When governments in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand and elsewhere instituted mandatory hotel quarantines for travellers arriving in their countries as a way of monitoring the spread of COVID-19, they received both praise and criticism. Some citizens questioned why their rights of mobility were being curtailed in their own countries. Would-be travellers factored additional costs into their budgets or deferred travel. And others sought to evade the measures. Exploring the history of quarantine hotels reveals ambivalences and inequities that continue to fuel debates over their effectiveness in the era of COVID-19. There is a logic behind choosing hotels for mandatory quarantine and for other COVID-19-era public-health measures such as re-housing people experiencing homelessness. The latter was done at the former Roehampton Hotel in Toronto, where it was met with controversy from affluent community members. Hotels supply space. Their capacity and interior organization means that individuals and households can be separated and monitored. Meals can be supplied with minimal contact and movements can be tracked.