Inside a Le Bijou apartment in Switzerland.
Le Bijou, a luxury Swiss hotel brand, has set up “quarantine apartments” which include in-room health services, such as coronavirus testing.
A stay in one of these apartments ranges from $800 to $2,000 per night. Facilities include food delivery and a personal chef, as well as a private gym, in-room spa treatments and a home office.
Previous guests at Le Bijou include the “Wolf of Wall Street” Jordan Belfort and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
In addition to COVID-19 testing, which costs $500, guests can also pay for other coronavirus health services such as twice-daily nurse visits for $1,800 and an around-the-clock nurse for $4,800 a day.
Le Bijou introduced the quarantine service after its CEO, Alexander Hübner, noticed fewer of the typical three-night bookings and more reservations for 14 days or more. When asked why guests were extending their stays, many said they were specifically booking the apartment for quarantine.
He then decided to adapt its traditional services to make the apartments fully automated, including extending its digital services with a virtual butler called James, removing the need for human contact at check-in and check-out, for example.
Le Bijou is also offering free stays for health-care workers, working overtime to help cope with the virus outbreak, as well as for people “in great need.”
René Frey, CEO of travel guide publisher Rough Guides, left his company’s headquarters in London to head back to his home in Switzerland for lockdown nearly two weeks ago.
While the Swiss government has kept hotels open, he believed that it was “irresponsible, unethical and commercially wrong” for Le Bijou to be operating in such a way during the pandemic.
Switzerland has implemented social-distancing measures similar to many other countries around the world, including the closure of its borders to people from high-risk countries, banning gatherings of more than five people and encouraging people to stay at home.
According to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, 16,605 have so far tested positive for COVID-19 and 433 people have died from the virus in the country.
Frey said that he thought it was irresponsible to take new bookings in the current situation, adding that it showed a “lack of solidarity with all the small shops closed by federal law.”
Besides food shops and other outlets selling essential everyday items, such as pharmacies, other stores and markets have been closed down by the Federal Council.
Frey also criticized Le Bijou for charging $500 for coronavirus tests, pointing out that the Swiss government has said the diagnostic test will be paid for by its compulsory health care insurance. The Federal Council said it would pay 180 Swiss francs ($187) for the cost, according to a translation of the announcement on its website.
A spokesperson for Le Bijou said that the $500 covers the cost of a certified health-care provider privately administering the COVID-19 test in guests’ rooms. The spokesperson said that Le Bijou hosts a lot of non-Swiss citizens, who may not be covered by the government’s health insurance.
The spokesperson said the hotel has no common areas. So guests come into contact with someone only when they request it, such as a health-care professional or a personal chef.
“We are a family-run SME trying to survive and save jobs for around 60 people, without filing for a government bailout,” the person said.
The spokesperson added that it therefore did not make sense to shut down when Le Bijou could provide “safe and comfortable accommodations for those seeking it away from home and for local healthcare workers who need a place to rest free-of-charge.”