Radisson Hotel Being Used as Refugee Camp While Continuing to Sell Rooms to Guests

Several years ago I wrote about the Radisson JFK being used as a homeless shelter.

I was torn over this. Customers don’t like staying in hotels where the largest in-house group are homeless, but I do think they have a right to stay on property if the going rate is being paid for their accommodations.


Credit: Radisson JFK

Last year a New York council member proposed a law that would require hotels to notify other guests when accepting the city’s homeless. The Comfort Inn and Days Inn & Suites on Redding Street in Ozone Park were also being used to hosue the homeless.

The plan was apparently to embarrass hotel owners ‘profiting off the homeless crisis’ which seemed like really bad public policy to me. Hotel owners won’t want to house the homeless if they have to announce they’re doing it, which is a problem when there’s no alternate plan in place to provide shelter.

Now it seems another Radisson, the Radisson Toronto East, is being used as a refugee camp. They’re occupying ‘all but two floors’ of the hotel, while the chain continues to book others into the property without revealing what to expect.

The hotel acknowledges “there are guests staying in the hotel ‘long-term.'” Reviews by others report challenges.

One traveller from Los Angeles, who stayed there during a business trip a week ago, calls the place an “absolute zoo.”

Others described the hotel as “dangerous,” dirty and noisy — and that the lobby is a “madhouse,” full of loitering refugees.

…“My daughter kept getting harassed by full-grown men (refugees),” the Montrealer wrote on TripAdvisor.

…“Huge crowds of people, children spitting, yelling, jumping on top of each other, and to make things even worse, one of them stole my phone and I had to chase them to get them to return it,” the traveller wrote.

I don’t think guests generally have a right to know who else is staying at a hotel, just as no one has a right to know that I am staying there. I was thrilled when the Supreme Court struck down a Los Angeles ordinance requiring hotel records be made available to police upon request. When I sign a group contract, I don’t think the hotel should or should have to notify other guests, and that the group in this case is of people without homes doesn’t change that.

The problem of homelessness, and of caring for refugees, is a difficult one. Housing them alongside hotel guests is challenging. For a hotel the relevant issue is what level of service they’re able to provide to guests.

  • If they are delivering on the promised experience, including expected levels of noise and safety, that’s really the only issue.

  • However if they are compromising their usual product then guests should be informed of that in advance, so they can make accommodations decisions accordingly.

  • Hotels shouldn’t benefit from their government housing contract on the one hand and then fail to deliver the standard guest experience on the other.

It’s really the hotels themselves that are to blame when they offer subpar experiences to their guests. Some of these complaints though really just sound like guests were staying at a Radisson not in Europe.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Comments

  1. I am curious…how are the hotels profiting from housing the homeless/refugees? Are the homeless/refugees paying at % of the going rate (e.g. 50%)?

  2. @AJ,

    It’s the government (i.e. you) who are paying the hotels for sheltering the homeless/refugees typically at the government rate (which, in my experience is usually higher). This is why these hotels don’t really care about the single floor of “real” guests that are only staying for a night or two.

  3. Hit the nail on the head. The “you have no right to know who else is staying at the hotel” argument is a red herring. The hotel has an obligation to let prospective guests know that service levels are not at typical standards, just as they would if the hotel pool was under construction.

    Luckily the transparency of thr internet has corrected this market failure, as candid accounts of the situation are only a trip advisor search away.

  4. I’ve stayed at major brand hotels in a few countries where the local national government was putting up refugees in the same hotel as me. I had no issues with it, and sometimes the government was even paying more on a nightly basis per room than I was.

    While it may be sort of popular to bash refugees and those doing business with refugees, I won’t be one of those people. I’ve seen non-refugees make a mess of the hotels I’ve used as much or more than any mess I’ve seen refugees make in my 3+ star hotels in the US and abroad.

    I would rather stay in a hotel with a bunch of refugee families on a couple of floors than in a hotel hosting a Muslim-bashing, “alt-right” convention full of “white supremacists”. Speaking of which, my bet is that this situation at this hotel wouldn’t be a story on this blog if the refugees were “white” and perceived to be European.

  5. @GUWonder brings up a great point…do you have “the right” to know if the hotel is being occupied by white supremacists? African Americans? Muslims? The NY council member introduced a slippery slope. Would you like to know and do you have “the right” to know are very different questions.

  6. Maybe cities like NYC could put refugees and homeless into AirBnB properties as a way to level the playing field and as a form of redistribution of wealth.

  7. Radisson hotels in Canada and the US have damaged overall brand value for reasons that have nothing to do with having sold rooms in bulk to a major customer like the national government.

    The damaged overall brand value is a function of just about anything and everything beside providing rooms for longer term tenancy, whether it be for natural disaster relief for displaced citizens/residents, refugees, the local police/military/government employees, and various others.

  8. GUWonder: “Speaking of which, my bet is that this situation at this hotel wouldn’t be a story on this blog if the refugees were “white” and perceived to be European.”

    Don’t worry, that problem doesn’t exist. People flee TO white Europe, not FROM it. The last time I can remember that happening was when the Berlin Wall came down and people fled Socialism and Communism. Something that Bernie “Three-House” Sanders’ voters should keep in mind.

  9. The desperation apparent in some comments here to craft this into an issue of racism, “muslim bashing,” “refugee hate,” or whatever identity politics-driven talking point is currently in vogue is pretty sad. This is a question of service level expectations (and hotels trying to hide that ball from customers), and nothing more. Hotel customers typically come with the expectation that activities like roughhousing en masse in the lobby, harassing other guests, stealing from other guests, etc, will get one thrown out of the hotel. If the hotel is no longer willing or able to deliver on this expectation, regardless of the reasons why, prospective customers deserve to know.

