With the news that all UK arrivals must now present a negative Covid-19 test, companies such as Nemo Travel are promising to cover the costs. Olivia Palamountain reports
Now that all UK inbound travellers must provide a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departure, enterprising Nemo Travel is offering to arrange foreign access to PCR tests – and cover the costs.
The tough new restrictions came into force from on January 18, 2021, designed to prevent the spread of new coronavirus variants circulating internationally. A £500 fine will be issued to travellers who flout the rules.
The law states that results must be obtained less than 72 hours before departure, however finding a test provider and tinkering your schedule to accommodate this timeframe might not be an easy task if you’re holidaying or working in a remote location.
There are considerable financial implications to the new test requirement too (in the UK, private PCR tests vary in price between £80 to as much as £300 for same-day results).
Depending on how long the law stands, this move could see holidaymakers fork out for both pre-departure and arrivals tests, pricing some families and individuals out of travel.
In an attempt to mitigate concerns regarding the new law and encourage traveller confidence, Nemo Travel is offering to locate a test provider for its clients and incur the associated costs.
Globetrender spoke to Nemo Travel co-founder Tom Harding to find out more. He says: “We are working with our brilliant collection of luxury hotels to ensure our travellers have access to a PCR test and are offering to cover the costs of this test for the traveller.
“This offer knows no limits in terms of destinations – we’re able to get negative tests to travellers in remote lodges in Namibia or on private islands in the Maldives,” he says.
This ‘access all areas’ approach is proving popular, with latest data from Nemo showing a 400 per cent increase in enquiries.
How will the service work? “In most cases, we can incorporate the cost into the travellers’ total quote pre-travel, so it’s another thing not to worry about,” says Harding.
“Some destinations require payment on-site by the person being tested, in which case we reimburse. We work very closely with every hotel our travellers stay in, now more so than ever, so we personally make sure they are given the VIP treatment. This is just another string to the bow,” he says.
According to Harding, both he and co-founder James Wales run Nemo “in a very hands-on way”, which means they can make quick decisions to encourage people to start travelling with confidence again.
“We’ve pivoted at every stage of the pandemic so far, so this is just another example of what young businesses (especially in travel) need to do to adapt, survive and thrive at the moment,” says Harding. “I believe both our regular travellers and people who have just heard of Nemo appreciate our approach and enthusiasm to help them travel with confidence.”
While there’s nothing like Nemo’s offering elsewhere in the industry as yet, luxury travel companies Abercrombie & Kent and Cox & Kings have announced they’re further incentivising booking by contributing £50 per person for Covid-19 tests for all guests with holidays booked in 2021 where needed.
Visitors to St Lucia can now obtain a pre-return flight Covid-19 test at select hotels and testing facilities, with results returned within the 72-hour time frame. Visitors can make an appointment for their test once they arrive on island or through their Covid-certified hotel. Pricing varies based on location and the type of test administered.
There are 20 hotels and villas offering free Covid-19 antigen (rapid) testing to guests, with additional properties in anticipated to roll out complimentary testing in the coming weeks.
Thomas Cook and Tui are offering at-home PCR tests at a discounted price of £84 (down from £120) thanks to a new partnership with Randox, Wizz Air has partnered with Confirm Testing to offer passengers a discount on rapid Covid-19 tests and certificates Finnair has partnered with Finnish private healthcare service company Terveystalo to offer its passengers fast and easy access to pre-travel Covid-19 tests.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Alan French, CEO of Thomas Cook, has suggested that the company will prioritise helping customers secure tests abroad.
“We’re already starting to look for partners across our main holiday areas to build connections so we can help our customers get the best deal and service for their test. We would urge the government to provide more clarity on when they intend to introduce this and under what circumstances they will lift it.”
French also suggested that the increased testing measures would not put off those looking to go away this year.
“What our customers want to know is that when they’ve booked a holiday they can take it. If they need to get a test before and during to ensure that, then they will,” he says.
Travellers arriving in the UK must still self-isolate for ten days, regardless of a negative pre-departure test. These travellers still have the option to reduce the period of self-isolation from ten to five days by paying for a test through the Test to Release scheme.
However, if they are flying in from South America, southern Africa or Portugal where there are new “high-risk” Covid variants, they will be required to quarantine in an airport hotel.
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