News

Yotel eyes global expansion

14 Jun 2011 by BusinessTraveller

Capsule hotel chain Yotel opened its fourth property and first city centre hotel last week, and is eyeing up further airport properties in Paris, Heathrow, Abu Dhabi and New York.

Created by Yo! Sushi founder Simon Woodroffe and CEO Gerard Greene, and with financial backing from Kuwait-based IFA Hotels and Resorts, Yotel opened a 669-room hotel In New York last week, adding to three existing airport properties at Heathrow, Gatwick and Amsterdam Schiphol.

Located around ten minutes’ walk from Times Square, on the corner of West 42nd Street and 10th Avenue, the new property has seen Yotel adapt its windowless, capsule-style cabins to suit a city centre market, with larger rooms and extensive public areas featuring a Japanese restaurant and what is reputedly the largest outdoor terrace in the city.

The Yotel DNA remains though, with minimalist, ultra-modern rooms, and impressive technology including free wifi throughout the hotel and beds which convert electronically into sofas. Yotel collaborated with design agency the Rockwell Group on the hotel, responsible for projects including the first W hotel in New York and Jet Blue’s new terminal at JFK.

In keeping with the youthful feel of the brand the hotel also features a Yobot – a huge mechanical arm located in the ground floor check-in area, which guests can watch take their excess luggage and deposit it into an individual locker to avoid taking up precious guestroom space. 

To promote the Yobot the hotel has produced a spoof animation interviewing other famous robots for the Yobot position, including Robocop and The Terminator - a PR stunt, possibly, but another example of the brand challenging the established thinking for hotel amenities. To views videos of the "interview", and the Yobot in action, click on the links above.

When the brand launched at Gatwick airport back in 2007 there was talk of a city centre property following suit in central London. While this has not been discounted entirely, the economic downturn and banking crisis has made financing such a project more difficult, with Greene admitting that despite extensive searches “in the end it was harder to do a 150-room hotel in London than it was to agree a 700-room project in New York”.

But London’s loss is New York’s gain, as the group is currently bidding on a second property in the city, this time a more familiar airport hotel within the iconic TWA building at JFK airport. Bidding is also underway on what would be Yotel’s first French property at Paris CDG, and there are plans for a second Heathrow hotel at Terminal 3.

The group has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Abu Dhabi National Hotels to develop city centre and airport properties within the emirate.

Green refers to the Yotel offering as “affordable luxury” – an enticing tag line when companies are still looking to keep costs down. When I visited the New York property in its first week of opening, the public areas were buzzing with guests ranging from business travellers working on laptops over their (free) continental breakfast, to backpackers and elderly couples.

Business Traveller will be publishing a full review of the new hotel in the forthcoming July / August issue – for previous news and reviews of existing Yotel properties, visit businesstraveller.com/tags/yotel.

Visit yotel.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

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