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Update: The Sofitel Heathrow T5’s COVID Test Qualifies For England’s “Test To Release” Program (click for details)
Arora Group is a corporation that owns a number of airport properties in the UK which are all operated under the banners and branding of well-known hotel chains like Marriott, IHG, and Accor. In the coming days and weeks, the London Heathrow hotels owned by Arora will begin offering room rates which, amongst other things, will include a test for Covid-19.
Aurora Group has partnered with a UK-based biotech firm, HALO, to enable it to offer guests Covid-19 tests that will return a result within 24 hours. Per Arora:
“Guests at the hotel simply download the Halo app, scan their test kit, spit in a tube and put it back in the Halo pack. The sample is then whisked off to HALO’s state of the art facility where it is tested using some of the most accurate PCR protocols in the world. As soon as the results are through, they pop up on the guest’s app along with a certificate and, providing the test is negative, they’re ready to travel on as soon as they wake.”
HALO says that its testing system is “designed to get the world moving again” and at “a single all-inclusive price” that’s “around a third of the cost of most swab-based tests”. The system HALO uses brings together a secure encrypted verification app, a self-administered saliva test kit and, as already mentioned, “among the most sensitive and specific COVID-19 PCR testing protocols available anywhere in the world”.
The first Arora Group hotel that will offer the new ‘Test and Rest’ program will be the Sofitel London Heathrow where the cost of an overnight stay with Covid-19 test included will start at £179 (~$233). Arora Group’s other Heathrow hotels are expected to follow suit (albeit at different pricing levels).
Arora Group’s other Heathrow hotels include:
- The Renaissance London Heathrow
- Holiday Inn Heathrow Terminal 5
- Crowne Plaza London Heathrow Terminal 4
- Holiday Inn Express London Heathrow Terminal 4
- Hilton Garden Inn London Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3
The group also owns the Intercontinental London O2 but there’s is no suggestion that this property will offer Covid-19 testing.
In no particular order these are the thoughts that I had while reading the press release:
- £179 for a night at the Sofitel + a Covid-19 test seems cheap. I have done quite a bit of research into the cost of private Covid-19 tests in the UK and it’s next to impossible to find one (that also offers a travel certificate) for under £200.
- Will HALO’s Covid-19 test results satisfy the various countries that currently require incoming passengers to provide proof of a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of departure? I’m sure HALO will probably say that their tests are universally accepted but how can we be sure? Where do we check?
- These tests are self-administered so what’s to stop unscrupulous people who suspect they may be carriers but who still insist on traveling from getting someone else to take the test for them? Are there precautions put in place for this (that the press release doesn’t mention)? Will the fact that the tests are self-administered make them less likely to be accepted by countries around the world?
What will the cut-off time be for the tests that offer results the following day?Update: With the ALL app now showing the room + Covid test rates we can see that a test has to be submitted by 8 pm if the result is to be available by the next day.
Overall, this is a very positive move and one that I’m very happy to read about but there are still a few key questions that need addressing. I’ll be booking a room at the Sofitel London Heathrow in a heartbeat if I can lock in a stay with a Covid test for under £200, but I’ll first want to be sure that the test results that I’ll be given will be accepted by the destination I’m planning to visit.
Another thing to bear in mind is that it will take a brave person to take a test the day before they’re due to depart on a trip. If a result comes back positive and a person cannot travel, some airlines may be less than accommodating if a passenger tries to cancel a trip within 24 hours of departure. Also, what happens if the test results are delayed and not received before a guest’s scheduled departure time? For late-in-the-day departures this probably won’t be an issue, but will anyone with a morning or early afternoon departure feel confident enough to take the test the day before? Unlikely.
The fact is that Arora has probably been quite clever here. The headline rate of £179 per night including Covid test looks fantastic, but a lot of people will have to book for 2 nights just to be sure of getting their results before departure and to be sure they’re allowed to travel in the first place. That’s a nice bonus for the hotel.
A number of Heathrow hotels will soon be offering room rates that include a Covid test whose results will be available within 24 hours. Overall this is very good news, but until we get a little bit more information around how widely the results of these tests will be accepted and how reliable the “next day” time frame is, I’m going to keep my excitement under control.