The Spanish-owned Room Mate chain of boutique hotels has become the first hotel chain to offer its guests free Covid-19 tests.
Guests will be tested on arrival or can choose to take a free antigen test before travelling at any of around 100 clinics across Spain run by Quirón, Room Mate’s partner in the scheme. The hotel will then use an app to track guests’ symptoms during their stay. Long-stay guests and hotel staff will be tested every three to five days.
The antigen test produces results within 15 minutes, compared with 48 hours for the more costly PCR “gold-standard” test used by the UK government, where samples have to be sent off to a lab.
The scheme will be piloted in four Room Mate hotels in Spain – in Madrid, Barcelona, Málaga and Granada – and will then be extended to the company’s 28-strong chain of hotels around the world.
“Right now, our priority is the health of our guests,” said chief executive Kike Sarasola. “My employees will have the comfort of knowing they are working a safe environment, as will our clients.”
In May, at the height of the Covid crisis, Room Mate ceded 13 of its hotels to the ministry of health to take pressure off hospitals.
Covid has had a catastrophic impact on Spain’s tourism and hotel sector. According to the country’s National Statistics Institute, foreign visitors are down by 83%.
Overall, overnight stays were down 73% in July and 64% in August. Only a third of Madrid hotels are open and in August they were running at only 17% occupancy. In Barcelona, barely a quarter of hotels have reopened, and coastal resorts, such as Benidorm, have become ghost towns.
Last month, the Barcelona hoteliers’ association announced that occupancy rates in the city had barely reached 10% over the summer. In some areas, notably the Costa Brava in the north-east and the Costa del Sol in Andalucía, domestic tourism has offset some of the slump in international visitors.
According to travel technology company TravelgateX, Spaniards accounted for 87% of reservations in Andalucía this summer, compared with only 6.3% from Britain.
Britons visiting Spain have to quarantine for two weeks on their return, and all passengers arriving at Spanish airports must complete a health questionnaire and have their temperature taken on arrival. Anyone with a fever is assessed by a nurse before either proceeding to their destination or taking a Covid test. At present there are no quarantine requirements. However, these measures may vary as localised regulations and lockdowns are introduced around Spain in anticipation of a second wave.
As free Covid testing is only available to people with symptoms or who have been in contact with an infected person, and as most of Room Mate’s guests are currently Spanish, the hotel scheme may provide an attractive alternative.
A double room next week in one of its Barcelona hotels costs €75.75, which would mean two people getting a Covid test for under €40, considerably less than the cost of being tested in a private clinic.