My night in a purple cabin – the Yotel way [Hotel Insight Review]

I’ve had a busy week – World Travel Market and the HBAA Technology Forum in the space of five days has left me exhausted – but I did get to try something I’ve had my eye on for a long time – I stayed the Yotel way.  Although really designed for people flying off into the sunset and needing somewhere to rest at the airport, I decided that rather than commute backwards and forwards to WTM, I’d give the cabin style hotel room experience a try – something Yotel is becoming famous for.

Yotel has been described in the press as a revolutionary new hotel concept, and to be honest, no other hotel chain have a similar brand to run against them.  Starting out in New York, Yotel are expanding and have properties at London Heathrow Airport, London  Gatwick, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and two hotels back in New York.

Inspired by first-class airline cabins and located inside the airport terminal, Yotel has been built around a strong brand concept – a business or leisure traveller wants to stay somewhere that’s flexible and not over the top.  Everything about the cabins are high spec – great quality beds, shower and amenities all within small cabin style rooms.  The perfect place to rest your head and re-charge before or between flights or for unexpected travel disruption.

Yotel founder Simon Woodroffe conceived the innovative Yotel cabins to provide a flexible and convenient ‘first class’ hotel experience at affordable prices. Simon evolved that idea into reality with Gerard Greene, the CEO of Yotel, building a prototype cabin with designers Priestman Goodeand and securing partner IFA Hotels and Resorts.

Before I stayed, I’d read the marketing on the brand and didn’t know what to fully expect.  Having stayed in other “cabin” style rooms recently, I expected the same from Yotel, but there is no product on the market quite like this.  The design of the rooms is quite something – compact – but yet without the feeling of being trapped or penned in.

Each cabin has everything you could wish for – comfortable beds, en suite bathrooms with monsoon rain showers complete with organic hair and body wash, flat screen TV and pull out workstation (and of course, free Wi-Fi).  I’m told even the mattresses are organic!

What I especially like about the Yotel concept is that the founders have solved a common travel problem.  They’ve looked at how people travel through airports and identified a gap in the market.  People often want somewhere comfortable to rest in an airport, and creating the high quality Yotel brand allows people to book a cabin for a short amount of time, or a whole night.  It’s a flexible model that caters for all, and unlike so many other newer hotel brands, actually stands out from the crowd and solves a travellers existing problem.

I should also take a moment to comment on the service.  Check-in can be processed in person or by self service computer on arrival, but all staff that I met during my stay were polite, friendly and incredibly helpful.  They created a lasting impression of the brand for me.  I also found it encouraging that in each room there is a business card urging guests to leave a review of the hotel on TripAdvisor.  When you think about it, a cabin style room could be the perfect thing to moan about online, but Yotel are so clear and confident about their brand and customer expectations, they do the right thing and encourage engagement and reviews.  More hotel chains could learn from this approach.

Prices for a Standard cabin will range from £25 for four hours and from around £50 overnight, while a Premium cabin will cost from £40 for four hours, and from around £80 overnight. If you would like to find out more or book, please click here to visit the Yotel website.

What I think will be interesting is how quickly the brand can expand.  Clearly, the same consumer need exists at every international airport all over the world, so there is at least in theory a place for a Yotel in hundreds of locations.  Will we see them pop up at every airport we pass through in the future?  Yotel is already a very successful brand and becoming more and more recognised by the public.  They have achieved this success by clearly defining their brand strategy, playing on it, and keeping it simple.    And not as a cramped, grotty cabin, but as a a high quality, 4 star place to stay that’s good value and enjoyable.  I would imagine that their cost of sale is pretty low – booking via the website only (which is a rally great, interactive and informative online experience) and without the use of third parties (I’ve not seen their content appear on OTA websites yet, or the GDS, but I may be wrong).  Keeping to this model is pretty simple, but as the collection of hotels expands, so too may the distribution channels needed to make sure all the rooms get filled.

I would thoroughly recommend you to try Yotel when you next have a long connection or early flight from Heathrow or Gatwick.  It’s excellent value, excellent quality and quite frankly, the only thing of it’s kind.  Here’s a virtual tour of what you could expect from your stay at Yotel.

75 hotels and counting for Accor’s Mercure portfolio

More new’s from Accor today, as they announce four British hotels are set to open their doors as part of the Mercure portfolio within the next four months, further expanding the growing Mercure hotel collection and increasing the brand’s footprint to 75 hotels in the UK.

