. And at one hotel, the Phoenix Motel on Eddy Street, the reservation agent warned a caller, “Unfortunately, this is only for essential travel.”

• In the Lake Tahoe area, six of six hotels said no to non-essential or non-essential guests to all reservations. At the Landing Lake Tahoe Resort and the Basecamp Hotel, both in South Lake Tahoe, reservation agents politely declined calls seeking a leisure stay.

Further north, the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe in Truckee, Calif., Said only visitors who meet the “essential traveler” criteria can book a room. Cedar Glen Lodge in Tahoe Vista and Springhill Suites by Marriott in Truckee have said they will not be accepting reservations until January at the earliest to comply with the order. Lodging at the Village at Squaw Valley said the same on its website.

Jim Winterberger, President and Owner of the Rental Management Company Tahoe Getaways, posted this warning on his company website: “We take this seriously! Guests who make blatant false statements put us at great risk and will be treated accordingly. ”

Officials from the state’s Department of Public Health referred questions about the application to the governor’s Office of Emergency Services, which did not immediately respond. The LA County Public Health Department said it had held telebriefs for the accommodation industry but had not issued citations for hotels or short-term rentals since the introduction of the state ordinance.

Among the email responses we received from Airbnb hosts:

• “There are a lot of tourists, travelers and non-essential visitors from all over San Diego and Pacific Beach right now. As long as everyone stays safe, disinfects, wears masks and takes social distancing seriously, it’s fine … “

• “Yes … we do accept to have guests who are not essential travelers :)) .. [I] had never heard of the inability to travel within the state … I have people from other states. MDR! “

Among the remarks of hotel reservation agents:

• In Santa Barbara: “We said yes but there is always a risk that someone will come here and ask if you are essential.

• In Los Angeles: “Everyone always asks the same question, but we always take reservations.

California Regional home stay order, signed on December 3 and completed on December 6, orders three weeks of tighter restrictions in any region where hospital intensive care capacity falls below 15%. One of these restrictions requires hotels and short-term rental hosts to refuse the arrival of leisure travelers, regardless of the date of their reservation.

As of December 10, all 36 counties in southern California (including the Eastern Sierra), the San Joaquin Valley, and Greater Sacramento (including Lake Tahoe) were all covered by the ordinance. In the 11 counties of the Bay Area, which fell below 15% of intensive care capacity on Wednesday, the order takes effect Thursday at 11:59 p.m., for a minimum period of 21 days. (Several Bay Area counties had already decided to voluntarily join the order. Sonoma County restrictions are in place until at least January 9; Monterey County restrictions are in place until January 11. less.)

That leaves only northernmost California free from the order’s recreational accommodation ban. Under the ordinance, the vast majority of hotels, motels and short-term rentals in the state are now expected to deny all tourists to California.

In addition, a November 13 state travel advisory urges (but does not require) out-of-state leisure travelers not to use hotels or short-term rentals anywhere in California unless they stay and self-isolate for 14 days.

Cancellation and refund practices vary widely, especially among short-term rentals. But many hotels have relaxed their policies during the pandemic. This article gives consumers an overview of some options.

Hillan, of the hotel association, said he was not aware of any major outbreaks in California hotels or any accommodation cited under the new ban. He said he would like to see more enforcement from county or state officials, with an impartial review of hotels and short-term rentals.

“If you really want to stop this, you have to be ubiquitous in regulating where people stay,” Hillan said.

Although state officials pleaded with Californians for months to stay in their homes as much as possible, many continued to travel. For the week ending Dec. 5 – just as the stricter rules applied in Southern California – hotel occupancy rates statewide was 41.1%, according to surveys conducted in name of the marketing organization. Visit California. This is a decrease of 38.1% compared to the same period a year ago.

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