YOTEL

Stuck at CDG? YotelAir might be an option

Beside the great name, the Yotel concept is pretty clever: small, hip, ship-cabin inspired hotel rooms bookable for short stays at airports.

There are Yotels in London at both Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and one in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

There’s also non-airport Yotel in New York City and a few more in-city Yotels planned, including in Boston and Singapore.

I’ve stayed at the Heathrow Yotel when it first opened and more than once at the in-city Yotel in New York City.

With the November opening of a Yotel post-security at Charles de Gaulle airport – in the Terminal 2E transit lounge area known as ‘Instant Paris’ – Yotel has rebranded their airport properties as YotelAir (makes sense) and added some fresh new amenities.

In addition to the amenities inside the rooms -space-saving adjustable beds, bathrooms with monsoon rain showers, mood lighting, Wi-Fi and HD TVs, in the hotel’s public area there’s a vending wall for drinks, snacks and travel essentials and a lounge with complimentary hot drinks.

Rates: “Premium” cabins – for two- are currently  €75 ($80) for 4 hours or from €115 (about $122) for an overnight stay. Family cabins – for four – are €95 (about $101) for 4 hours or  €135 (about $145) for overnight.  For those who just need a pre-or-post flight ‘Wash and Go,’ there are Shower Cabins that rent for €15 ($16) for 45 minutes.

I’ll be visiting and, hopefully, staying at this new Yotel in early February, so will share a full report then.

 

 

Yotel’s YobotSanta giving out gifts

yobotlarge

If you’ve ever spent a few hours at a Yotel in Heathrow, Gatwick or Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, then you know these short stay hotels with compact rooms are a blessing for those who need to nap and recharge after a long flight or be at the gate really, really early in the morning.

There’s an off-airport Yotel in New York City that still has compact rooms, but it operates more like a ‘regular’ hotel, with full day rates, a restaurant and a place in the lobby to store luggage.

But luggage storage is unusual in that there’s a giant robotic arm – called the Yobot – that puts luggage in a lobby vault and retrieves it when asked.

Yotel is turning the Yobot into YobotSanta this season: the Yobot may bring guests staying at the Yotel New York a gift from the vault before storing their luggage – and YobotSanta is also giving away gifts online.

You can choose a virtual YOBOT bin each day for a chance to win a range of travel surprises, such as round-trip travel certificates on JetBlue, two-night Yotel stays in New York and luggage and travel accessories from Flight 001.

Go play here

Crowdfunding comes to hotels

I’ve been keeping an eye on Yotel ever since my short stay inside one of the hotel brand’s tiny short-stay “cabins” at London’s Heathrow Airport.

So I was especially interested in working on this story for CNBC about how crowdfunding is being incorporated into the fundraising plan for a Yotel to be built in San Francisco:

Yotel Room mockup, June 2010Designed by Rockwell group, NY

The online money-raising craze that made possible both the Pebble smartwatch and the Oculus Rift virtual reality system is now becoming a trend in the hotel hospitality industry.

Crowdfunding is being used to help raise funds to transform a historic building in San Francisco’s gentrifying Mid-Market neighborhood into a hip, high-tech YOTEL-branded hotel.

In a joint venture with a Kuwaiti real estate company named AQARAT, New York-based real estate investment firm, Synapse Development Group is spearheading the redevelopment of 1095 Market Street.

If all goes according to plan, the antiquated office building will soon become a 203-room hotel. It will be the city’s first hotel partly financed via crowdfunding and will be located just blocks from the headquarters of tech heavyweights Uber and Twitter.

“We thought crowdfunding a small portion [10 to 15 percent] of the equity on this deal would fit with the ethos of the neighborhood, given the demographic of the young, millennial, tech-heavy crowd that is there day-to-day,” said Justin Palmer, Synapse’s CEO.

“It’s a good way to encourage local buy-in on the project,” said Palmer. “These people can reap investment benefits as owners and also actually visit the property, go to the restaurant, the roof top bar and get owners’ discounts on room rates.”

Synapse isn’t the first company to crowdfund a hotel, however. In 2014, the Hard Rock Hotel in Palm Springs used the platform to raise $1.5 million to help refinance and renovate the property. For a minimum investment of $10,000, individuals became equity owners and received a package of VIP guest perks.

Real estate crowdfunding site RealCrowd is hosting the YOTEL San Francisco offering, which is open to accredited investors. In addition to equity ownership, investors are being offered Kickstarter-type perks, such as t-shirts, annual parties and personalized perks at investment tiers starting at a minimum of $25,000.

“They’re trying to marry the concepts from the last generation of crowdfunding, when you were just a supporter to being also an owner,” said Mitch Roschelle, partner and real estate advisory leader at PwC, “but there are a lot of complicated security laws you need to deal with.”

A lot of those security laws are still quite new, dating back to the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which was signed into law in April 2012. That eased some fundraising and advertising restrictions for small companies.

With real estate crowdfunding growing globally, from $1 billion in 2014 to a projected $2.5 billion in 2015, Roschelle thinks it’s a growing trend — and one that makes sense for hotels.

