PARK CITY, Utah — With the number of COVID cases smashing records in Utah and spiking to unprecedented levels all around the country, the Sundance Film Festival made the decision to cancel all in-person screenings.
It's a huge disappointment for filmgoers and volunteers who wanted to work at the festival, and for some people, a loss of hotel room deposits that won't be refunded.
Niska Encalade, a film student from Atlanta, applied to be a Sundance volunteer last year to get up close and personal with how the festival works.
“Everybody in my family put in money to help get me there, you know, so I was really looking forward to the event, to network and to show off my skills as a film student, someone that wants to be in the industry,” said Encalade.
She reserved rooms at the St. Regis Hotel in Park City, which required a $1,900 deposit. But when she called the hotel about getting a refund, she was shocked by their response.
“I reached out to them on Twitter, via email and the hotel directly and I just felt that the response was extremely distasteful and cold. Even more than that, I hold status with Marriott, I’m a platinum member, I stay almost exclusively at Marriott hotels, so I was really disappointed to see how they responded to the situation.”
Encalade finally received an email that said, :We are certainly disappointed that Sundance Film Festival has made this decision. The St. Regis Deer Valley is not refunding deposits for reservations booked over these dates. We are encouraging guests to still travel to the resort over their scheduled dates.
"The great winter season snow has the ski resorts open and some of the best conditions in many years. The Park City area activities and restaurants throughout the community are still operating and excited to welcome guests."
But she was astounded that the St. Regis would encourage travel to Utah when COVID cases are surging, and with health officials warning people about the increased risk of contracting the virus.
“And you guys, the state of Utah, Salt Lake City specifically, announced the increase of hospitals and people taking beds, so why would I want to come there to ski? It wasn’t a leisure trip,” Encalade said.
Hotel officials eventually emailed her to offer a voucher that must be used by mid-April, but she's not traveling anywhere soon because of COVID.
Encalade added that Delta Airlines refunded the full cost of her ticket to Utah.