Mercure, Accor’s mid-scale hotel brand. will introduce these new hotels in London, Scotland, Milton Keynes and Darlington, with these latest franchise agreements adding some 394 rooms to the Mercure network and creating over 120 jobs across the regions.

Jonathan Sheard, Managing Director of Operations, MGallery and Mercure Hotels UK and Ireland said: “We are delighted to welcome our new partner hotels to the Mercure network in the UK. Each hotel has its own unique story and represents an exciting new destination for business and leisure travellers alike.  We’re committed to significantly growing our Mercure hotel portfolio by 2015 and this will largely be driven through our growing franchise development in the UK.  We are delighted to welcome these four new hotel partners, all of which are a natural fit for the Mercure brand.  By joining with our business, our franchise partners will be able to boost their hotels’ existing exposure through the use of our brand name and benefit from our existing expertise, powerful global distribution networks and committed sales force.”

First to open is the Mercure Darlington Kings Hotel, which launched last week, followed closely by the Mercure London Greenwich Hotel and the Mercure Eddleston Barony Castle Hotel and Spa in Scotland later this month (October).  The Mercure Milton Keynes Abbey Hill will launch in January 2013.

Originally built as a coaching inn in the early 1600s and rebuilt in 1893, the King’s Head Hotel underwent a major £8 million refurbishment programme after a blaze caused severe damage to the hotel in 2008.  Now complete, the refurbished hotel located in the heart of the historic market town features 83 bedrooms, conference and banqueting suites, à la carte restaurant – Carriages No.  One – and cocktail bar, Carriages.  The re-opening of the renowned hotel will create approximately 50 jobs in the region.

Following a major conversion of the 1930’s Maurice Drummond House in Greenwich, the Mercure London Greenwich hotel will offer 145 bedrooms over 10 storeys. The hotel conversion project has witnessed an additional two storeys added at roof level and complete internal refurbishment, along with minor landscaping. The original building won RIBA’s London Architectural Medal in 1946 and the independently owned hotel offers exceptional views of London. The opening of the hotel will create up to 70 jobs in the local area.

With a rich history, the 4* Barony Castle Hotel and Spa in Eddleston, 17 miles south of Edinburgh, is set to become the first castle within the Mercure portfolio.  Featuring 78 bedrooms, the hotel has undergone a £400,000 refurbishment programme, transforming it from a three start to a four star Mercure hotel, since signing the Accor franchise agreement.  The hotel was recently awarded The Great Polish Map of Scotland listed status by Historic Scotland.  The Map represents an important part of Barony Castle’s history, which saw Barony Castle and grounds used by Polish military forces based in Scotland during the Second World War.

In addition, the Abbey Hill Hotel in Milton Keynes, which is one of the first purpose-built hotels in Milton Keynes, is undergoing a full transformation prior to its re-launch in January 2013.  Once complete, the city-centre hotel will boast 88 bedrooms, state-of-the-art meeting rooms and newly designed and furnished public spaces.

What can we say, congratulations Accor!  In such hard times and tough trading conditions for all hoteliers, it’s encouraging to see so many brands expanding.  As you may know from my very first Twitter Q&A a few weeks ago, I named Accor as one of my favourite hotel chains so I was particularly pleased to hear this news.

Accor opens first Pullman branded hotel in the UK

More Accor news (haven’t they been busy this month).  This time its the announcement that they have introduced the first Pullman branded hotel in the UK with the opening of the Pullman London St Pancras.  Accor are establishing this international upscale brand in the UK in a move to widen their hotel brand portfolio in the UK, which currently includes Sofitel, MGallery, Novotel, Mercure, Ibis, Ibis Styles and Ibis Budget.

Officially opening in September, this property was once how to the Novotel St Pancras and has undertaken a comprehensive refurbishment which has seen the complete transformation of the hotel into one of London’s most contemporary hotels.











COO of Pullman Europe Christophe Vanswieten commented “I’m delighted to annoucnce that we are opening our first Pullman Hotel in the UK, a market that will play a key role in our expansion plans in the coming years.  Pullman has blogal brand araewness in progressm which we will build on in the UK, helping Accor’s presence in the UK’s upscale market, ensuring that we have a hotel brand to suit any individual’s requirements – from budget to luxury”.

The new property is described by Accor as a cosmopolitan home of style and modernity and is situated around three minutes from King’s Cross St Pancras.  The hotel has 312 bedrooms  with panoramic views of the London skyline and a restaurant and bar named Golden Arrow.  It also includes plenty of business and event space, even featuring a 446 seat theatre for arts and corporate use.

