Have any difficulties travelling as someone with Environmental Sensitivities? You can probably relate to this story.  If not, please check out David’s ski story to see some of the difficulties faced by those who are chemically sensitive.

The sun glistening on snow-covered peaks; clean, invigorating mountain air filling my lungs; gliding through fresh powder. I was really looking forward to a ski-trip to Jasper. I decided that taking the train would be a cool way to go, so off I went to the travel agent. Well actually, I called.

I stressed my MCS situation and was assured by the travel agent (who shall remain anonymous) that she understood and would accommodate me. When she had no luck, I was reminded of the website greenvacationhub.com. It’s a map of the world–click on where you want to go and you will get a list of places that actually use fragrance free cleaning and laundry products along with a whole list of other environmentally friendly, green options. I informed her that this site listed the Astoria Hotel as using fragrance free cleaning and laundry products. What ended up happening was that the agent booked a different hotel (which shall remain anonymous) assuring me they also used fragrance free products. In fact, she had been informed of this on three separate phone calls to said hotel.

When I arrived at this hotel in Jasper, I again confirmed that they, in fact, were fragrance free. The hotel manager (who shall remain anonymous) looked stunned as if she had no idea what I was talking about. Although she was a native Nova Scotian and had heard about their fragrance free changes, she was unaware of her hotel being similar. Great. Panic started to set in but the room had not been cleaned yet so I left hoping for the best. Besides they had been kind enough to store the luggage and ski equipment.

When I returned to finally check-in, I had to again ask for the manager, as the lady at the desk was smothered in something disgusting. This smell permeated the hallways. Maybe the room would be safe. Following my usual hotel routine, I checked the towels (no smell) and prepared to put the complimentary shampoo and soap in a sealed bag. There it was—the scent on the desk personnel and throughout the hallways, possibly the worst smelling soap I have ever encountered. Next, the pillows, the sheets, the blanket, the comforter-everything in the room– what a stench. Either previous occupants or some putrid spray to freshen the room. Did I say freshen? I was overwhelmed by the fumes, sick, frustrated, depressed and extremely worried. After all, it was Jasper between Christmas and New Years.

I was offered the option of another room. No luck–same suffocating smell; different room. A phone call revealed that, thankfully, the Astoria had a room for two nights. Hopefully there would be a cancellation for the other two needed nights. As I was leaving, I encountered the cleaning personnel carrying the other toxic culprit; an air freshener spray that a great many people use to freshen their upholstery, bedding, curtains, and carpets. I am not proud to say I lost it at this point. After a serious discussion with the manager, I left this “bog of eternal stench”, hopeful that the appropriate changes would eventually be made to ensure that no one would have to tolerate what I had experienced.

Now the Astoria-that was a different story. Blair was extremely accommodating, assuring me that customers from all over the world stay there because of the same circumstances. The room was small but very clean with no toxic smells. The only problem remaining was the need for a room for two additional nights. Just in case there were no cancellations, I remained in contact with the previous hotel. To her credit, the manager assured me she would do everything possible to detox the room (which I had paid for, for four nights) by washing the bedding multiple times, using an ozone machine, and eliminating the standard procedure of supposedly freshening the bedding, furniture, curtains and carpet with that disgusting, toxic spray.

As luck would have it, I was able to stay at the Astoria even enjoying one of the nights in their deluxe room. Guess where I will be staying on my next trip to Jasper? You got it—the Astoria.  Hopefully in the future more hotels will implement some of these fragrance free, healthier options, both for people like myself along with those who end up suffering and don’t even know why.

Apparently the “toxic” hotel will be addressing these concerns in the future. The products in question are purchased in bulk for a group of hotels in Jasper and will have to be used before they can be changed. Personally I would dispose of them all in the nearest toxic waste collection site ASAP.

I think I will spare you the torture of trying to get reimbursed for this fiasco, definitely not the way I, as a businessman, would handle something like this. So I will just lick my wounds and carry on.

I would highly recommend using the internet site greenvacationhub.com to book your own holiday. Insist, double check, triple check that the place knows what fragrance free means and is, in fact, fragrance free. Happy Travels.