“A lot of crowdfunding has been in the intellectual property space, for movies and start-up businesses,” said Roschelle. “It was inevitable that crowdfunding would make its way to properties where investors could visit or even stay at the very place they funded.”

According to Crowdnetic, which tracks crowd financing, since September 2013 there have been over 300 securities-based crowdfunded real estate development and investments offerings out of 6,260. Twelve of those have been for hotel properties.

Of that number, “10 … have been successful, and I would not be surprised if the early successful hotel offerings spurred other hotel and lodging properties to come on board with this still-new capital-formation tool,” said Janet Rosenblum, Crowdnetic’s director of research.

Synapse’s YOTEL underscores how the real estate industry is grappling with major changes in how to build and finance projects.

“With technology and the regulatory changes, there’s been a transformational shift in how people manage their money,” said Adam Hooper, co-founder and CEO of RealCrowd, “We’re still building a stadium and I don’t even know if the game has started yet.”

YO! Sushi at Copenhagen Airport

yo sushi copenhagen

What’s better than really fresh and really tasty sushi at the airport?

Sushi that comes to you on a conveyor belt.

YO! Sushi, the ‘running’ sushi restaurant that started in London and now has 74 restaurants worldwide, just opened a branch at Copenhagen Airport. There, the sushi moves along a 230-foot-long conveyor belt at just over 3 inches per minute – giving diners time to peruse the offerings, make a decision and pick up a dish – or wait a few seconds for something tastier-looking to come along.

Sound like fun? This entertaining dining option is also available at Edinburgh Airport and and Heathrow Airport T2 and T3.

yo sushi

The people who invented Yo! Sushi didn’t stop with restaurants. They’re also the folks behind the Yotel – the hotels located at Heathrow, Gatwick and Amerstardam airports that offer cabin-like rooms where you can relax and refresh before, after or between flights. The concept has been so popular that there’s now a Yotel in New York City and plans to open additional Yotels at Singapore Changi and Paris Charles DeGaulle Airport and addiitional off-airport Yotels on Orchard Street in Singapore, in Brooklyn, NY, San Francisco, and Miami within the next two or three years.

Big plans for Yotel hotel chain of tiny rooms

If you’ve endured long layovers at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport or at London’s Heathrow or Gatwick airports, Yotel may already be part of your travel vocabulary.

Yotel Room mockup, June 2010Designed by Rockwell group, NY

New York City Yotel room – Courtesy Yotel

Since 2007, the small chain has been well-known for its short-stay, in-terminal hotels offering hip, ultra space-saving rooms inspired by the design of first-class airplane cabins. Because the average stay is about seven hours, these locations have a very healthy 200 percent occupancy rate.

The brand’s first off-airport hotel was the 669-room Yotel New York, which opened near Times Square in 2011 and quickly became popular with both leisure and business travelers seeking affordable, amenity-rich lodging in one of the world’s most expensive cities.

“It’s a mix of tourists looking for a bargain and business people on a budget,” said Chris Heywood of NYC & Company, the city’s marketing and tourism organization. “You feel like you’re in a cool place, but the amenities make it easy to get business done.”

Now a deal has been announced for construction of a 600-room Yotel on Singapore’s bustling main shopping street, Orchard Road, which is home to numerous upscale malls and many four- and five-star luxury hotels.

“Yotel is another fantastic partner, bringing its unique ‘affordable luxury’ and offering travelers even more flexibility in their accommodations selection in the heart of our central district,” said Serene Tan, regional director for Singapore Tourism Board Americas.

Singapore’s Yotel opening is set for 2018.

“We want to use the Singapore deal as a springboard for expansion into Asia and are targeting a number of cities and airports there,” said Yotel CEO Gerard Greene. Meantime, he said, additional Yotel properties are being planned for other major cities and their airports in the United States and Europe. Details about some of these locations will be available in a few weeks, but Greene is confident “there will be sites that will open before Singapore.”

Rooms (“cabins” in Yotel-speak) at the Singapore and other in-city Yotels will have the same ergonomically attentive, compact design as those in New York. There, basic “premium” cabins are about 170 square feet (small even by New York City standards, but larger than the 100 square-foot airport cabins) and include a motorized bed that converts to a couch, a large flat-screen TV and a small desk with multiple power ports. A curtain separates the work/sleep space from the sink, shower and toilet nook, and there are complimentary hot beverages in a 24-hour kitchen on each floor. Room rates (which in New York begin around $200,) include robust property-wide Wi-Fi and a breakfast of muffins and tea and coffee.

Yotel robot

Yobot robot stores luggage at New York City Yotel – photo Harriet Baskas

There’s no word yet on whether any of the new Yotels will have a robotic arm, or Yobot, like the one that can be seen tirelessly storing and retrieving luggage in the lobby of the Yotel New York, but I sure hope so.

(My story about the expansion of the Yotel hotel chain first appeared on the CNBC Road Warrior blog)