The Pullman brand offers several “signature services” which include Welcomer, Pullman bed, docking station, free Wi-Fi (I’m liking the brand already, of course!), Connectivity Lounge in partnership with Microsoft, Nespresso services, Vinoteca by Pullman wine selection and Open Kitchen in the new restaurant.

Xavier Louyot, SVP Global Marketing Pullman concludes “This new Pullman destination, which joins the network’s 67 other hotels and resorts around the world, offers a vibrant, in-style cosmopolitan guest experience and is designed to cater for both business travellers and leisure guests.  Set in the heart of one of the top travel hubs of the globe, it is ideal for those travelling to the continent or visiting London”.

Accor have certainly been busy this year with new hotel openings and expanding their brand portfolio and coverage which is extremely positive news, especially for the UK.  What strikes me is that there are so many new hotels springing up in London or all shapes, sizes and prices.  This is only going to increase competition in what is already a very competitive market.  Maybe we will see the average city rate drop in the next couple of years – time will tell.

Landmark Reached: Accor announce new Ibis hotel to take Asia-Pacific rooms to over 100,000

I wouldn’t usually choose to write a post about an Ibis hotel launching in Hong Kong…. but this one deserved a special mention as its opening marked Accor’s recent news that they now have more than 100,000 rooms in Asia-Pacific with the opening of this hotel.  That’s a lot of rooms and clearly shows Accor is placing a huge emphasis on driving it’s brand into a more dominant position outside Europe.  The Ibis Hong Kong Central and Sheung Wan is the brand’s flagship property in Asia introduces a vibrant, modern new direction for ibis intended to appeal to the growing number of independent leisure travellers in the region.

“We are delighted to witness the opening of this ibis property in Hong Kong, one of our strategic markets in Greater China,” comments Mr. Paul Richardson, Chief Operating Officer of Accor Greater China. “Ideally located in central Hong Kong, Ibis Hong Kong Central and Sheung Wan represents the brand’s new flagship property for Greater China. The opening of the hotel strengthens Accor’s presence in this market and will help us further promote the ibis brand throughout the region.”

The opening of the hotel is of significant importance to the ibis brand’s parent company, Accor, which now operates more than 100,000 rooms in the Asia-Pacific region.

“I am proud to announce that Accor’s network has grown beyond 100,000 rooms in Asia-Pacific, with the opening of ibis Hong Kong Central and Sheung Wan,” said Mr. Michael Issenberg, Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, Accor Asia-Pacific. “It is only fitting that we celebrate this milestone at this stylish hotel, which represents a new flagship for the ibis brand in the region and emphasizes our commitment to offering our customers an exceptional economy hotel product.”

The 550-room property is one of the first in Asia to showcase the brand’s new identity, currently being rolled out across the world and offers quality accommodation and the peace of mind of staying with an international chain.

Bright, fresh design is complemented by a young and energetic team that will deliver all the essential services of a modern hotel, around the clock. The hotel offers a full eight hours of breakfast service beginning at 4.00 a.m., with drinks and snacks served at the 24-hour bar. Complimentary Wi-Fi Internet is available throughout the hotel.  In addition, a 15-minute satisfaction promise is given to all customers for requests they make through the front desk.

Ibis Hong Kong Central and Sheung Wan features three room types; Studio, City View, and – offering spectacular views of Hong Kong’s famous harbour – the high-level Harbour View rooms. Light wood timber floors, 3-metre high ceilings and large bay view windows give the rooms a spacious, modern and inviting feel. Free Wi-Fi, 32-inch LCD televisions, hot drink stations and on-demand wake-up calls complete in-room facilities.

A bright, open-plan décor invites guests to explore the hotel, including the airy lobby and the bar and dining areas that lie beyond. Vibrant burnt orange, splashes of red, crisp white and caramels create bright, contemporary interiors.  Two dining options cater for guests day and night. Le Bar, which neighbours the lobby and reception on the fifth floor, offers snacks and drinks, and has a full bar that never closes.  Attention is on catering to the often-unpredictable schedules of independent travellers.  The Early Riser menu served at Le Bar from 4.00 a.m offers pastries and other continental options, hot drinks and juices and is conveniently available until 6.30 a.m.

Taste is an open, breezy restaurant on the sixth floor, offering flavours typical of Hong Kong. Up to 20 local authentic dishes are offered, and include staples such as dim sum, baked rice dishes and noodles alongside Western favourites.  An expansive all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast is also offered.

