An American tourist who violated Canada’s coronavirus travel restrictions at least twice to sneak a visit to Banff National Park in June is now facing a six-figure fine and up to six months in jail.
John Pennington of Walton, Kentucky, was traveling from Alaska to the continental United States when he stopped at the luxurious Rimrock Resort Hotel inside Banff National Park, a gorgeous mountain escape that’s currently off-limits to Americans. Hotel staff noticed Pennington was in violation of Canada’s Quarantine Act and seemingly taking advantage of something that’s become known as the Alaska loophole, NPR reported.
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Canada closed its southern border on March 21, with an exception for travelers making their way to and from Alaska. Travelers going between the continental U.S. and Alaska are required to take the most direct routes and prohibited from passing through national parks and stopping at tourist sites. They must be made identifiable by their U.S. license plate and by hanging tags in their rear-view mirror indicating the date by which they must depart Canada.
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“The vast majority of Americans and vehicles with American license plates are people who are here for legitimate reasons,” a Royal Canadian Mounted Police sergeant told CBC.
Pennington is among about a dozen Americans who Canadian officials say were not.
Police initially issued Pennington a $900 ticket and ordered him to remain at his hotel — where some rooms feature stunning mountain views — until he left the following day. On his way out, Pennington was spotted at a popular tourist spot on Sulphur Mountain, not far from the hotel.
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Pennington told police he was looking for food, but the officials didn’t buy it, as The Rimrock Resort Hotel is home to several restaurants and a grab-and-go cafe.
Pennington was arrested and is scheduled to appear in Canadian court in November. So far, he is the only American who has been arrested for violating Canadian coronavirus quarantine laws.
Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.