Budget-friendly beds

30 Sep 2013 by Clement Huang
There is no lack of luxury hotels in the Asia-Pacific region, and in some major cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, the price of five-star accommodation is surprisingly reasonable when compared with its US and European counterparts. On hectic trips when you barely have time to take in your surroundings, however, it can make sense to go economy – and new properties by Ibis and Holiday Inn Express offer chic, centrally located properties at wallet-friendly prices. Owned by Air Asia’s Tony Fernandes, limited service hotel chain Tune Hotels mimics the low cost carrier’s business model by itemising amenities and enabling guests choose what they pay for. The budget hotel chain has already taken off in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines and also has hotels in London. Hotels were once broadly categorised as full-service or limited-service, with the latter usually referring to properties where just a basic room, hot shower and breakfast is included, with a kiosk providing snack food items and other essentials such as dental kits. There may be a small gym and all-day-dining outlet at such properties, but amenities such as swimming pools and bars are rarely offered. By streamlining facilities, these hotels can offer competitive room rates by keeping the cost of overheads down. To complicate the issue, some properties describe themselves as select-service hotels, mostly to avoid the negative association with the word “limited”. As the term evolves, it has come to represent hotels that offer something more than the bare minimum, but are still not full-service hotels. Hotels that describe themselves as select-service tend to put a little more thought into the décor and design, such as Aloft by Starwood. Some hotel brands formerly described as limited-service are re-defining themselves to appeal to a wider audience. Accor, for example, has split its Ibis brand into Ibis, Ibis Style, and Ibis Budget, so new properties such as Ibis Siam Bangkok are marketed as full-service but budget-friendly. Whether hotels position themselves as limited-service or select-service, it’s ultimately about being cost effective. For business travellers on a budget, such properties offer an affordable solution to getting around without stretching the travel budget. Here are some of the best examples from around the region… OZO WESLEY HONG KONG THE BRAND Managed by Thai-based hospitality group Onyx, Ozo also owns serviced apartment Shama and other hotel brands Amari, Saffron and the Mosaic Collection. This limited-service brand made its global debut in July in Hong Kong and has plans to open properties in Sri Lanka (Colombo, Kandy, Galle) and Thailand (Pattaya and Koh Samui) over the next few years. THE PROMISE Technology is one of the brand’s selling points with rooms offering IPTV (which, in addition to the usual channels, offers a “counting sheep” cartoon featuring the hotel’s fluffy mascots) and a multimedia connectivity panel enabling guests to play music from their iPod/iPhone from the TV. Free wifi is available and check-in is done on an iPad. THE PROPERTY The hotel opened its doors earlier this year and features 251 guest rooms and suites, with sizes ranging from 20 sqm for a Sleep or Dream room to the 34 sqm Ozo suite, which offers a living area. There is also a gym and meeting space on the second floor. THE LOCATION Situated on Hennessy Road, one of the thoroughfares running through the Wan Chai and Causeway Bay business districts, the hotel is within walking distance from Pacific Place, a major retail/office/hotel complex atop Admiralty MTR station. Wan Chai station is about 10-15 minutes’ walk east. PRICE Rates start from HK$1,100 (US$142) per room per night (not including tax and service charge). www.ozohotels.com ALOFT KUALA LUMPUR SENTRAL THE BRAND Managed by Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Aloft’s offering is described as “style at a steal”. The brand is classified as a “speciality select brand” by Starwood and currently has 75 hotels worldwide with 20 more properties due to open within the next 12 months. THE PROMISE Renowned for its trendy approach, each property under the Aloft brand offers standardised services including a lounge area, bar, grab and go pantry service and complimentary wifi. Rooms feature almost three-metre high ceilings, 42-inch LCD TVs and multimedia connectivity panels. THE PROPERTY Opened in March this year, Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral offers 482 rooms, making it the largest Aloft property in the world. Room sizes range from 33 sqm for a Loft room to 61 sqm for the Breezy suite. Along with the standard Aloft offerings, the hotel features a 780 sqm ballroom and six meeting rooms totalling 369 sqm. There is also a 24/7 fitness centre and rooftop swimming pool. THE LOCATION Located adjacent to Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station, the hotel is a 28-minute train ride from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Many major corporate offices such as Samsung, BP Asia Pacific and General Electric are situated within a 2 km distance from the hotel. PRICE Opening rates start at RM310 (US$94) for a Loft room (not including tax and service charge). www.alofthotels.com HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS HONG KONG SOHO THE BRAND As a