Resorts try to ease minds with stringent Covid testing

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The Soneva Jani, one of two Soneva resorts in the Maldives.

With concern over health and safety at an all-time high, some luxury resorts are implementing robust testing requirements for guests and employees.

SHA Wellness Clinic in Alicante, Spain, was among the first luxury wellness resorts to unveil stringent testing measures. The property, where a four-day stay starts at about $1,900, is scheduled to resume operations on July 22. 

In early May, SHA unveiled its reopening plans, which include a mandatory Covid-19 test for all guests 24 to 48 hours before arrival to the resort. While the scheduling and cost of this initial test will be the responsibility of the guest, SHA will offer a list of recommended clinical laboratories.  

Once a guest arrives at SHA, he or she will be isolated and undergo a medical examination as well as receive a Covid-19 antibody test. Thermographic cameras will be installed for temperature detection in all guest and staff areas.

Additionally, all SHA staff will be required to get tested for Covid-19 before resuming work at the property.  

“As people begin to think about traveling again, we think that this initiative will help people feel a bit more comfortable, and maybe offer some peace of mind,” said Alejandro Bataller, SHA Wellness Clinic vice president. “We understand that traveling in the future will come with concerns, but we are confident that our existing clientele will be ready to return, especially with these measures in place.”

Should a guest at SHA exhibit Covid-19 symptoms and test positive for the virus after arrival, the property will isolate the traveler in a dedicated wing, with any guests who develop serious conditions expected to be transferred to the hospital. Guests who test positive will be permitted to reschedule their stay. 

Taking a similar approach is luxury resort brand Soneva, which owns and operates the Soneva Fushi and the Soneva Jani resorts in the Maldives and the Soneva Kiri in Koh Kood, Thailand. All three properties, which feature relatively remote island locales, have remained up and running throughout the pandemic, though the Soneva Kiri recently closed for renovations and will reopen on Oct. 1. 

Rates at the Soneva Fushi, Soneva Jani and Soneva Kiri start at about $1,310, $2,040 and $873 per night during shoulder and low seasons, respectively.

“I think the fact that we have island resorts is a big advantage for us in this post-Covid-19 era,” said Sonu Shivdasani, Soneva founder and CEO. “How long we’ll be concerned about this, I don’t know, but for the immediate future, I think being able to arrive into an island where there are very few arrivals and departures is going to be very attractive.”

Though the Maldives has yet to reopen to tourists, the country’s Ministry of Tourism is reportedly planning on requiring all visitors provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken at least two weeks prior to arrival. Soneva plans to carry out a second test upon arrival at its resort, with guests asked to isolate in their accommodations until results become available in six to eight hours.

If guests test positive before arriving in the Maldives, Soneva will allow them to reschedule their stay. If guests test positive at the property, they will be isolated in their villa and the resort will follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which recommend a person should isolate for 14 days after a positive test or 10 days after the onset of symptoms.

All Soneva employees will also need to undergo several rounds of testing.

“I hope that we can reassure people by being thorough, and they’ll feel comfortable about being around the island and enjoy themselves,” Shivdasani said. “We realized it’ll be impossible to keep guests entirely apart from each other, especially at Soneva Fushi, where more than 50% of our guests are repeat guests. They love meeting with friends they see every year here, so [social distancing] is a challenge.”

Meanwhile, both Soneva and SHA Wellness Clinic are putting a heavy focus on building guest immunity during their stay. 

“This whole thing has really put the spotlight on the need to be healthy,” added Shivdasani. “A lot of our guests are very sophisticated and understand the importance of alternative wellness, and I think they’ll be looking to improve their immune systems and will be quite keen on nutrition, in particular.”

Soneva’s more recent nutrition-conscious efforts include a push toward using ingredients said to have antiviral properties, such as garlic, turmeric and ginger, as well as reduced consumption of red meat, white flour, processed sugar and dairy and a continued emphasis on plant-based foods.

At SHA, complimentary immunotherapy and lymphocyte (white blood cell) profile consultations will be added to all bookings. Guests will also be encouraged to book wellness services that are believed to help bolster the immune system, including stem cell therapy, infrared heating treatments and stress management. 

“It is important to us that our guests not only feel safe when it’s time to return but that they get healthier during their stay,” Bataller said.

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