This week sees the opening of the first Yotel, offering low-cost cabin-style accommodation at Gatwick’s South Terminal.
Founded by Simon Woodroffe, owner of the Yo! Sushi chain of restaurants, the Yotel is located landside at the South Terminal, next to the Continental and US Airways’ arrival lounges. The hotel has 46 “cabins” with a choice of 36 Standard or eight Premium rooms (plus two accessible rooms for less able guests).
Business Traveller will be carrying out a full “Tried and Tested” review of the hotel in a forthcoming issue, but had a sneak preview prior to the opening.
Guests obtain their key card via self-service kiosks at the entrance to the Yotel (there is also a galley area manned 24-hours per day in case there are any queries) and proceed to either a 7sqm Standard cabin, or a relatively spacious 10sqm Premium cabin.
Standard cabins are either “upper” or “lower” and the bed in the upper cabin is directly above that of the lower cabin next door, although Yotel says that each cabin is individually soundproofed.
Standard cabins have a large single bed, (2x1m), apparently big enough for two people, a flat screen TV at the end of the bed with 63 channels and paid for movies, plus a Juke Box with an impressive 5,000 songs.
There is also a small pull-down desk and foldable chair and overhead storage space. The toilet and shower take up around a third of the room space, equivalent (in percentage terms), to the amount of time guests spend in the average hotel bathroom during their stay, according to research by Yotel.
Premium cabins feature a double bed, which converts electronically into a sofa (the inspiration for which came from Woodroffe’s experience of BAs First cabin). There is plenty of storage space, both underneath and next to the bed, and Premium cabins also have an i-pod docking system connected to the TV speakers, plus a larger work desk.
While none of the rooms have natural daylight, they have windows looking onto the corridors and feature mood lighting, individually controlled air conditioning, complimentary wifi access, UK and EU electrical sockets and a hair dryer. Snacks and drinks can be ordered through the TV menu and delivery time specified in 15-minute intervals.
The overall feel of the cabins is ultra-modern, with a white a purple colour scheme, and it came as no surprise to hear that the capsules were designed by Priestman Goode, of the Virgin Upper Class Suite.
Prices at the Yotel Gatwick start from £25 for a minimum four-hour stay in a Standard cabin, up to £55 for 24 hours and from £40 for four hours in the Premium cabins up to £80 overnight.
Says Nigel Buchanan, operations director for Yotel, and formally of Hotel du Vin: “So far the most popular length of stay is between eight to 10 hours followed by four-hour stays. 50 per cent of bookings have been from North America, many of these transit passengers, and 25 per cent of bookings have been by single female travellers.”
Woodroffe said that the original plan for Yotel had been to launch a city centre property, but talks with BAA have resulted in the Yotel Gatwick, plus the 32-room Heathrow hotel (located on the mezzanine level at T4) to open later in the summer, and a Stansted property also planned. Woodroffe added that a city centre property would follow and that this would probably include rooms that could be converted into meeting areas as well as having Economy cabins without en-suite facilities.
So will the Yotel work? Japan has long had the “pod” hotel concept aimed at the business market, although Yotel is keen to play down the similarities between its offering and the even smaller Japanese capsule – as Woodroffe joked: “You can swing a cat in our Premium cabins, but you’ll have to put the bed away first.”
The company hopes to achieve occupancy rates of up to 250 per cent, with cabins being rented several times a day, and it will no doubt provide stiff competition for the only other on-airport hotels at Gatwick, the Hilton at the South Terminal, and the Sofitel at the North Terminal (although the revamped arrivals lounge within this hotel, [see online news June 14] may mean the Yotel proves surplus to requirements for premium transiting passengers for BA, Emirates and Delta).
It will also be interesting to see how the forthcoming Heathrow property fares, given its location at T4 and the number of hotels along the Bath Road, both budget and high-end [see Business Traveller’s Heathrow hotel guide April 2006 at businesstraveller.com].
Visit Yotel.com for more information.
Report by Mark Caswell.