selected-service brand under the Intercontinental Hotels Group, Holiday Inn offers basic but comfortable and affordable accommodations globally. Targeted at business and leisure travellers, the brand has 38 operating hotels in Greater China with a further 35 in the pipeline. THE PROMISE All Holiday Inn Express hotels offer standardised amenities including complimentary high-speed internet and free breakfast. Guests are also given the choice of firm or soft pillows on request at check-in. THE PROPERTY The hotel opened its doors last September and features 274 guestrooms with four suites over 38 floors. All rooms are equipped with cable TV, dedicated workspaces, and private bathrooms. Rooms are 17 sqm, while suites are 35 sqm. Each suite has a separate living room and dining table. There is also a Thai restaurant on the second floor, which is managed and operated by a third party. The hotel additionally offers two meeting rooms with more than 89 sqm of space. THE LOCATION Based in Sheung Wan, the hotel is situated close to the financial heart of Hong Kong. The International Finance Centre (IFC) is within walking distance, as are several popular leisure attractions such as Soho, Lan Kwai Fong and Hollywood Road. The Sheung Wan MTR station is located nearby, which offers seamless access to the major business districts of Hong Kong Island and across the harbour into Kowloon. PRICE It costs HK$1,450 (US$187) for a room (not including tax and service charge). www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress IBIS BANGKOK SIAM THE BRAND Managed by the Accor Group, Ibis represents the group’s economy hotel chain. There are three different “personalities” within the Ibis brand itself – Ibis, Ibis Styles and Ibis Budget hotels. Currently, there are more than 900 Ibis properties globally. THE PROMISE Each of the three Ibis brands offer something different depending on its personality. Ibis hotels offer breakfast between 4am to midday, along with guarantees that services are completed within 15 minutes (if not, the service is free of charge). Ibis Styles offers chic interior designs where every floor is a different colour, and an all-inclusive price that includes breakfast and wifi. Guests at Ibis Budget hotels can also enjoy a self-service buffet breakfast. THE PROPERTY Ibis Bangkok Siam shares the same building with another Accor property, Mercure Bangkok Siam. However, both are entirely separate hotels with different identities. Falling under the Ibis hotels personality, Ibis Bangkok Siam opened this March and offers 189 guestrooms, all of which are 25 sqm. In-room amenities include air-conditioning, safe, LCD satellite TV, complimentary wifi, and tea and coffee making facilities. The hotel also has three meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 126 guests. Mercure Bangkok Siam’s rooftop swimming pool and fitness centre facilities are available to Ibis guests at an extra charge. THE LOCATION Situated near the entrance of the National Stadium BTS station, the hotel is minutes away from many of Bangkok’s top shopping, dining and entertainment venues, including MBK, Siam Paragon, Siam Centre, Siam Square and Central World. PRICE Prices start at THB2,269 (US$70) for the standard double bed room and the standard twin bed rooms (not including tax and service charge). Breakfast is not included. www.ibis.com IBIS HONG KONG CENTRAL AND SHEUNG WAN HOTEL THE BRAND AND PROMISE See previous page. THE PROPERTY The hotel opened last August and features 550 rooms. City view and harbour view rooms are 17 sqm, and offer double and twin bed configurations. There are also 12 rooms for the disabled, and 13 studio rooms. Both are only available in double bed configuration but are significantly larger at 25 sqm. All rooms offer complimentary wifi, and the hotel also offers an internet corner, along with a restaurant and bar. Free breakfast is provided for all guests. THE LOCATION The hotel is situated near several tourist attractions such as Western Market, Cat Street, Man Mo Temple, Hollywood Road, and Soho. It is also within walking distance of the financial centre, being 15 minutes walk away from IFC and Exchange Square. Sheung Wan MTR is located just two blocks down, and is just two stops away from Admiralty, the interchange station for the Tsuen Wan line towards Kowloon. PRICE A City  View room is HK$950 (US$122) and up. A buffet breakfast costs an additional HK$128 (US$16) per person. www.ibis.com CENTRA CENTRAL STATION HOTEL BANGKOK THE BRAND Managed by Thailand-based hospitality group Centara Hotels & Resorts, the Centra brand is a contraction of the Centara name and offers affordable hotels and resorts designed to exceed expectations, but not over-deliver. There are currently six Centra properties located in Bangkok, Koh Samui, Phuket and Bali. THE PROMISE In addition to being conveniently located, all Centra properties offer at least one restaurant, swimming pool, and a fitness centre. Wireless internet is provided for an extra charge. Most properties also have function rooms for meetings and gatherings. THE PROPERTY Opened this July, Centra Central Station Bangkok offers 150 guestrooms and suites with basic amenities including air-conditioning, flat-screen TV with international channels, tea and coffee making facilities, an in-room safe and wifi. Room sizes range from 28 sqm for Centra Superior and Centra Premium rooms