Travelodge launch “cosmic night sky panorama” hotel rooms

header_logoI just read the news announced last week by Travelodge that in what they claim to be a UK first, the budget hotel brand has launched a hotel room which features a cosmic ceiling night sky panorama, with the aim to help their customers get a good night’s sleep.

The bespoke night sky room has been created by artistically transforming a standard white ceiling into a cosmic sky which features shooting stars, milky ways and constellations of twinkling stars via a unique paint – which absorbs and retains natural daylight.  During the day the ceiling looks like any standard white room ceiling but as darkness falls the ceiling magically transforms into a cosmic night sky – which cleverly lasts until dawn.  This idea has been created as a direct response from the company’s latest sleep study in which the chain surveyed some 2,000 adults in order to investigate the nation’s most desirable sleeping locations.  Delving a little deeper into the nation’s fascination with stars the study also found that over a half of Britons (52%) think there is something very magical about a starry night (although if quite the same can be said for experiencing this inside a budget hotel room can be achieved, I’ll let you decide).

Shakila Ahmed from Travelodge commented: “As part of our commitment in helping to ensure our customers attain a good night’s sleep, we are constantly looking at innovative sleep aids. Therefore in response to our latest sleep study, which highlighted Britons most desirable place to nod off is under a blanket of stars, we took the challenge and created the ultimate outdoor sleeping experience indoors. Now our customers can gaze into a cosmic night sky of shooting stars, milky ways and constellations of twinkling stars from the comfort of their warm cosy bed.”

Chris Idzikowski, Director of Edinburgh Sleep Centre, said: “This new innovation can help towards attaining a good night’s sleep. The way it works supports our natural sleep / wake cycle. In darkness our brain’s (pineal gland) releases melatonin, the hormone of darkness which supports sleep.  Whilst dawn light is very important for keeping the biological clock ticking to the right time.  The Travelodge night sky room replicates the natural environment which our ancestors would have experienced in the savannah grasslands during the evolution of human sleep patterns.”

Further findings from the sleep study revealed that 28% of British adults would love to sleep under the stars every night because it would help them to nod off easily.  Whilst one in ten Britons would love to transform their bedroom ceiling to a starry night sky so that they can achieve a good night’s sleep.

The Travelodge cosmic night sky panorama hotel room is available at the following hotels:

  • Birmingham Bull Ring Travelodge
  • Blackpool South Shore Travelodge
  • Bournemouth Seafront Travelodge
  • Bristol Central Mitchell Lane Travelodge
  • Cardiff Atlantic Wharf Travelodge
  • Edinburgh Central Waterloo Travelodge
  • Liverpool Strand Travelodge
  • London City Road Travelodge
  • Manchester Central Arena Travelodge
  • Newcastle Central Travelodge
  • Newquay Travelodge
  • Torquay Travelodge

What I find strange is that I have been unable to find or book one of these rooms via the Travelodge website.  I have search for several of the hotels offering these rooms and can find no description of this offering in the general hotel information of in the rooms and rates tabs.  This leads me to wonder if these rooms are avaialble at an extra supplement, and if so, how much.

Please let me know if you experience one of these new rooms, we’d love to hear what you think and how well you slept.  Please leave your feedback in the comments section of this post.

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 brand.com 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.

New IHG brand EVEN Hotels announces first property signing

More news from hotel giants InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) this week (my, haven’t they been busy?) as they announce the signing of the first EVEN Hotels property which will be located in New York City.  The IHG managed hotel will be located at 219 E 44th Street in the heart of midtown Manhattan, and will be a flagship property for the new brand. A new build hotel, scheduled for opening in late 2014, will feature 230 bedrooms across 23 floors, dedicated meeting areas, and indoor and outdoor exercise and eating spaces all spread over 87,000 square feet.   

“This is another important first for IHG. By developing our portfolio of preferred brands in line with emerging consumer preferences, we are meeting the needs of a new type of guest who’s looking for hotels with an intrinsic focus on wellness in terms of food, work, exercise and rest,” said Richard Solomons, chief executive officer, IHG. “New York City is an ideal location, being one of the most health-minded cities in the U.S. – so it will provide the EVEN Hotels brand with the right exposure to its target guest, the healthier-minded traveller.”

