Some Canberra hotels have taken it upon themselves to insist guests have proof of vaccination, despite the government resisting calls for a vaccine mandate.
The East Hotel requires guests to be vaccinated to visit its accommodation, restaurant and bar, with staff checking vaccine certificates before allowing guests in.
Front-desk staff at another hotel told The Canberra Times they'd been asking guests for vaccine proof, going against company policy out of fear of catching the virus.
Australian Hotels Association ACT general manager Anthony Brierley said residents of NSW and Victoria must be fully vaccinated to enter a hotel in their home jurisdiction, so it made sense the same rules should apply when they visited Canberra.
"Hotels have a unique risk profile because they welcome guests from other, less-vaccinated states," Mr Brierley said.
"In enforcing vaccination as a condition of entry accommodation hotels like East are keeping Canberrans safe from the risk of incursion of the virus from less-vaccinated parts of Australia."
Forrest Hotel and Apartments director Dorothy Barclay said they'd like all guests to be double-vaccinated but without a mandate in the ACT asking patrons for proof was difficult.
"People have got different circumstances but we do encourage people to be double vaccinated so we can all look after each other," she said.
East Hotel general manager Todd Handy said they'd required all staff to have at least one shot before returning to work and their policy with guests post lockdown had been the same.
Mr Handy said the safety of staff, guests and the wider community had been the main driver for the decision. The economic loss associated with becoming an exposure site was another important factor, he said.
Mr Handy said after weeks of lockdown having to cancel more shifts and cancel future bookings was too big of a risk to take.
"We just didn't want to do that to the employees again and we didn't want to do it to the business again," Mr Handy said.
With local visitors making up a significant proportion of visitors to Joe's and Agostini's, staff report Canberrans responding to the requirement as the safest they've felt dining out in weeks.
"We've only had a few people kick up a bit of a fuss or say how disappointed they are, but that tells us our policy is working because we don't want to put anybody at risk," Mr Handy said.
The East Hotel has allowed guests with vaccination exemptions to enter the venue, a policy Mr Brierley said would prevent venues from overstepping the mark.
He said venues were not in danger of breaching discrimination laws by asking for proof of vaccine because vaccine status was not a "protected attribute" under the Discrimination Act 1991.
Mr Brierly said licensed venues, including hotels, had a legal responsibility to protect staff and patrons from the risks posed by COVID-19.
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"A licensed venue is entitled to comply with these legal responsibilities by refusing admission to unvaccinated patrons. This is the most effective way of keeping staff and patrons safe," he said.
Hotel chains with venues across jurisdictions are reportedly abiding by local guidelines rather than mandating vaccine passports across their businesses.
IHG Hotels and Resorts, which includes Crowne Plaza, the Holiday Inn and InterContinental has not introduced a mandate in Canberra.
A spokesperson said they followed all government guidelines, including the ACT government COVID safe plan.
"IHG does not mandate vaccinations for guests or staff at any of our hotels in Australia except where it is required by government," a spokesperson said.
Accor Group, which includes the Mercure, Ibis, Mantra and Novotel hotels in Canberra, have also stopped short of introducing a mandate.
A spokesperson said in the interests of public safety, Accor follows the health guidelines and recommendations made by local health authorities.
"We encourage all team members and members of the public to be vaccinated," the spokesperson said.
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