They’ll be back: Hotel reservations in Ottawa suggest convoy protesters could return next weekend
Crowds on Parliament Hill may seem to be diminishing, but they will return — and sooner than Ottawa thinks.
That’s what Steve Ball, president of the Ottawa-Gatineau Hotel Association, told CityNews Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 31, when the association found that many of those who decided to leave hotels in the Ottawa area by the end of the weekend have since re-booked a stay for the following weekend.
“We had quite a few extended rooms last night. It seems to be short term in the extension which means there are more bookings for tonight but we are not seeing any long term bookings,” said he explained.
However, since some of those secure reservations are scheduled for next weekend, Ball explains that it’s not necessarily the truckers who are rebooking, but other groups who have followed.
“It tells us that they are probably not part of the truck convoy, but they are fringe groups who want to come and support truckers on weekends while they go to work during the week.”
And that’s if hotels will even have the supplies they need to serve those customers next weekend.
Due to the traffic jam downtown, Ball said trucks supposed to deliver fresh food and supplies to businesses couldn’t get through, leaving their stock empty.
“It’s one thing to make a point by shutting down a city, it’s quite another to understand the impact it has not only on residents and businesses, but also on the people protesting here.”
Not to mention, the protests took the breath away from businesses, as Monday was the day Ontario reopened with some restrictions lifted.
“This morning was supposed to be a bit like Christmas morning,” Ball said. “We had a taste of business picking up and we were all excited about it. And in my industry downtown, none of that is opening up because first of all they can’t get supplies because of all the road closures.Staff can’t get to work.Pools, gyms and restaurants aren’t opening.Christmas morning isn’t coming for us.
Ball says hotels in the Ottawa and Gatineau areas experienced incidents over the weekend that they reported to police.
“For the most part I can say it was reasonably respectful and most guests had a good time. Very few were masking – this was an issue we encountered once they entered the hotel “Ball said. “But outside of that there’s always this fringe group that tends to want to own things and we’ve had a lot of problems this weekend.”
And while he couldn’t say exactly how many incidents there were or the nature of them, he estimated there were around less than 100 to report.
“Our industry has been completely decimated by COVID,” Ball said. “When Winterlude canceled, 80% of our staff was laid off this summer because we were in single digit occupancy. Then all of a sudden we get the demand for the week, we’re trying to ‘accommodate, try to attract as many staff as possible.
And with all that effort to fit in, Ball acknowledged there were times that involved berating staff, late-night partying, complaining about noise and unmasked individuals.
“The hotel staff were just trying to do their best to serve the customers and meet the standards that were imposed on them,” he explained. message is: for the love of God, you ask for respect, please respect a little.”
Ball acknowledges that this behavior hasn’t been seen by everyone and that a few have “spoiled it for others”.
However, at the end of the day, Ball still insists on “bringing your behavior with you”.
Either way, this has an impact on the few future reservations from hotels in the area that were unrelated to the convoy.
“There’s a part of me that thinks some of that $9 million should go towards offsetting some of the cost to the community of putting this protest together.”