There was a time when travelers sought out spacious hotels for business and leisure. Large guestrooms signified luxury and comfort and the traveling public was willing to spend the higher room rates for connecting rooms, suites and penthouse level accommodations. In fact any hotel room that exceeded 400 square feet in most city hotels was considered roomy. However, times do change and today we're adjusting to recessionary times by employing cost-cutting measures at work and when we travel. "Pod Hotels" is the latest segment of the hospitality industry to emerge as the trend-du-jour to address those needs.
Price-conscious travelers are now very happy to trade in those suites of yesteryear for tinier guestrooms that sacrifice space in exchange for highly reduced rates and some unique style and technological features. If you're not claustrophobic and you don't spend a lot of time in your hotel room anyways, pod-accommodations might be just the ticket.
Pod hotels originated in Asia decades ago, and are just starting to catch up with the trend in Europe and the States. As an ex-hotel executive, myself, I have scanned the globe for what I consider the Top Ten Pod Hotels in the world.
After your review, please take our POLL at the end of this blog and let us know your favorite Pod Hotel.
Heathrow Airport, London, UK
Everything you would expect from a luxury hotel in a small space. Inside the airport terminal buildings and accessible from the public areas at London Heathrow’s Terminal 4, this hotel is just a short walk from the airport check-in.. The rooms called "cabins" are 10 x 10. Premium Cabins priced at approximately $150 a night, or $70 for a four-hour stay (dependent on season), the rooms are soundproof and each contains a sofa that converts into a double bed. There is also a desk that pulls down from the wall, a sliver of a closet, a shower, wireless Internet, an iPod dock, and a flat-screen TV with surround-sound speakers.
Windows offer an interior view of the hotel only, a design choice made to allow Yotel hotels to be built inside of buildings such as airports. Check-in and check-out are self-serve and automated, as is the snack bar. While you might find the purple 'mood lighting' of purple somewhat off-putting, Laura Coleman who handles PR for the chain indicates,"the purple tone is a very relaxing and luxurious color - but guests do have the option to convert it to regular lighting if they so choose." Yotel Manhattan is under construction for a 2011 opening at 42nd Street & 10th Avenue.
East 51st Street, Manhattan, NY
High tech and high style converge seamlessly at the Pod Hotel, which offers stylish, convenient accommodations for today's discerning traveler. Guest have a choice between private or shared baths. Each features flat screen TVs, complimentary Internet access, clock radios with iPod docking stations. The Pod Hotel is conveniently located on East 51st Street near Radio City Music Hall, Times Square, The United Nations, Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral. SoHo and the Meatpacking District are just minutes away from the property, and travelers are in close proximity to high-end boutiques and trendy eateries in the area. For a stay in March, 2010, rates start at $179 per night. Each pod is 90 to 100 square feet.
Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan
Definitely not designed for the claustrophobic traveler, the 'capsule' might appear to some as being a 'coffin for the living.' While the other hotels on this TOP TEN list are larger, they were inspired by the Japanese capsule where each unit is only 3-feet high/wide and 6-feet long. The rooms feature a mini TV, radio, alarm clock and lamp. Bath and toilet facilities are located in a public lounge. If you need an inexpensive place to sleep, according to their Web site, "these accommodations are available at a fixed rate of 4000 yen per night, roughly $40US." While many Capsule Inns only cater to men, the Capsule Inn Akihabara offers accommodations for females as well.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Qbic might be a small package but they are certainly are packed with a lot of atmosphere.Each 8x10 foot room has a four-poster Hästens bed, a tiny work space with an easy chair, Philippe Starck bathroom furnishings, TV, radio, safe, free wireless Internet and similar to the Yotel, Qbic features guest-controlled 'mood lighting,' in shades of green, blue, red and purple. Guests check themselves in via a kiosk in the lobby. Each hotel has a communal area with vending machines stocked with organic, healthy snacks and simple meals prepared by local restaurants. The earlier you book, the less expensive the rates - rooms range from about $90 to $200 per night.
The bright orange easyHotels are owned by easyJet's Stelios Haji-Ioannou.. Bathrooms are the size of those on airplanes, and guests pay extra for windows and TVs. The rooms are priced as low as $48 a night, and sometimes less. EasyHotel plans to open 38 new properties across the Middle East, North Africa, India, and Pakistan within the next 5 years. If you don't like the color orange, this is not the Pod Hotel for you.To keep the room rates this low, the easyJet Hotel houskeeping department doesn't automatically service the guestrooms. However for an extra charge they will clean your room and change the linen. Some rooms are as small as 49 square feet.