    If noisy construction work will be happening on the floor above a customer’s room, most hotels would apologetically let him or her know ahead of time to properly set expectations. How is this any different?

  10. I booked the Comfort Inn Kew Gardens (Queens) in NYC and later discovered it was also being used as part of NYC’s homeless program. I had booked a nonrefundable room far in advance before there were any reports of participation in the homeless program. So there was no disclosure at the time of reservation and the hotel refused to ackowledge it in subsequent communications even though TA is full of reviews showing that is what’s going on. I eventually prevailed upon the OTA to get the rez cancelled but the non-disclosure is the sleazy part. If the hotel chooses to make income by participating in this program and is providing a necessary service to the city and its homeless residents, that’s fine. Just be transparent about it and let guests know what they are signing up for if they choose to stay at the hotel as a leisure guest.

  11. In 2014 the Radisson was furious when they found out that the NYC govt had placed 100 homeless in their JFK hotel. Could they have refused? What did NYC say was the reason? Did the Rad even ask? Did they have a choice?
    I cancelled my Carlson card because there weren’t enough stateside properties to participate in promotions, not because they are all shody.
    I’d want to know which and when large long-term groups are staying at hotels (from their websites) so I can make an informed decision as to whether I would feel comfortable there.
    Why remove my choice to decide? Because I wouldn’t stay there? Maybe, maybe not!

  12. In 2014 the Radisson was furious when they found out that the NYC govt had placed many homeless in their JFK hotel. Could they have refused? What did NYC say was the reason? Did the Rad even ask? Did they have a choice?
    I cancelled my Carlson card because there weren’t enough stateside properties to participate in promotions, not because they are all shody.
    I’d want to know which and when large long-term groups are staying at hotels (from their websites) so I can make an informed decision as to whether I would feel comfortable there.
    Why remove my choice to decide? Because I wouldn’t stay there? Maybe, maybe not!

  13. Do we need to politicize everything. When I check into a hotel, I want it safe, clean, comfortable, and I do value my privacy. Period.

    A hotel filled with homeless people sleeping, reminds me of the A train at 3:30 AM, when I am trying to get to JFK for a 6AM flight. It is dirty. Every seat is taken up with sleeping homeless people. In fact, every disease is present on the New York City Subways 24/7. Although is it safer than 20 to 30 years ago, it is not entirely safe. My hotel should not be like the A train. It is just common sense.

  14. Art,

    “White” refugees going to other places for refuge/asylum in other “white majority” countries and elsewhere was happening even years after the end of the Soviet Union. Did you forget the Balkan refugee flows? Did you forget the Chechen refugee flows? If you even knew about them until schooled in them. 😉

    The right wing.nuts are such snowflakes when called out on their hypocrisy and bigotry and ignorance. But oh boy doesn’t this all make for a spectator sport to run up the revenue potential of the blog? 😉

  15. Chas,

    The most disruptive stays I’ve faced as a result of other customers at hotels during my stays have been due to people considered to be political and commercial VIPs in the eyes of the hotels. And often I have had to find out on my own and after the fact that the service disruptions I faced were due to well known figures. For example, being forced to change rooms or otherwise denied my guaranteed benefit of late checkout because Putin’s staff didn’t want me nearby, or Netanyahu’s staff didn’t like my Muslim aide, or the Emir of Abu Dhabi wanted the whole floor and the floor/room below and above blocked, or the hotel kicked out all guests due to selling out the hotel for some night(s) to a government, or the hotel promised room access at a certain time on a wholely private floor to a big league sports team that had a travel or game schedule need for the rooms at the specified time, or a rowdy fraternity had a convention. In none of these cases did the hotel provide me advance notice of who the other customers were that may disrupt my stay/bookings in one or more ways.

  16. @ wonderblus

    Art mentioned refugees from eastern Europe; did you need a detailed list? You extreme left-wing nut jobs are as hypocritical as Bill Clinton attacking Justice Kavanaugh.

  17. I wind up staying in hotels of all sorts, and to be perfectly honest, one of the best things about staying in more expensive hotels is that the guests tend to be quieter. That’s not racist or snobbish, just reality. There is NO ONE here who would select a hotel if they knew it was being used as a refugee camp or homeless shelter. Hotels are not supposed to be those things and, I guarantee you, the folks staying as long-term refugees or otherwise homeless are not likely to be as well behaved as “regular” guests. That’s just the real world. If you want to pretend otherwise you can, but you might as well book that trip to fantasy island.

  18. Jimboblus,

    Art said: “Don’t worry, that problem doesn’t exist. People flee TO white Europe, not FROM it. The last time I can remember that happening was when the Berlin Wall came down and people fled Socialism and Communism. ”

    The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, but the Balkan and Chechen refugee flows to the current EU area happened when capitalism was back to being allowed in Russia and FYS areas. 😉

    Note that Art says what he remembers, and yet left out what happened more recently. Sounds like Art may be showing signs of Alzheimer’s, early set or otherwise. That or just plain old ignorance upon which the “white supremacist” and angry snowflake right-wing mob is built.

    The hotel got paid, not commandeered, by the government and probably at a market rate that is higher than the lowest cost room price I can get at the hotel. That should make the proponents of capitalism happy, not angry like the “alt-right” snowflakes and those who support Trump and his ridiculous “there are good people on both sides” type talk when it comes to say that rather notorious Charlottesville event. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *