Forget free breakfast: The hottest hotel amenity is a nasal swab
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In late 2020, COVID-19 tests started to become an amenity offered at hotels and resorts.
Now in 2021, travelers entering the U.S. — citizens included — are required to present negative COVID-19 PCR or rapid antigen test results taken within 72 hours of entry to the U.S. This rule added a new step to any pandemic traveler’s checklist: finding a test before returning home.
Responding to this new hurdle — and hoping to not dissuade potential guests from visiting — hotels and resorts across the spectrum have added on-site testing as a perk of staying there.
This hotel-testing trend started slowly, primarily in far-flung destinations such as smaller resorts in the Maldives. But more recently, hotels in destinations Americans can travel to relatively easily — primarily the Caribbean and Mexico — have stepped up their game and implemented plans to provide on-site COVID-19 tests for guests so they don’t have to derail their travel plans in fear of not complying with the new U.S. testing rule.
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The full list of properties offering these services changes practically by the day, so it’s always a good idea to contact the property you’re considering directly to make sure you’ll be able to get tested before you return home.
Follow this thread in the TPG Lounge for a running list of resorts and hotels that will offer on-site COVID-19 testing to guests.
Major chains offering on-site testing
While there are plenty of non-chain and boutique properties that have been offering on-site testing for several weeks, two major hotel chains recently announced formalized plans for offering a limited number of complimentary tests per guest room.
Hyatt was the first out of the gate. Its on-site testing program covers two complimentary PCR or rapid antigen tests per guestroom per stay across all of its 19 resorts across Latin America, which includes the Caribbean, Mexico, Costa Rica and South America. You can arrange additional tests for a fee.
Marriott followed Hyatt’s lead with a plan of its own to provide complimentary COVID-19 tests for up to two people per room for guests staying three nights or longer at the following properties: JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa; Marriott Cancun Resort; The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun; Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa; W Punta de Mita; The Westin Resort and Spa, Puerto Vallarta; The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort; Solaz, a Luxury Collection Resort, Los Cabos; Zadun, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve; Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino and The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba.
What on-site COVID-19 testing looks like
Predictably, each property is handling their testing program a little differently, but all pledge to return results to you in the timeframe needed to return to the U.S. — within three days of departure.
TPG was able to experience the on-site testing process first hand at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, part of the Baha Mar resort complex in the Bahamas. The resort was one of the first major properties to announce and implement an on-site testing program.
In addition to the required pre-arrival negative PCR test to enter the Bahamas, Baha Mar has an arrangement with a local medical facility to administer on-site rapid antigen and PCR tests for guests upon arrival at the resort and before departure.
TPG’s Nick Ellis visited the resort at the end of January and found, despite a snafu with quoted versus real-life turnaround times, the on-site testing process to be painless and there were no problems returning to the U.S. after receiving his negative result.
Nick’s visit was prior to the rollout of Hyatt’s official program, so he was charged for his predeparture testing. Now, guests at the Grand Hyatt will receive unlimited complimentary rapid antigen tests as needed.
Other resorts have less-robust systems in place but are now offering pre-departure COVID-19 tests to their guests. Some, like the entire network of Sandals resorts across the Caribbean, provide them free to guests, while others like The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort in the Bahamas, charge guests for the pre-departure tests.
Some other examples of major properties offering on-site COVID-19 testing, whether complimentary or for a charge, include Atlantis in the Bahamas; the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, Hilton Los Cabos Beach and Golf Resort; Eden Roc Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic and more.
You can also expect on-site COVID-19 tests at multiple properties across St. Lucia, Barbados, Antigua, the Maldives (including top properties like The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli and the Conrad Maldives), with more destinations and properties announcing plans of their own frequently.
What happens if you test positive
While plenty of resorts have announced plans for providing testing on property, not as many have plans in place for when people eventually test positive.
Baha Mar is one such property with a plan. Baha Mar will provide “courtesy suite accommodations” for up to 14 days, including a $150 per person, per day dining credit, or “should the guest need to return to the United States earlier,” a free flight on a private jet back to the U.S. facilitated “via a medical evacuation provider,” according to a Baha Mar spokesperson, for the COVID-19-positive guest and their immediate family members. These services are funded by Baha Mar itself and come at no additional cost to guests.
And in order to enter the Bahamas, you have to purchase mandatory health insurance, which will cover up to $50,000 in COVID-19-related medical expenses incurred on the islands, as well as up to $7,000 in quarantine-related expenses, if necessary (up to $500 per day).
Besides Baha Mar, both Hyatt and Marriott are offering discounts for extended stays at participating properties if a guest has to quarantine there. Hyatt’s Travel Delay Rate includes a discount of up to 50% on room rates and up to 30% on food and beverage, while Marriott’s offering up to 50% off its flexible extended-stay rates.
Getaways to places like the Caribbean and Mexico have been popular, even during the pandemic, thanks to close proximity to the U.S. and reliably favorable weather.
With the addition of a new test-for-entry requirement in the United States, those types of trips instantly became more complicated.
Hotels have responded by rapidly rolling out plans to offer on-site tests to their guests, so this policy doesn’t deter people from visiting. Even though we’re now seeing concrete signs of a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, expect these programs to stick around for quite a while longer — and it’s reasonable to think that we’ll see further expansion of this type of amenity to other regions of the world as countries across the globe look cautiously to reopen their borders to travelers.
Featured image courtesy of Baha Mar
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