The popular resort of Forte Village in Sardinia has introduced a raft of new measures to reassure its guests and stimulate travel, and it seems to be working, as TTG news editor Jennifer Morris discovers
Sardinia’s Forte Village Resort has even seen an increase in guests extending their stays this summer, following its introduction of a Covid Protection Protocol, which somewhat rarely, includes a two-stage coronavirus test.
The resort says the protocol, created with a medical advisory board, enables it to offer a holiday “without excessive restrictions that could compromise the spirit and enjoyment”.
It adds it believes this to be a “world first” procedure which “creates a protected environment that minimises the risk of contagion”.
While the test is front and centre of the protocol, Forte Village has developed it alongside many other measures.
The resort has considered every stage of the guest experience, and offers airport transfers in a “Covid-secure” sanitised vehicle with a screen between passengers and driver, hygiene kits are handed out, and wearing of face masks is mandatory. Drivers are also regularly checked by the resort's medical team.
On arrival at Forte Village, all guests are given a temperature check, before being ushered to a private lounge surrounded by foliage for a finger-prick IGM/IGG Covid-19 antibody test administered by a doctor. This takes about one minute to carry out, followed by a six-minute wait for the result. If it is negative, guests can leave the reception, remove their face mask and get started with their holiday.
Anyone whose antibody test is positive is accompanied to a special area for a further molecular PCR test, which indicates whether a person has the virus.
If this then proves negative, the guest proceeds normally with their holiday. If it’s positive and they are able to stay at the resort they will be accommodated in a dedicated area until they test negative to two consecutive molecular tests within 24 hours.
It should be noted that as it takes some days for an individual with the virus to develop antibodies, the “stage one” test will not detect whether a person is in the early stages of having it.
However, Forte Village says the testing combined with a visual check by the doctor carrying it out (who can decide to perform the molecular swab regardless the result of the antibody test if they suspect symptoms) and other mitigating measures, means “the risk of contagion is minimised”.
Anyone entering Sardinia – which has maintained low Covid-19 rates throughout the pandemic – also has to declare they have no Covid-related symptoms and have not been in contact with people who have tested positive in the 10 days before prior to travel; there is criminal liability for false claims.
The Sardinian government has also banned visitors from countries it deems to be high risk.
A further measure is ensuring luggage is sanitised before being delivered to guests’ rooms and there are many other steps across the sizeable resort, which includes eight separate four- and five-star hotels, 13 villas and 40 suites.
The resort’s general manager and chief executive Lorenzo Giannuzzi told TTG that Forte Village had worked with the Universities of Rome and Cagliari to produce its Covid protocol, which is said to be similar to that adopted by the Italian and German football leagues, Serie A and the Bundesliga.
“We wanted to lead on this [in tourism] to make our clients feel safe and secure,” Giannuzzi said.
The measures seem to be offering reassurance to guests, with Forte Village managing to attract 900 guests – of a possible 1,600 at full capacity – during the week TTG visited in mid-August.
The UK has long been the biggest market for the high-end resort, evident in features such as the Chelsea FC foundation football academy and historic partnerships with UK chefs.
“There is a strong demand for an extended season,” Giannuzzi added, pointing out the resort will extend its opening “as long as possible” beyond its usual early November closing date. “It is a microclimate here – we’re only 100km from Tunisia.”
He added the resort had seen a record number of guests extending their stays this year to 12-14 days.
“Here people can forget about what’s going on outside for a while – they feel extremely secure and relaxed,” Giannuzzi said.
He added that the company would also now be building on the wellbeing expertise it has honed over the years to build two new hotels to add to the collection – one in Fiuggi near Rome, and a concept hotel in Sardinia’s capital, Cagliari, while there are also discussions around opening a ski resort in Europe.
“We think the demand for health resorts like this will increase,” Giannuzzi said. “And we want to grow, but only with jewels.
“We are working on a new extraordinary project where all the medical experience and expertise we have came in very useful,” he added. “We are about to launch the most amazing medical spa between Rome and Naples, served by three airports, in the thermal city of Fiuggi, which has water with healing properties. There is nothing like it in the centre or south of Italy.”