Tiny Hotels: Yotel Sees if They'll Fly in U.S.


Astronomical lodging prices haven't thus far managed to repel New York's legions of visitors: NYCgo say 48.7 million tourists flocked to the city in 2010. But while there are plenty of plush New York hotels for those lucky few who've escaped the recession with cash to spare, those with budgetary constraints are left with few options. A random Kayak search for the 7th to 11th of July 2011 offered only two choices for under $100 in Manhattan - a 2-star hotel on Hester Street, or a YMCA. For under $150; mostly 2 star hotels, with a sprinkling of 3 star options. The lowest priced 4 star in Manhattan... $182 a night.

Christopher Heywood, VP of travel and tourism PR for NYC & Company says this year about 40 percent of hotels are opening in boroughs other than Manhattan; which will offer travelers more options for saving money - but there's something about staying right in the belly of the beast that visitors to NY tend to crave. And it's not just proximity... you have only to look at the success of the Andre Balazs and Ian Schragers of the world to understand that with hotels, style is everything.... although it comes with a hefty price tag. The gap that's left between the W and the Holiday Inn Express, or so the theory goes, is one Yotel will fill.

The plan for Yotel New York was, in many ways, similar to London and Amsterdam: to create what have been termed "cabin" rooms. Cabin rooms keep costs down first and foremost simply by being smaller, allowing the hotel to accommodate more guests, but at 12 square meters, are still heads and tails larger than their miniscule Japanese predecessors.

New York City, however, is a different animal hotel wise, and Greene admits building Yotel NY, particularly during a recession, was never a safe or easy bet: "I think the biggest risk has been construction, coming to NY and people saying 'bunch of Brits coming over and building a 700 room hotel'.....the biggest hotel opening in NY this year, the largest new built hotel for sx or seven years in NY, and an unproven brand in terms of city center concept."

Still, belief in the brand was strong enough that Greene and Woodroffe managed to convince investors that Yotel would make good on its promise to become what Greene terms the iPod of the hotel industry, and raised $240 million in financing.

To convince guests to forgo a more spacious economy room in favor of a cabin, Yotel had to make sure to stress the three Ls: location, luxury and leisure. Just blocks from Times Square, Yotel packs 669 units into a futuristic tower. While small , the cabin room nonetheless feels quite luxurious. Large windows look out over the city, giving a feeling of spaciousness.

During the day, a queen-sized bed replete with cloud like bedding, sits up against the wall like a sofa. A switch next to it glides the bed to its nocturnal position, at which point it's easily large enough for two. An ample bathroom comprises shower and curtained toilet area, and a tiny desk and flat panel TV round out the amenities. A tray sits in a bedside compartment... in the morning you take it to a breakfast area and help yourself.

For mid-July, the Yotel booking system showed queen-bedded cabins for $195 to $230. For any guests feeling particularly flush, larger cabins are available starting at only $20 per night more, and increasing through to $1,500 for a VIP suite - which boasts a fireplace, pool table, hot tub and terrace.

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