Miami hotels offering COVID-19 testing to guests and staff


Robert Blaisdell, owner of Blue Med Consultants performs a PCR test on Asha Wedermier, a front desk agent at SLS Brickell on Monday, February 8, 2021. SLS Brickell and several other Miami hotels are starting to offer on-site COVID-19 testing for guests and staff.

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With South Florida’s critical tourism economy still struggling, an increasing number of Miami hotels are trying to eliminate one pandemic travel hassle — getting a COVID test.

Hospitality brand sbe is now offering on-site tests at its four Miami properties, following the W South Beach in January. The PCR test option is available with a 24-hour turn around at all hotels, the companies said, and sbe is also offering rapid antigen and antibody tests.

The shift to on-site hotel testing comes as at least 22 states and municipalities across the country have testing or quarantine requirements for travelers, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is requiring travelers entering the U.S. from overseas to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The CDC warns all U.S. residents against travel, even domestic, as it increases the chance of contracting COVID-19.

For Miami hotel guests and staff, sbe is aiming to eliminate the logistical hassle of finding local testing locations and requirements, said Chadi Farhat, sbe’s chief operating officer. Guests and residents of the sbe Miami properties are told about the complimentary testing at the front desk when they arrive.

“It makes the travel experience easier, so they don’t have to worry about where they are going to get the test, how they are going to get the test before they return home,” said Farhat.

James Kennett III takes information from Front Office Agent Asha Wedemier before administering tests at SLS Brickell on February 8, 2021. SLS Brickell and several other Miami hotels are starting to offer on-site COVID-19 testing for guests and staff. Jose A. Iglesias [email protected]

Since the SLS South Beach began offering the tests in its lobby two weeks ago, healthcare workers with BlueMed Consultants have administered around 15-20 tests for hotel workers and around 10-15 for guests so far. Testing at the SLS South Beach, Hyde Midtown, SLS Brickell, SLS LUX Brickell is free for everyone with insurance, said Farhat. The service is only available for hotel guests, residents and staff.

“Safety of our staff is very, very important. It is not mandatory, it is optional,” said Farhat.

The W South Beach hotel, part of Marriott International, partnered with Sollis Health to begin offering guests and staff on-site tests on Jan. 1, for a fee. The starting price for guests who are not members of Sollis, the heathcare network, is $175, and tests for staff are $125, the company said in an announcement. Guests at neighboring hotels can also use the testing site at W South Beach, the company said, and so far around 25 W staff members and 100 people from the South Beach hospitality community have been tested at the site.

Other Miami hotels are in the process of securing on-site testing. Glenn Sampert, general manager at the InterContinental in downtown Miami, said the hotel will begin offering bi-weekly on-site testing to staff on Feb. 17, and is considering incorporating the service for guests.

“I haven’t seen if there is a demand for that,” he said about guest testing. “We think it’s a good benefit to offer to our colleagues and part of our plan on continuing to be safe here at the hotel and create a comfortable experience for our guests.”

Farhat isn’t including the on-site testing in marketing materials as a selling point for the sbe hotels, but he said that he thinks the announcement has triggered additional bookings. The Miami sbe properties are currently operating at about 70% occupancy, he said, well above the Miami-Dade county average in 2020 of 46.4%, according to hospitality data firm STR.

As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out around the world, more and more countries are considering requiring a vaccine certificate for entry. British cruise line Saga Cruises and U.S.-based American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines have announced they will require proof of vaccination for all guests and crew.

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Taylor Dolven is a business journalist who has covered the tourism industry at the Miami Herald since 2018. Her reporting has uncovered environmental violations of cruise companies, the impact of vacation rentals on affordable housing supply, safety concerns among pilots at MIA’s largest cargo airline and the hotel industry’s efforts to delay a law meant to protect workers from sexual harassment.