Travellers keen on exploring their destination will discover Hong Kong’s unique heritage right on their doorstep. The hotel is ideally situated in Sheung Wan, where heritage blends with bustling new enterprise. Streets filled with dry seafood stalls sit next to hip coffee shops. Historic sites include Man Mo Temple; Possession Point, where British fleets first landed in Hong Kong; as well as the neighbourhood’s elegant cafes and bars on nearby Hollywood Road. The restaurants and lively nightlife of Central’s Soho district is also a short walk away.

“We are thrilled to satisfy the expectations of today’s independent leisure traveller with our friendly and high-quality offering,” commented Warren Tam, General Manager, Ibis Hong Kong Central and Sheung Wan. “We have the strengths of an international brand coupled with a very affordable price point.”

Holiday Inn gives away free nights on Twitter

I always like to highlight how hotel chains are using social media to drive business, and today I found that Holiday Inn are promoting a new giveaway though Twitter, so I wanted to share what they are doing with you.  Of course, with over 1,200 hotels worldwide, Holiday Inn is the most widely recognised lodging brands in the world so any promotion they run socially will instantly grab the attention of thousands of followers, but the guiding principle of interaction is an interesting one to follow and can be re-applied in different levels.

Holiday Inn Resort Kicks Off Back to School Season with “Extra Credit” and Resort Stay Giveaway”

InterContinental Hotels Group today announced the Holiday Inn Resort “Extra Credit” offer which rewards guests with a $50 Resort Credit to use on property when they stay at least two nights Sept. 4 through Nov. 30, 2012, booked through their brand website.  The “extra credit” can be used toward breakfast, lunch, water ski rentals, bike rentals and more.  For each additional night stayed, guests will receive another $25.

Del Ross, Vice President Americas Sales & Marketing, IGG commented “Summer may be winding down but there are still great vacation travel deals.  Whether it’s a family of five or a couple of friends who want to visit Holiday Inn Resort beach locations or action-packed attraction areas, we’re making it possible to create memorable experiences affordably.”

Holiday Inn are using Twitter to provide more interactive value to their brand followers by launching their  “Resort Stay Giveaway”. Prizes range from a one night stay up to an eight night stay at any Holiday Inn Resort location in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean. Quite simply, Holiday Inn are encouraging interaction – the more tweets, the bigger the prizes get.

Here’s how the “Resort Stay Giveaway” works:

• Follow @HolidayInn on Twitter
• Tell us why you would love to stay at a resort for your next vacation with the #ResortLove hashtag
• Tweet daily for more chances to win

This is a very clever way to get your followers tweeting about your brand.  Of course, IHG are the largest hotel group around so this is an inexpensive promotion for them, however the ideal is the same even if you are a small independent hotel.  Encourage interaction through your social sites with different offers (these don;t even need to be giveaways, they can be simple communication). Everyone likes an offer and it motivates people to get involved and talk about your brand.

Hilton reveals ever growing Middle East market

Some interesting statistics coming out of Hilton Worldwide, describing the patterns they see for inbound tourism from the Middle East.  This market has always been important for London hoteliers (Hilton included) but new figures show the Middle East is one of the fastest growing markets for the UK travel industry.  I will leave you in wonder with the numbers:

  • London Hilton on Park Lane has increased its visitors from the top five Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries by 21.34% (2011 vs. 2010). UAE is the top producing market with a 33% increase year on year (YOY), followed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which has seen a growth increase of 104% YOY.
  • One in four guests welcomed at London Hilton on Park Lane is from the Middle East (17% of the total occupancy in 2011) and a third of those guests are from the UAE.
  • Recent VisitBritain research has found that visitor numbers from the UAE increased by 11% in 2011 (vs 2010). According to London and Partners, from Q1 to Q3 2011 total spend was £259 million (Saudi Arabia and UAE) with an average spend of £1770 per person, compared with £600 average for other overseas visitors.

Hilton go on the explain the reasons why London is gaining in popularity with Middle East travellers:

Shopping – There is a passion amongst visitors from the GCC to shop while on holiday in London. This was made clear from research undertaken by VisitBritain during 2010 – in particular there was an appetite for dedicated shopping holidays that gave access to brands and products that are not readily available at home, such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Marks & Spencer.

Welcoming and ‘safe’ environment – London is perceived to be a safe and welcoming destination by ME travellers compared to other European countries. This is also helped by a simple visa process and no significant language barriers. There is a perception that London is cosmopolitan, diverse and open to all cultures resulting in Middle Eastern travellers feeling comfortable and respected.

