As the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge around the world, the hospitality industry has all but shut down. Airlines are cutting flights. Governments are telling citizens to stay home. So, to secure reservations in this unprecedented climate, some hoteliers have gotten creative.
For Le Bijou, a high-end Swiss hospitality company that’s part luxury hotel, part serviced apartment, that has meant launching the Covid-19 Service — a customizable stay with add-ons such as in-room coronavirus testing, doctor visits and 24/7 nurse care.
“In beginning of March, r evenues had dropped significantly,” said Alexander Hübner, co-founder and chief executive of Le Bijou Hotel & Resort Management AG, which operates properties in Basel, Geneva, Zurich and other cities around Switzerland. “We said, okay, we need to react immediately to that."
The living room of the Lucerne apartment. (Courtesy of Le Bijou Hotel & Resort/Courtesy of Le Bijou Hotel & Resort)
Before the outbreak, Le Bijou catered to high-end clientele who could afford its rates, which ranged from around $800 to $2,000 per night. According to Hübner and the Le Bijou website, that guest list has included the royal family of Saudi Arabia, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and “The Wolf of Wall Street” author Jordan Belfort. Yet Le Bijou’s guest reservations and events bookings plummeted just the same after the disease reached Europe.
Hübner, though, was getting new requests: from people who wanted to stay somewhere upscale where they could cook their own food, or hire doctors who perform house calls, or who didn’t want to go to the hospital for their medical needs while the pandemic was making local facilities more risky.
In response, Le Bijou began marketing quarantine-friendly perks, such as automated check-in (so that guests don’t have to interact with strangers) and in-room medical services provided by Double Check, a private health clinic in Switzerland.
The in-room treatments can be purchased a la carte: Coronavirus testing is available for about $500, twice-daily nurse check-in for about $1,800, and the round-the-clock nurse care for about $4,800. The properties are still providing food delivery and personal chef services, but they’ve cut daily cleanings and only sanitize rooms before and after guest checkout. (Staff performing those cleanings are required to wear masks and gloves, per the Swiss government’s guidelines, Hübner said.)
The living room in Zurich Munsterhof 6. (Courtesy of Le Bijou Hotel & Resort/Courtesy of Le Bijou Hotel & Resort)
Since the company promoted its new offerings on Facebook, demand has been increasing steadily.“In the beginning, we just had about two inquiries a day,” Hübner said. “Now it’s ramped up to four, five, six a day, and we just started, I think, one week, 10 days ago.”
He added that Le Bijou has already had guests call for the coronavirus test and sent doctors and nurses to address guest needs.
While the company can arrange medical coverage for guests, it is not encouraging those with covid-19 to relocate to Le Bijou properties.
“We advise them to stay where we are, because that’s advised by the government,” Hübner said. “They need to stay in quarantine. They shouldn’t leave anymore if they’ve tested positive.”
Le Bijou is not the only hospitality company marketing coronavirus-related services and packages, either.
Across Asia, hotels are promoting self-quarantine packages promising reduced rates for 14-day stays, room service delivered with special handling and transportation to local hospitals when necessary. And in Australia, the Novotel Sydney Brighton Beach is advertising a 14-day “Home Away from Home” package for self-quarantining guests that promises rooms with balconies.
Although many accommodations are still bookable, Americans are advised not to be traveling at this time. The White House has said citizens should avoid discretionary travel, and the State Department advises citizens to avoid all international travel until further notice.