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Meet the People Stranded at Hotels—It’s Nowhere Near as Great as You Might Think

Whether they’re staying in government-imposed quarantines or looking for a fun diversion, people are still staying at hotels around the world, but it’s absolutely not all glitz and glam.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has most of us hunkering down, getting good at our new craft hobbies or trying to make sourdough starters from scratch while we constantly wash our hands and ration our toilet paper, some travelers have found themselves stranded in hotels in a variety of situations. While riding out shelter-in-place orders at a hotel may sound like the ideal situation, for most, it’s turning out to be the exact opposite.

As many reasons as there are to travel, there are just as many reasons to end up stranded at a hotel during this unprecedented situation. Some people have ended up stranded during previously scheduled vacations, thanks to borders being closed very quickly, and others are finding themselves facing quarantines at their destinations because they chose to take advantage of deeply-discounted travel rates. Still, others are now stuck abroad without their families because they were attempting to make a living. Most are stuck in countries far from home, making constant attempts to contact their embassies in a daily effort to get themselves back to where they came from. In some countries, however, their own citizens are undergoing quarantine in government-run hotels, rather than being allowed to quarantine at home.

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For those who are stranded in hotels, the quarantines run the gamut of posh vacation experiences to utterly deplorable conditions.

A recent article by The Guardian revealed the terrible conditions that Australian citizens who are reentering the country are facing as they are placed at the Sydney InterContinental, a five-star hotel that’s been turned into a government quarantine center. Instead of hand-crafted, Instagram-worthy meals for in-room dining, citizens are receiving meals that are barely edible and that don’t take their dietary restrictions into consideration. Instead of being able to, at the very least, enjoy the stunning views of Sydney that the hotel is known for, those in quarantine aren’t allowed to leave rooms with windows that don’t open. Other Australian citizens being quarantined at other hotels have also reported that they’ve been put under armed guard at their quarters.

Others in quarantine aren’t faring quite so poorly, being fed decent meals and using their hobbies to help them get through their day. Instagram’s @clementgreenberg2018 is illustrating his experiences in quarantine while commenting that “Surviving is the no 1 goal now.”

But it’s not all bad. Depending on the level of lockdown in each country, some are able to make the most of their time. Instagram’s @ms.buddah_belly_ is being resourceful while stuck in her hotel room, using a basic rice cooker to create comfort foods “because curbside food doesn’t compare to a home-cooked meal.” In Macao, China, @andreea.sorinna and family were offered an “ultra all-inclusive hotel quarantine” by the Macao government as they came back to their city of residence and needed to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

Key West artist and gallery owner Anna Sweet and her husband Steve Mize managed to turn what could’ve been a horrific experience into something at least somewhat positive. Things took a very unexpected turn for the couple while babymooning in Peru. While the couple was headed to visit the Sacred Valley, they were told that they had until midnight to fly out of the country or be stuck in quarantine for 15 days. Since they were in the middle of the country on a train, there was no way for them to make it out in time. They made it back to their hotel to find that they no longer had accommodations, and had to rely on a train conductor to help them find lodging at a retired monastery in Cusco, the Belmond Hotel Monasterio. Though the five-star hotel was under armed guard, the couple managed to make the most of their gorgeous surroundings by staging an impromptu pregnancy photoshoot before managing to get on the only flight leaving the country.

“We were so lucky to be able to fly home,” Sweet said. “For me, the worst part was being stuck at nearly 12,000 feet above sea level while pregnant. But the hotel was truly amazing, and they did so much to make us comfortable.”

Those on vacation weren’t the only ones who became unexpectedly stranded in a hotel due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Former Sacramento King basketball player Donte Greene now plays basketball in Saudi Arabia. When the season wrapped early on March 13 due to the spread of the pandemic, Greene booked a flight home to Baltimore, MD, for March 17, only to get stuck in Saudi Arabia when airports closed on March 15. The very short notice meant that all of the flights out were already booked, but Greene and others who were stranded were told it would only be two weeks before they could go home. Within a week, that date was extended to April 16, and the country began to shut down.

“I’m just trying to stay positive. It could be worse—I could be stuck in an airport somewhere, or I could actually have coronavirus.”

Greene has been riding things out in his hotel apartment in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, ever since. With no room service or in-room kitchen at the hotel, he’s been venturing out to pick up food at places like The Cheesecake Factory and Texas Roadhouse during the few hours that the country isn’t under curfew (10 am-3 pm). Greene has been calling the American Embassy every day in attempts to get home to his fiancé and children. In the meantime, he’s been trying to stay positive, washing the same four outfits over and over again, binge-watching TV, and using six flights of hotel stairs for exercise.

“There’s really no way to stay in shape here, so the stairs are my best way to stretch my legs and keep myself from lying in bed all day,” Greene said. “I’m just trying to stay positive. It could be worse—I could be stuck in an airport somewhere, or I could actually have coronavirus. I’m able to FaceTime with my kids a lot, so that’s a huge help.”

While most are finding themselves helpless, frustrated, and homesick, others are ignoring the recommendations like those of the United States Department of State which enacted a Level 4 travel ban, warning that travelers should be “prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.” Those continuing to travel, taking advantage of deep discounts from airlines and special Coronavirus packages from hotels, will likely face a minimum of a 14-day in-hotel quarantine when they reach their destination.

Not surprisingly, hotels are doing all that they can to stay afloat in a time that’s causing unfathomable economic hardships across the tourism and hospitality sectors, giving travelers the opportunity to willingly strand themselves in far-away locales. Deep discounts on 14-day stays, room upgrades, free Wi-Fi and parking, and all-inclusive packages can be found in hotels in locales that include Sydney, Hong Kong, and Thailand.

Le Bijou Hotel & Resort in Switzerland is taking things a big step further, offering their refurbished luxury apartments as “quarantine apartments” where guests will spend approximately $800 to $1,000 per day for a 14-day stay. Luxury add-ons include a $500 coronavirus test or $800, twice-daily check-ups from medical professionals.

But just because a hotel or airline is happy to take a traveler’s money, doesn’t mean that they are actually going to be welcomed at their destination. For the most part, those folks who intentionally chose to travel to places other than their own homes to ride out the shelter in place orders are not receiving warm welcomes. In Hawai‘i, protests have been staged at airports in Maui and Molokai, attempting to rebuke visitors; a few visitors were even verbally assaulted in Waikiki recently after taking advantage of cheap airfares. In India, travelers are being kicked out of their hotels and barred from others as positive COVID-19 cases rise quickly. Indian citizens have been displaying open hostility toward visitors, likely influenced by some of India’s first virus cases coming from a group of 15 Italian tourists. Though much of this hostility is fueled by panic and misinformation, it’s not at all unreasonable that citizens would have some serious problems with visitors coming into their countries at a time like this.

The one saving grace that seems to be helping many travelers who are stranded in their hotels is their Netflix subscriptions. So, rather than spending thousands of dollars to lie in a posh bed, it’s probably a much better idea to stay home, wash your hands, and watch Tiger King from the comfort of your own living room, just like the rest of us, lest you find yourself far from home for longer than you expected.