and 64 sqm for Centra suites. The hotel has five meeting rooms, a fitness and spa centre, along with medical and laundry services. There are also three different dining options that offer Asian and international cuisine. THE LOCATION Situated at the entrance of China Town, the hotel is within walking distance of Hua Lamphong, Bangkok’s main railway station, which operates frequent train services to resort destinations and nearby provinces. For getting around the city, Hua Lamphong MRT underground station offers convenient commuting to popular destinations within Bangkok, including Sukhumvit, and the commercial area of Siam. PRICE  Expect to pay THB1,200 (US$37) for a Centra Superior room (not including tax and service charge). Breakfast is not provided. www.centarahotelsresorts.com TUNE HOTEL AHMEDABAD, GUJARAT THE BRAND Part of the Tune Group, a private investment group owned by Air Asia founder and chief executive Tony Fernandes, the brand currently has 32 properties in service and will expand its footprint to Australia this November with a hotel in Melbourne. THE PROMISE Billed as a hotel chain that offers “five star beds at one star prices”, Tune Hotels’ accommodation has a primary focus on essentials. One of its key selling points is providing actual five star beds custom-made by the bed makers that supply five-star hotels. Rooms are equipped with ensuite bathrooms that offer high-pressure showering facilities. The brand implements a “pay as you use” system for optional energy-consuming amenities, which allows for more flexibility, and even more reasonable accommodation prices. THE PROPERTY Tune Hotel Ahmedabad, Gujarat features 100 guestrooms, comprised of five different configurations. Along with the standard Single and Double rooms, the hotel also offers two Accessible rooms, specially designed for guests with disabilities, and two different types of Family rooms. Room sizes are small with Single rooms measuring 17.6 sqm in size, Double rooms at 19.5 sqm, Accessible rooms at 16 sqm, and Family rooms at 23.7 sqm. Services and amenities are stripped down to the most basic. There is a ceiling fan in each room along with a power socket, wardrobe unit, electronic safe, table and chair. However, the hotel does offer “optional Add-ons” that can be purchased including air conditioning, television, wifi and breakfast. There is also a Comfort Package, which combines several optional add-ons into a single discounted package. THE LOCATION The hotel is located within newly constructed 4D Square Mall in Ahmedabad. This helps to offset the hotel’s lack of amenities, as the mall offers meeting facilities, two banquet halls, and a four screen Multiplex cinema. The hotel is located along the Gandhinagar Highway, which provides a link between Ahmedabad city centre to the Gujarat capital of Gandhinagar. Leisure attractions include the Auto World Museum, the mosque of Sidi Sayed, Bhadra Fort, the Kankaria Lakefront and the Akshardaham Temple in Gandhinagar. PRICE A Single room without any optional add-ons costs Rs1,500 per night (US$23), excluding taxes. The Comfort Package, which includes 24 hour air conditioning, television and wifi, costs an additional Rs500 (US$8) if purchased online, or Rs600 (US$9) otherwise. Other add-ons costs range from Rs100 (US$1.6) for a toiletries kit to Rs600 (US$9) for a two-way airport shuttle service. www.tunehotels.com   BUDGET-FRIENDLY BRANDS TO WATCH OUT FOR HAMPTON BY HILTON An up-and-coming value brand, Hampton by Hilton is part of the Hampton hotel chain, and its primary base of operations is the UK, where it has 12 properties. It also has hotels in Germany, Poland, Romania, The Netherlands and Turkey. The brand recently entered the Asian market with a hotel in India, Hampton by Hilton Vadodara-Alkapuri. While there are only a total of 20 properties that carry the Hampton by Hilton brand, the Hampton chain includes more than 1,800 hotels worldwide. www.hamptonbyhilton.com HYATT PLACE Described as a select-service brand, Hyatt Place was established when the Hyatt Group acquired Ameri Suites in 2004. Today, the brand has over 160 properties worldwide. Designed with business travellers in mind, the Hyatt Place brand focuses on creating convenient accommodation for those that need to multi-task in a technology enabled, contemporary environment. Hot food is available around the clock, and rooms offer large flat screen televisions with ports for laptop plug-ins. Currently, the brand’s Asian footprint is limited to two properties in India, Hyatt Place Hampi and Hyatt Place Pune, which opened this October. www.place.hyatt.com ELEMENT BY WESTIN Like Aloft, Element by Westin is a “speciality select brand” of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. The brand is heavily influenced by nature, and takes an eco-friendly approach with recycled carpets, and low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint to improve air quality. Primarily based in the US and Canada, expansion of the brand will soon lead to a new property each in Europe (2014) and the Middle East (2016). Element will also be entering the Asia Pacific region for the first time, with Element Suzhou Science and Technology Town due to open its doors in China by 2015. This 200-room property will house a 600 sqm ball room and six meeting rooms. www.starwoodhotels.com/element
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