First hotel for coronavirus positive clients opens in Prague

Photo: archive of Czech Inn Hotels

A new hotel has opened up in Prague which offers accommodation to COVID-19 positive guests. Targeted at clients who have mild or no symptoms but want to avoid infecting others, it is based around an entirely contactless system. Its management says that if the concept proves successful, it is ready to open similar hotels across the capital.

The four star “Legerova 9” hotel, lies on the edges of Prague’s centre, near the Folimanka park. From the outside it looks just like any other of the hundreds of hotels strewn across the capital. However, according to Jaroslav Svoboda, the executive director of Czech Inn Hotels which owns the business, it is home to an internationally unique experiment.

“We certainly are the first to come up with this idea in the Czech Republic and we cannot see a similar hotel existing in Europe or anywhere else. The hotel is exclusively for people who have tested positive [for COVID-19].

“Why? Because we know of many people who have the coronavirus and, for safety reasons, do not want to share the same flat or house with their family while they are infected. It is for this reason that we offer them the possibility to stay in this hotel, to use its comfort and service for a reasonable price.”

Photo: archive of Czech Inn Hotels

The hotel has been open in this new form for just over a week and runs on a contactless system, says Mr. Svoboda.

“You make a booking, either online or via telephone. After that, you have many ways to check in. You can do it over the internet, or come to the hotel and use a TV set in the extended lobby which connects you to check in service. They tell you how it works and you get a room key.”

Once in the room, the guest is completely isolated, but he can still use many of the hotel’s services by using the room’s telephone, or WhatsApp. The one difference is that everything has to be delivered either virtually or in front of the respective room’s door. This includes new bedding, or food deliveries. The hotel also has a doctor on call, and a hospital stay can be arranged, in case the guest’s condition gets worse.

The most important aspect, Mr. Svoboda says, is to ensure that the self-isolating guest is well supplied with sources of entertainment. This is mainly built around a strong internet connection, as well as access to a television with various channels and shows to watch. For those who are into gaming, there is the option of using a Playstation or an online chess tournament where guests can compete with each other. Books, magazines and audiobooks can also be requested and further forms of entertainment are being considered.

Photo: archive of Czech Inn Hotels

The current price for one night is CZK 1,000 and the Covid hotel’s guests have been a varied mix in the initial days since its launch, says Mr. Svoboda.

“Our first guest was a working man from Prague. The company wanted to help him and arranged the stay for him. We also had a man from a Prague sports club. The third guest booked quite independently.

“We do not make any restrictions about how long one wants to stay. We are flexible. You can book one night or 10. Most of our guests have booked for a week.”

The hotel made headlines as a curiosity when it opened last week. However, now it is one of the few hotels that can remain open, after the government announced a new measure on Wednesday which requires hotels to close unless catering to clients on business,COVID-19 positive guests, or a select few other exceptions.

At a time when the Czech hotel industry is being crushed by the effects of the pandemic, Legerova 9 is a welcome experiment, says Mr. Svoboda.

“If we have many bookings, we can open another hotel for this purpose. However, if there is no demand we can close it. We simply have empty hotels, so we are very flexible at the moment.“

According to the Czech Association of Hotels and Restaurants, nearly a half of all Czech hotels have considered closing during the pandemic. In Prague the situation is particularly bad, because hotels in the capital are especially targeted on foreign tourists. BH Securities Chief Economist Štěpán Křeček says foreign investors have already begun sending offers to buy up many of them. He expects that this situation will lead to one fifth of Prague’s hotels changing ownership in the near future.

Czech Inn Hotels is Prague’s largest hotel chain and it has already had to close some of them this year, says Jaroslav Svoboda.

Photo: archive of Czech Inn Hotels

“We have to think about what to do with all of the hotels that we administer. We have 23 hotels in the capital. That is more than 2,200 rooms. The business situation was terrible during the spring and, although things did light up a bit during the summer, those times are finished now. So we knew that we had to come up with a plan.

“We have started to lease out rooms for students. These are cheap rooms available for long-term leasing. We also have some hotels that are now leased out as office space.”

The decision to open up Legerova 9 as an experimental Coronavirus hotel came fast. According to the chain’s executive director the idea was suggested at a meeting three weeks ago, and the hotel was refurbished to fit the concept within just a few days. Adaptability is key, he says.

“To be honest. We did not expect the new lockdown to come. We have open hotels that we cannot sell to anyone. The hotels in the centre of Prague will just have to wait for the return of tourists. We will have to wait for the situation to get better.

“Larger hotels are more flexible, because they are not exclusively targeted for tourists and provide services for businesses, or sports teams. For example, the Don Giovanni Hotel is used by the Czech national football team. So we have some customers and can manage the situation better in the larger hotels.

“In any case tourist hotels that are not in the centre will have to change their plan. That is why we lease them out as apartments or flats. Some will be used as offices and some for COVID-19 positive guests.”