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They'll be back: Ottawa hotel bookings suggest convoy protesters may return next weekend

The Ottawa-Gatineau Hotel Association also said it's been difficult to service those who came to protest because they're running low on supplies, which are being hindered by the convoy gridlock.
2022-01-31 truck convoy 5
Truck convoy protest on Parliament Hill on Monday, January 31, 2022. (Photo/Nigel Newlove)

Crowds on Parliament Hill may look like they’re thinning out, but they’ll be back — and sooner than Ottawa might think.

That’s what Steve Ball, president of the Ottawa-Gatineau Hotel Association, told CityNews Ottawa on Monday, January 31 when the association found that many of those who had decided to check out of Ottawa-area hotels by the end of the weekend have since re-booked a stay for the following weekend.

"We did have quite a few rooms extended last night. It seems to be short-term in the extending, meaning there’s more bookings for tonight, but we’re not seeing long-term bookings," he explained.

However, seeing as some of those secured bookings are scheduled for next weekend, Ball explains that it may not necessarily be truckers who are re-booking, but other groups who have tagged along.

"That tells us they’re likely not part of the trucking convoy but they’re fringe groups that want to come in and support the truckers on weekends while they go to work during the week."

And that’s if hotels will even have the supplies they need to service those guests next weekend.

Because of the gridlock in the downtown core, Ball said trucks that are supposed to deliver fresh foods and supplies to businesses haven’t been able to get through, leaving their stock empty.

"It’s one thing to make a point by closing down a city, it’s another thing to understand the impact it has not just on the residents and businesses, but also the people that are actually here doing the protesting."

Not to mention the protests did take the wind out of the sails of businesses as Monday was Ontario’s day for reopening with some restrictions lifting.

"This morning was supposed to be a little bit like Christmas morning," Ball said. "We were getting a taste of back to business and we’ve all been excited for that. And in my industry in the downtown core, none of that’s opening because first of all, they can’t get supplies in because of all the road closures. The staff can’t get to work. The pools, gyms and restaurants are not opening. Christmas morning isn’t happening for us."

Ball does say that hotels in the Ottawa and Gatineau areas did experience some incidences over the weekend that they have communicated to police.

"For the most part I can say that it was reasonably respectful and most guests were having a good time. Very few were masking — that was an issue we ran into once they got into the hotel," Ball said. "But outside of that, there’s always that fringe group that tend to want to make things their own and we had significant amounts of problems this weekend."

And while he cannot say exactly how many incidents there were or the nature of them, he did ballpark there were about below 100 to report.

"Our industry has been absolutely decimated by COVID,” Ball said. “When Winterlude cancelled, 80 per cent of our staff were laid off in the summer because we were in single-digit occupancy. Then all of the sudden we get the demand for the week, we try to accommodate, try to pull in as many staff as we can."

And with all that effort to accommodate, Ball did acknowledge there were moments that involved berating staff, late-night partying, noise complaints and unmasked individuals.

"The hotel staff were just trying to do their best to service the guests and meet the standards that are placed upon them,” he explained. “So, yah, when someone goes off on one of these people, it’s hugely disappointing. And my message is: for God sake, you’re asking for respect, please provide some respect."

Ball does acknowledge that this behaviour wasn’t seen by everyone and that it was a select few “ruining it for others.”

However, at the end of the day, Ball still stresses to “bring your behaviour with you.”

Either way, it’s having an impact on what little future bookings hotels in the area did have that were not related to the convoy.

"There’s a side of me that thinks that some of that $9-million should go to offset some of the cost to the community for hosting this protest."

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