Rocco Forte Hotels has responded to the continuing confusion surrounding testing for travellers from the UK by launching its own innovative ‘Fit to Travel’ partnership service.
The group, which operates luxury properties in locations including Sicily, Rome, Florence and Puglia, has partnered with Blue Horizon, which will arrange for self-test kits to be couriered to and from people’s homes, entirely bookable online – affording maximum convenience for families in the run-up to half-term. A guaranteed certificate is then produced within 72 hours of travel. The test costs £169, or £129 for Rocco Forte guests who will be given a £40 discount code upon confirmation of reservation.
Chairman Sir Rocco Forte said: “These are trying times but I am keen to do anything that will enhance travel and allow our customers to holiday and enjoy themselves. Testing in the UK before traveling to Italy reduces much of the hassle and helps make the trip as seamless as possible. Upon arrival guests will find our usual hospitality and service.”
Hotels in Italy are facing mass cancellations after the UK was added to Italy’s Covid at-risk list last week, requiring those travelling from the UK to either provide evidence of a negative test in the last 72 hours, or agree to be tested on arrival (risking quarantine if positive).
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This will cost anyone with an upcoming holiday to Italy around £150 per person, including children, for a private test (availability for which has been a challenge in itself of late), as the NHS system should only be used by people with Covid-19 symptoms. For those choosing to be tested on arrival there is the issue of some airports only offering testing between 9am-5pm to navigate.
Unsurprisingly, as we reported last week, many travellers have decided this is simply a Cov-admin step too far, and cancelled. “I’ll have to cancel the whole trip now. I can’t take [the] risk of a [positive] test and quarantining on arrival, and no time to get test here now before. GUTTED,” wrote one Twitter user in response to the announcement by Italy’s Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza.
“We were due to fly to Bologna tomorrow but [the] airport told us [we] need to stay in hotel room til result of covid test […] which can take up to 72 hours; only there seven nights we’ve cancelled trip today,” tweeted Julia Carr.
For hotels, the potential loss of half-term bookings in destinations such as Sicily, usually a popular choice for end-of-season sun, is worrying to say the least. Not to mention city properties, with autumn mini-breaks also under threat. Alastair Thomann, Chief Executive of Generator and Freehand Hotels, which have properties in Rome and Venice, said that while testing is broadly a welcome approach, the lack of clarity in Italy’s case has had severe consequences.
“Testing of travellers, whether on departure or on arrival, is one of the most important steps forward we can take for boosting confidence in travelling once again. We have seen that travellers are confused about the new testing measures in place for visitors arriving into Italy […] and the lack of clarity on what these measures mean has led to significant cancellations at our two hotels in Venice and Rome. […] The need for clear communication and guidance is of paramount importance.”