Historic family ties – Often Middle Eastern visitors have spent time at a British University earlier in life and feel welcomed and at home in the UK.  Families will frequently stay while visiting someone who is attending a British University.

Climate – Middle Eastern guests often plan their visit to escape from incredibly hot summer temperatures in the GCC, enjoying London’s much cooler climate.

Socialising & Entourage – Sheiks from Middle East regions commonly own residences in London and often their entourage will stay in nearby hotels.  London’s wide range of restaurants and coffee shops offer a varied nightlife and social scene for visiting guests.

Medical Tourism – As Europe’s leading medical tourism ‘hub’, London has around 20 private hospitals and NHS hospitals with private patient units. The square mile of London around Harley Street alone is the base for over 1,000 leading specialists in all areas of medicine.  Guests are known to visit London specifically for medical reasons, as well as building this into a wider schedule, often recuperating in hotels following medical procedures.

Middle East travel habits for the UK hospitality sector to take into consideration:

No one segment from the ME/GCC market is the same and the market is defined by different socio-economic backgrounds. In spite of this,there are general patterns associated with geographic origin, for example there is a high population of Saudi Arabian guests on southern Park Lane, while Kuwaiti guests tend to prefer Edgware Road locations.

There is an increasing trend for travellers to use their time in London for a full range of activity, not solely leisure.  Middle East guests are increasingly organised with the time they spend in London, with children being sent to summer schools in Regent’s Park, business meetings, property viewing, shopping, medical visits – as well as entertainment. Families are know to also use managers to organise their time while in London, with our hotel management working directly to assist.

Of course, it’s all very well researching this kind of data but the key for a hotelier is to respond to the facts.  This is something the London Hilton on Park Lane is doing very well be implementing some simple changes such as providing dedicated Guest Relations teams with Arabic speakers, adding Arabic TV channels and newspapers and even 24 hour room services from an Arabic menu.

It’s understanding your market that will drive your occupancy and create loyal and satisfied guests.  Every guest, regardless of nationality, wants to feel at home and welcome, so if your addressable market points clearly to one direction, respond to the need.  Right on the doorstep Hilton are competing with so many hotel chains, even specialists in Middle East tourism such s Jumeirah, so taking the time to understand their customers and implementing chance is a game winner for such a hotel as this.

Thanks to London Hilton on Park Lane for sharing the research with Hotel Insight.

Accor gives the UK it’s 2nd MGallery branded hotel with the launch of The Francis Hotel Bath

Accor have certainly been busy this year, and have now announced the launch of their second UK hotel in the MGallery collection, the Francis Hotel located in Bath, which is  the first member of the MGallery collection outside London.  It follows an intensive £6 million refurbishment by the hotel partner transforming what was previously the Mercure Bath Francis Hotel to its former glory.

MGallery is the high-end hotel collection brand of the Accor group.  Each hotel of the Collection stages with talent a unique personality and story, experienced by guests through its architecture, interior design and services.  Hotels are inspired by ”Heritage” origins, with places filled with history, by a “Signature”, a personality who contributed to their decoration or stylish aesthetic universe, and by “Serenity”, the promise of a relaxing moment in a natural or urban retreat.  Launched in September 2008, the MGallery collection has rapidly expanded to cover five continents with 50 hotels and will grow to over 100 locations by late 2015.

The Grade 1 listed property, well-located in Queens square, Bath, boasts 98 hotel rooms including individually-styled executive and feature bedrooms, a lounge and bar, front parlour and breakfast room and on-site parking.  The interiors have been designed by architectural and design firm Househam Henderson.  Brasserie Blanc (the latest addition to Raymond Blanc’s successful group of brasseries), will adjoin the hotel and welcome both guests and the general public.

Jonathan Sheard, Managing Director Operations for MGallery and Mercure hotels commented, “The opening of our second MGallery hotel in just six months is further evidence of Accor hotel’s commitment to growing the MGallery collection in the UK.  The MGallery collection stands for quality and distinction, and this hotel has both as well as being located in the centre of historic Bath.  Guests who stay at the Francis Hotel will experience the truly special personality of this totally transformed hotel.”

Accor hotels launched the upscale MGallery Collection in the UK in October 2011 with the opening of the St. Ermin’s Hotel at St. James, London.  The MGallery Collection started in 2008 and today encompasses around 50 hotels in 18 countries.

Has anyone stayed at an MGallery property yet?  If so, please leave comments and share your experiences – did you like the brand? A good concept?