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Note: Some information in this article may be out of date. Beginning Dec. 6, 2021, all passengers returning to the U.S. must show proof of a negative test taken within one day of travel.
As the travel industry grapples with new requirements that passengers must present a negative coronavirus test before boarding U.S.-bound flights, one big hotel chain has a plan to encourage Americans to keep traveling abroad.
Hyatt announced in January that it would offer free, on-site COVID-19 testing options for guests traveling to the U.S. from all 19 of its resorts across Latin America through May 31, 2021. The news came in the wake of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's January 2021 announcement that U.S.-bound, international air passengers must take a viral test within three days before their flight to the U.S. departs and provide documented proof (written or electronic) of a negative test result before boarding. Even past May 31, most of those Hyatt resorts still offer complimentary testing, though a Hyatt spokesperson encouraged guests to call their hotel to confirm or visit the website for specifics.
Given the risk of testing positive (and not being able to return home, and scrambling to figure out how to stay in a foreign country for longer than planned), American travelers still aren't opting for international trips. That’s bad news for international travel companies that rely on tourism dollars from American customers.
But Hyatt’s new offer could be tantalizing for travelers who are desperate to escape the U.S., but who also want to return home from vacation with minimal stress of acquiring a COVID test while abroad. And if you do test positive, Hyatt will help you out financially, too.
Complimentary COVID tests at Hyatt resorts
You’ll receive a test for up to two registered guests per room per stay at participating Hyatt resorts in Mexico, Costa Rica, the Caribbean and South America. The type of test (either a rapid antigen or RT-PCR, both of which are approved tests per CDC guidelines) vary per property.
Keep in mind that while the properties participating encompasses all 19 of Hyatt’s resorts across Latin America, including the Caribbean, Mexico, Costa Rica and South America, it’s not necessarily every hotel. A stay at a Hyatt Place in Honduras or a Hyatt Centric in El Salvador won’t qualify you for the complimentary COVID test. Double check your plans versus the participating properties list.
The benefit was officially available between now and May 31, 2021, and is good for up to two registered guests per room. Though, even past May 31, most of those hotels are still offering complimentary testing (though call your specific hotel to confirm).
Pro-tip: if you’re traveling with more people than two, you might want to book separate rooms so more people can take advantage of the complimentary tests.
A discount if you do test positive
If you end up stuck on vacation longer than you intended, your vacation could get a lot more expensive than you anticipated. On the bright side, you may also qualify for a discount.
Most of Hyatt’s hotels and resorts in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America now offer a "Travel Delay Rate" if you test positive. There are some exclusions, such as the Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara properties, both of which are all-inclusive resorts.
The Travel Delay Rate is a discount of up to 50% on standard rates, plus up to a 30% discount on food and beverage, though the food and beverage discount excludes alcohol.
Those discounted room and food charges also make you eligible for World of Hyatt points and Tier-Qualifying Nights. So at least if your 2021 entails additional, unanticipated "vacation," you’ll get the benefit of progressing toward World of Hyatt elite status for the next year.
Hyatt started it, but will others follow?
This news makes Hyatt the first major hotel company to offer widespread complimentary, on-site COVID-19 testing an option for its guests.
However, some smaller hotel brands (or individual hotels under a larger brand) had already begun offering either COVID-19 tests or other support should you test positive, as competition for American tourism dollars is fierce. Viva Wyndham All-Inclusive Resorts, which has properties in the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Bahamas, rolled out generous travel insurance, including complete coverage for hotel expenses should you need to lengthen your stay due to a positive test.
Others, such as the Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort in Mexico, offer tests as an on-site service, but for an additional fee.
Hyatt has long been a leader in customer-first policies around coronavirus. The company came in No. 2, just behind Hilton, in NerdWallet’s ranking of which hotels handled COVID-19 the best. Many hotels have rolled out improved cancellation policies in light of the pandemic, and Hyatt is no exception: Hyatt allowed most reservations booked on July 1, 2020, or beyond for arrival dates through July 31, 2021, to be canceled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival. Hyatt also led in terms of health and social distancing practices (for example, it was one of the first to establish a clear face-mask policy). These days, the policy may be less generous (as it now varies by property).
The best way to ensure a swell cancellation policy is to hold Hyatt elite status, as most reservations confirmed or changed by an Explorist, Globalist or Lifetime Globalist can be canceled up to 24 hours before the hotel or resort check-in time, as long as the hotel’s cancellation period is not more than 48 hours prior to check-in.
The bottom line
If returning home from vacation is as much of a priority as going on vacation, then traveling internationally from the U.S. can be precarious for the foreseeable future. If you must travel right now, then domestic might be the way to go. But if you choose to head abroad, booking at a hotel that minimizes the headache of getting a COVID test (and can support you if you do test positive) is likely the smart thing to do.
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