Best Pod Hotel 6- Nitenite
You gotta love the ingenious name of this hotel. Nitenite's concept is not about being the least expensive hotel in the market - it’s more about using cutting-edge design and forward thinking to create a hotel product for people on a budget. According to their Web site hype, "each clever little creation is designed to emulate the feel of a luxury yacht cabin and these beautifully styled windowless hotel rooms offer guests luxury for less in an inventively compact and efficient space." The rooms are only 6.8 square meters (handicap room are 12.8), but include features that come standard in a full-service hotel, such as full-size double bed and 42" plasma screen.En suite high-tech wet rooms (euphemism for bathroom) come with a powerful shower-head and heated mirror. Rates start around $110 US.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from Founder Tony Fernandes, you'll find shocking reds used everywhere. With it comes a budget lodging concept that addresses the needs of budget traveler. The flagship 173-room Tune Hotel at No. 316 Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman offers rates priced at just RM48 (around US$14). Some rooms at certain times of the year start as low as just a couple of ringgit. However, expect to pay extra for amenities – towel rental is RM5, 12 hours of air-conditioning is RM13.50, and WiFi is RM12 per day. As a result of their affordable pay-as-you-use system of add-ons for these energy-consuming facilities and amenities, the Tune Hotel management prides themselves on conserving both the traveler's budget as well as the earth’s resources. Guestrooms at this hotel are 11 square meters.
Namba, Osaka, Japan
First Cabin is changing the game somewhat with their airline-themed mini-hotel. The building contains 111 rooms (only 12 for women) that come in First Class ($50 / 4.2 sq. meter) and Business Class ($40 / 2.5 sq. meter) cabins that are fully equipped with TVs, AC power, Internet access, pajamas, and amenities.
There are also lounge and massage areas for relaxing, and shower/bath facilities for public bathing as is customary in capsule hotels and other budget business hotels. Daytime stays are priced at $8 and $9 per hour.This is a members-only establishment with registration and subsequent reservations taken via mobile phone or Internet. In a sign of true Japanese efficiency, your phone can double as the room key by downloading the "APLI" program onto it. A stroke of security genius that American hotels should be considering.
Best Pod Hotel 9- The Jane
New York, New York
The Jane in New York’s West Village, has some of the usual trappings of a pod hotel, albeit with a bit more old world panache. Originally built in 1908 as a hotel for sailors with cabin-like rooms, The Jane was restored in 2008 to become a convenient and whimsical option for budget travellers. Standard “Cabins” are a cosy 50sq ft and come with single beds, wall-mounted luggage rack, free WiFi, 23-inch LCD TVs, DVD players and iPod docks. Captain’s Cabins feature almost the same amenities except with a flat panel TV and a phone, but range in size from 150sq ft to 250sq ft and have queen or king beds. Bathrooms are shared, and rates start from US$79.
Best Pod Hotel 10- Whitepod
Aigle, Switzerland ###
Have you ever considered renting an igloo? Well you can now with the recent development of Whitepod. With access to ski slopes and private lifts and views of Lake Geneva, this complex is set high in the breathtaking Swiss Alps.The chic, 15 geodesic-dome pods surround a central chalet and are designed to be in harmony with the environment while providing boutique hotel rooms inside. Designed to blend with nature, the pods are green-colored in the summer and covered with white canvas in the winter for maximum energy-efficiency. Additionally, they are built on platforms that won't leave a trace on the land.
Each pod is equipped with a terrace to soak in the view, a wood-burning stove, and solar and rechargeable energy that heats and powers them. Be prepared to take in the fresh air, because the zero-impact dome camps are accessible only on skis or snowshoes.The Whitepod resort is the ultimate mountain escape for nature lovers and adventure seekers, and as such is more sizeable and a little pricier than the others on this TOP TEN list - approximately $440 per night with a two-night minimum. However, each pod can accommodate four people on king and full-size beds that are made toasty warm in the evening by a hot water bottle placed discreetly under each mattress pad before you retire.
When I was a hotel vice president of sales and marketing for hotel companies, the catch-phrase used to signify the sale of guestrooms was "putting heads in beds." With the trend of pod hotels gaining so much appeal in today's world, I think today's new slogan should be; "putting bods in pods."
Quite a variety of accommodations made this TOP TEN list. Now, I would like our readers to take our POLL to determine the best of the best. Please make your pick based on the descriptions posted here or even better from your own travel experience if you've ever stayed at one of these fine establishments. And by all means, please let us know if we missed one of your favorite 'pod' hotels. With so many new ones being built around the world, I am sure even the major hotel chains will start considering adding this new segment to their existing brand portfolios.
Happy traveling and don't forget to pack light!