London Heathrow’s five-star Sofitel Hotel in Terminal 5 charges £179 ($235) for a room, breakfast and Covid-19 test to make it easier for its guests to travel in the midst of a pandemic.
The saliva tests use gold standard PCR technology, but without the intrusive nasal or throat swab that has come to be associated with coronavirus testing.
Testing is carried out by Imperial College London, where the kits are couriered overnight to ensure travellers have a result in time for the next morning. The self-administered tests are guided by a smartphone app, on which results arrive.
"It was a no-brainer. Travellers need the test to get access, we had been asked by some of our guests whether or not it would be available," Ryan Nicholls, general manager at Sofitel, Heathrow Airport, told The National.
“Straight away, we thought it would work, we gave it a trial and actually it seems to be working fantastically.”
Mr Nicholls was confident that the hotel would be able to continue to offer a luxury service throughout the new lockdown.
“The hotel will stay open, we will still offer the ‘Test & Rest’ package, which means that travellers that still need to travel for work can do. We have made a few changes due to government guidelines, for example the restaurant and bar are closed, however room service is available so we are still able to service our guests and make sure they get a great meal.”
Surinder Arora, founder and chief executive of Arora Group, which owns Sofitel, said the air travel, hospitality and wider tourism industries had been devastated by the pandemic. The entrepreneur was working with airline partners to restore confidence in travel when they were approached by Imperial College London with the idea to offer travellers low-stress DIY tests.