The EVEN Hotels brand comprises four priority areas: eat, work, exercise and rest – sound familiar New York?  You can see why New York was picked as a great first city for this concept.  IHG clearly have this in mind and have pointed out that New York City was ranked one of the top 50 healthiest cities in the U.S. in 2012, with more than 1,700 parks, playgrounds, and recreation facilities across the five boroughs providing multiple opportunities for exercise.  New York City has also led the charge on changes aimed at a healthier city experience including: banning the sale of sugary drinks over 16 oz., posting all calorie counts on menus and menu boards and banning the use of artificial trans-fats in foods.

“New York City is a key part of EVEN Hotels’ distribution strategy and provides strong market exposure to healthier minded people both living and travelling to New York City, looking for a holistic wellness hotel experience,” said Kirk Kinsell, president, the Americas, IHG.  “We are excited about the start of this new owner relationship with CWC Inc. as it brings together IHG’s branding and management expertise with CWC Inc.’s strong presence in the New York City real estate market.”

IHG are claiming “another industry first for this kind of hotel and say they are meeting a large and growing customer demand for a healthier travel experience.  EVEN Hotels uniquely provides solutions for all aspects of travellers wellness needs in the areas of food, work, exercise and rest – all under one roof.  Joining IHG’s existing seven hotel brands, EVEN Hotels will be a key pillar in IHG’s portfolio of preferred brands and in the long term, a key driver in market share growth in the U.S.

IHG expects to sign 100 EVEN Hotels in the U.S. in the next 5 years under managed and franchised agreements in key markets including New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco.  

The Preferred Hotel Group launch ‘Preferred Family Certified’ programme

As you may have seen from some of my tweets yesterday, I attended the launch of Preferred Hotel Group’s brand new programme “Preferred Family” which was hosted at the stunning Edwardian Chancery Court hotel in London, part of Preferred’s collection.  Also attending where the General Managers of The Royal Horseguards and The Hempel – both properties that before today would not spring to mind as young child friendly – this intrigued me even more.  So no prizes for guessing what a Preferred Family programme might be, but actually, Preferred Hotel Group have really take the concept a stage further and created an innovative and engaging concept.  They’ve thought about this from both a child and parents point of view and improved their offering to ensure everyone gets something out of this.I’ll show you how.

Preferred Hotel Group are a leading provider of sales and marketing services to independent hotels around the world – The Preferred Family collection features a broad range of global experiences designed to enrich and enhance family travel.  Each hotel, resort and retreat of Preferred Hotel Group provides personalised service, unique experiences and memorable activities for families.  This new programme is recognisable from its new certified logo and really puts this certification programme into action along with an online resource and search engine for families in and outside of the UK designed to highlight specific amenities and unique activities.

At the launch, Lindsey Ueberroth, President of Preferred Hotel Group spoke passionately about this concept and why they had taken the step of creating this collection.   She commented: “As a family and as a family-owned business, we understand that time spent with loved ones on holiday is some of the most precious in life.  The Preferred Family Collection celebrates the specific needs of travelling families by matching exceptional family hotel experiences with the greatest destinations.  These hotels and resorts represent a unique dedication to understanding and embracing guests of all ages.”

So, add a new logo to your website and job done?  Nope.  Not this time.  So often I see nothing new developed by hotels other than to start advertising how child friendly they are (tour operators are especially guilty of this in the UK).  There’s also no point in creating a new programme and not allow it to be fully searchable on your website – no one will find it.  But Preferred Hotel Group are working with their hotel properties to develop engaging concepts and activity for their younger guests.  For instance, book a Preferred Family Certified hotel and the little one gets a delightful little suitcase style bag complete with teddy bear, disposable camera and mini passport so they can truly be a part of discovering the great destination.  They have also designed rather cute mini bath robes for the younger guests and the hotels that are part of the collection have a strict criteria to meet to be included, meaning they have to show how they will make the stay all the more special.

This is a really interesting concept.  What we are seeing is that family travel is gaining more and more importance.  This is a changing market and in general, the economic climate means that people are really valuing and super researching their travel, more so than ever before.  If I was a previous lover of Preferred Hotel Groups properties, having children may make me think that these incredible hotels may not be the perfect fit for my new family shape.  However the properties are sowing great innovation to make sure that no mater how your family changes, they have the right package for you all to enjoy their hotel.  They value every guests – the paying parents and the children and want to make everyone welcome.

