By the hour microstays add to big hotels’ bottom line

Dayuse

There are reasons to rent a hotel room for a few hours during the day, aside from a romantic rendezvous.

Published on www.nytimes.com | 23/12/2013 | Direct link

The brief respite can help travelers pass the time before an evening flight, prepare for a meeting or freshen up between a long day’s events. Now more hotels, seeing an opportunity, are offering rooms and meeting facilities by the hour in an attempt to increase revenue.

Day rates, in hotel parlance, have become microstays.

The concept of a short hotel stay is not new. Japanese “capsule hotels” have long provided small sleeping spaces for businessmen who worked or partied past their subway’s closing time, and at “love hotels,” couples find privacy for a few hours. Day-use rooms had been offered in Europe but started becoming more common during the economic downturn when fewer people were traveling. Now microstays are catching on in America as well.

“Hotels needed ways to boost their revenue,” said Michelle Grant, travel and tourism research manager for Euromonitor, a global market research firm. “So more of them started renting guest rooms for less than 24 hours.”

Lisa Clarke, chief executive of Rally, a Seattle marketing firm, takes overnight flights to the East Coast to meet with clients and conduct interviews. She often rents a hotel room in Newark or Atlanta for a few hours when she arrives. “I schedule my first meeting for the late morning,” she said, “so I have time to take a nap, shower and prep for the day ahead.”

Websites like Dayuse-hotels.com, Between9and5.com and ByHours.com list hotels that offer the shorter stays. Recently, a room at the Ibis London Blackfriars hotel cost 130 pounds, or $212, for one night, and £60 to stay between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

American hotels like the Hilton Garden Inn Chelsea in New York and the Sofitel Miami are following the microstay model and appearing on day-use booking sites.

“The U.S. hotels have been a little slower to adopt the idea, perhaps due to the seedy connotation of rendezvousing couples,” Ms. Grant said, “but people are asking for customized everything when they travel, including check-in and checkout times,” so it is a natural service to offer.

Short stays offer an alternative to sitting in a terminal for customers with a long transit layover, so many of the hotels offering them are near airports in the United States, and train and bus stations in Europe.

“Customers will pay to spend eight hours in a hotel where they can use the gym, shower, take a nap,” Ms. Grant said, rather than sitting on a hard plastic chair in a waiting room. Cruise passengers who arrive early at their departure city may rent a room to relax in before they board their ship later.

Dan Austin, president of Austin-Lehman Adventures, a travel planning company, often books travelers who are going to be on an overnight international flight in a hotel room for a few hours to rest before their plane departs. He has used Oro Verde in Guayaquil, Ecuador and InterContinental in Johannesburg. Microstays can be easier for large hotels to offer because they almost always have rooms available outside of evening hours, and employ an all-hours cleaning staff that can get a day room ready for an evening check-in.

For hotels, it all comes down to generating more revenue out of the same space.

“Hotels own a physical asset 365 days a year,” said Bill Carroll, who teaches graduate-level courses in pricing at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, “and they need to maximize revenue for every square centimeter 24 hours a day.”

More short-stay options look to be on the way. Alfredo Munoz, principal at ABIBOO Architecture, is designing a hotel concept for a Spanish company focused on microstays.

“We are prototyping hotels that are quick to build and made of recycled materials that would offer a room and kitchenette for guests who need a short rest, or perhaps even just a quick shower,” he said. The first of these hotels will be near ferry docks in Spain, Sweden and England offering a layover option that is less expensive than a room at a brand-name chain hotel.

More common than guest rooms by the hour are new hourly hotel meeting spaces for workers who want a place to land with their laptop for a while, or hold short business gatherings.

Kelly McCourt, director of sales and marketing for Smyth TriBeCa, a Thompson Hotel in New York, said the hotel started offering shorter meeting room rentals about six months ago based on requests from clients in fashion and film and this month decided to market the shorter rentals.

Seattle’s Hotel 1000, a member of the Preferred Hotel Group, started a pop-up office this year that offers beverages, snacks, high-speed Wi-Fi and a place to work for $15 and up to $35 a day if the guest wants valet parking and lunch. It is open to hotel guests as well as the public.

Marriott International created Workspace on Demand in 2013, transforming some of the lesser-used public spaces in its hotels into meeting rooms that can be rented by the hour.

Westin Hotels is rolling out a service called Tangent to locations worldwide, offering meeting and work spaces equipped with sound systems, printers, whiteboards and office supplies as well as Xbox game systems.

Other hourly meeting spaces can take on a variety of forms. The Kitano New York offers a Japanese-inspired tearoom. Topaz, a Kimpton Hotel in Washington, rents out the Zen Den, which is decorated with low couches and pillows in an eastern motif.

Tina Leone, chief executive of the Ballston Business Improvement District, held a short meeting with her team at the Westin Arlington Gateway’s Tangent work space last week to plan the coming Taste of Arlington event.

“The two large screens let us review the budget on one and compose outgoing emails on the other,” she said. “We’re not in cubicles anymore and environments like this are how people really want to work.”

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