Forget free breakfast: The hottest hotel amenity is a nasal swab
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In late 2020, COVID-19 tests started to become a hotel resort amenity that ranged from available upon request to required for all guests at a few resort hotels. Now in early 2021, U.S. travelers are likely to become much more interested in getting swabbed while between drinks on vacation. That’s because, effective Jan. 26, a negative COVID-19 test must be taken within 72 hours of entry to the U.S. — even for citizens.
This hotel testing trend started slowly, primarily in far-flung destinations such as smaller resorts in the Maldives. But in recent days, hotels in destinations Americans can travel to relatively easily — primarily the Caribbean and Mexico and places further afield like French Polynesia and the Maldives — have stepped up their game and announced plans to provide on-site COVID-19 tests for guests so they can remain compliant with the new rules from the U.S. government.
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We expect the list of properties to only expand in the coming weeks since it will be really hard to commit to going on an international trip if you aren’t sure how you’ll get tested in order to re-enter the country.
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.
And, since this list will be growing by the day, 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.
What on-site COVID-19 testing looks like
In the last few days alone we’ve seen dozens of resorts roll out plans to provide on-site testing. Predictably, each property is handling things a little differently, but all pledge to return results to you within the timeframe needed to return to the U.S. — within three days of departure.
Related: State-by-state COVID-19 travel guide
The Baha Mar hotel complex in the Bahamas is an example of a property with a robust system of testing in place. In order to stay at any one of the complex’s hotels (it’s home to the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, Rosewood Baha Mar, SLS Baha Mar and the Baha Mar Casino and Sportsbook, as well as a Melia property), you need to come with a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken no more than five days before arrival in the Bahamas. Then, you’ll be required to take a rapid antigen test upon arrival, and you’ll be required to quarantine in your room until those results come back, which should be about 30 minutes.
If your rapid test comes back negative, you’ll receive your wristband and be able to freely move about the property. For guests who stay five days or longer, you’ll need to repeat the testing process on the fifth day.
Baha Mar offers optional PCR and rapid COVID-19 tests ($125 and $25, respectively) for guests before they depart, which is now a critical part of the travel puzzle for those looking to return to the U.S.
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 (until March 31, 2021), 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; Andaz resorts in Mexico and Costa Rica; the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, Hilton Los Cabos Beach and Golf Resort and Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos in Los Cabos, Mexico; Eden Roc Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic; Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino 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 every day.
French Polynesia’s tourism board has provided a list of medical providers in various locations in the islands that will be able to administer and process a COVID-19 test, though we believe that individual properties there will soon announce plans for on-resort testing.
What happens if you test positive
While plenty of resorts have announced plans for providing testing on property, very few have a plan in place for when people eventually test positive.
Baha Mar is one such property with a plan. Guests who receive a positive rapid test will be visited in their room by medical personnel from the Medical Director’s office for a follow-up PCR test. While waiting for this result, which could take about six hours, guests will need to wait it out in their room.
If you receive a second positive result with this highly-accurate follow-up test, you’ll have two choices. And neither is ideal.
With a confirmed positive test, you’ll either need to quarantine or, interestingly, you’ll be given the opportunity to fly home on a “private aircraft or an air ambulance,” though it sounds like re-entering the U.S. will soon be off the table if you have a positive test, even if you were to fly private. There will be a so-called Special Guest Ops team that will provide support to those guests who do test positive.
The rapid test you take on arrival to Baha Mar is provided at no cost to the traveler by the hotel and the mandatory health insurance will cover up to $50,000 in COVID-19-related medical expenses incurred on the island, as well as up to $7,000 in quarantine-related expenses, if necessary (up to $500 per day). This plan, which frankly seems like a bargain for the $40 to $60 fee, also covers medical evacuation due to COVID-19 up to $100,000 — but that’s subject to medical necessity.
It’s increasingly imperative that international travelers have a dedicated budget or insurance coverage that will pick up the tab should an unexpected quarantine become a necessity after a positive test abroad.
While there has been a contingent of U.S. travelers seeking sun and fun across the Caribbean, Mexico and beyond, those getaways are about to become a lot trickier with the introduction of new testing rules for returning back to the U.S.
Now, many resorts in destinations close to the United States have rapidly rolled out plans to offer on-site tests to their guests so this new policy doesn’t deter people from visiting.
Many places will still need to work out the process for handling someone who tests positive for COVID-19 and can’t return to the U.S. for a period of time. Some resorts, like Baha Mar, have this in place, but it remains to be seen how this eventuality will be managed at resorts more used to managing massage appointments and margarita orders than pandemics, stranded international travelers and mandatory quarantines.
Featured image courtesy of Baha Mar.
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