In your hotel, there are very simple things you can do to recognise all of your guests, no matter how small.  It’s these little touches that will prove how diverse and welcoming you can be.  There were lots of great examples of such adaptations and ideas from the general managers in the room yesterday, but I particularly liked one activity from The Royal Horseguards hotel. Most top end London hotels put on a great afternoon tea and the popularity of such events continues to rise.  At this hotel, they’ve taken this on board and designed the perfect family afternoon tea.  Head Pastry Chef Joanne Todd has handcrafted a “Mini-Tea” which comes complete with colouring in activities.  The hotel has really innovated their menu to incorporate younger guests and has put a twist on the usual afternoon tea offerings – this rather tasty menu consists of sparkly fairy cakes, traffic light fruit kebab, milk chocolate dinosaurs, alphabet wholeweat shortbread and white chocolate and raspberry puzzle – and of course a delicious rainbow smoothie.  I don’t know about you, but I think I’d prefer this afternoon team myself!

So, once you’ve developed a great concept, then what? Add a badge to your website and that’s it?  Of course not, and Preferred Hotel Group have created a dedicated brand website for their collection.  But, they do a great job of recognising that every family is different, in terms of taste, age range and ideas of what they want from a hotel stay.  One thing I find very uninspiring about online travel (and I write about this a lot) is enjoying finding my dream hotel/holiday.  I find search forms far too broad and I end up scrolling through pages and pages of hotels that all look the same.  I was really pleased to see that Preferred Hotel Group thought about this and instead of directly copying content from their main site, they added new search criteria and information to their pages.  For example, very detailed age brackets and interests.  Simply start searching and narrow your key criteria and your results list will dynamically change before your eyes. Much easier, wouldn’t you say?

I really think that this programme will be a great success – built on a strong family principle and understanding by the companies owners and delivered into a programme to not only attract new business, but retain their existing and changing customer base too.

World Wonders Project by Google [video]

Quite by accident I noticed the announcement from Google about their World Wonders Project and it really intrigued me.  I’ve been talking about it with some technology friends on Twitter today and it’s pulled all of our attention, so I found the promotional Google video about the project to share with you.  I bet you’ll take a look after you’ve seen this.  It really is Google doing what Google does best.

Jumeirah get into the Jubilee spirit and launch their ‘Big Jubilee Lunch at The Terrace’

Okay, so I am already a big fan of The Terrace, a fantastic outdoor space at the rear of the Jumeirah Lowndes in London. I don’t know about you, but when you’re in a big city like London, there are very few quality venues to sit outside in the relative quiet and enjoy an ice cold drink and some quality BBQ food – Jumeirah Lowndes provide an incredibly relaxed experience at their Terrace venue and it’s well worth checking out (take a look at last year’s post on their BBQ master-class).  It really is a hidden gem in trendy Belgravia.

So this would quite clearly make the perfect venue for a special celebration, and that’s exactly what Jumeirah have planned.  On 3rd June, The Terrace is partaking in the nationwide ‘Big Jubilee Lunch’ initiative and inviting guests to join them in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee.  Guests can feast on a three-course al fresco meal for a set price of £19.52 to celebrate the year of the Queen’s ascension to the throne.

As announced by Buckingham Palace, the ‘Big Jubilee Lunch’ will be a part of the main programme of events over the central weekend of Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June.

To get your taste buds going (and maybe to book your place too!), the menu incorporate many British classics: To start, Scottish oak smoked salmon or green pea soup followed by traditional English mains – steak and kidney pudding with garden vegetables or London Pride battered haddock and chips. For pudding, sweet enthusiasts can indulge on either gooseberry crumble with vanilla bean custard or strawberry pavlova with wild berry coulis.

You can book your place at this special Jubilee celebration by visiting www.jumeirahlowndeshotel.com

TripAdvisor launches Tingo – with a unique concept for giving you your money back…

As you may have seen, TripAdvisor (under their brand of Smarter Travel Media) recently launched Tingo.com with quite a different message to other online hotel booking sites – a promise to automatically re-book your room if the room rate falls and automatically refunds you the difference.

Tingo claim on their website that in the last 30 days 461 hotels in Paris saw a price drop, 267 in London and 220 in New York – so you can see why this would be attractive for travellers.

And I think that’s the key to any new hotel booking engine launching – it has to be different to the dominant players like Booking.com and Expedia.  It has to offer the traveller something that no one else can – and what better way to target customers than by promising to give them money back.

As with some other new hotel booking sites we’ve seen this year, it seems to only be aimed at the American markets to start with as all prices are displayed in US dollars.