By Michael Farion, Architect
I know it seems odd to talk about compact spaces and tight sleeping quarters in the time of social distancing. Even after COVID-19 has left our collective memories, the ever-pressing issues of globalization, density, real estate values and economies of scale are still important precepts that mankind must deal with in the future.
“May you live in interesting times.” - Sir Austen Chamberlain
Left: Windows in the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel are illuminated in a heart shape during the Coronavirus outbreak in Boston. (Michael Dwyer/AP) / Right: The Intercontinental San Francisco has lit up its windows on the front exterior of the building, in the shape of a heart (Douglas Zimmerman/SFGate)
Micro hotels provide an economical solution to global travel. It offers the traveler affordable room rates that are competitive with the Airbnb marketplace. The term “micro hotel” was coined back in 2007 by Ira Drukier. He opened Pod 39 in Times Square. It became an alternative to travel savvy millennials who did not want to spend a lot of time in their room but wanted to spend more time visiting the sites of cosmopolitan urban destinations such as New York, Rome, London and Bangkok to name a few. These urban center’s see their populations increase exponentially during their tourist seasons. For example: London is home to 8.7 million people but welcomes more than 19.9 million tourists annually. Images: Pod 39 New York
Micro hotels appeal to many different groups such as, senior citizens, millennials, business travelers and backpackers. They are particularly attractive to hotel developers to build and operate, as they can pack in more guest rooms than in a typical hotel on the same site. Micro hotels are inspired by the Japanese capsule or pod hotels of 40 years ago that offered cheap, tiny accommodations to businessmen. This tradition continues today throughout Japan. Images: Manga Art Hotel - Room | Yotel Singapore Self-Service Kiosk
The average hotel room area is approximately 330sq feet. While a micro hotel room could be less than 120 square feet. Some hotel rooms such as Manga Art Hotel in Tokyo offer little more than a cozy bed with communal social areas. The smaller room areas offer an easier way to clean the space with no carpet to vacuum, no furniture to dust etc. Yotel Singapore provides a self-serve check-in kiosk iPad greets guests at this chic space-age artistic hotel.
Micro hotels are the perfect solution for anyone who is barely going to be in their room. From conference participants to busy tourists, a Micro hotel is a good balance between comfort, amenities, and affordability for anyone who just needs a clean, cozy bed.
Images: Moxy New York | Mama Shelter - France
Micro hotel lobbies such as Moxy brand sometimes offer work by local artists; food and drink from popular local purveyors; and activities for guests and other visitors.
Mama Shelter, for instance, offers free access to foosball tables and photo and video booths in the lobbies of many of its properties, Mama Shelter also offers unique local dining choices and chilled places to relax.
Best of all, micro hotels are affordable! Sometimes they can cost as little as half the price of a regularly sized hotel room. It is hard to ignore a deal like that.
During the current pandemic where 3 out of every 4 hotel rooms are vacant, major hotel chains such as Hilton, Marriott, and Hyatt to name a few are introducing strict cleaning protocols for their thousands of properties globally. Expect less furniture to make way for more social distancing in lobbies and other public areas. Hand sanitizing stations will be highly visible. So will housekeepers, whose role moves from behind-the-scenes to center stage as they frequently and conspicuously wipe down railings, elevator buttons and door handles with hospital-grade disinfectants. Marriot will also be introducing a guest checkin service via their smartphone for their 3200 properties globally. Hilton Honors provides an Apple and Android App for users to download onto their smartphone, thus allowing their guests to check-in and enter the room using their smartphone.
“You can’t just tell people you’re cleaning; you have to let them see people cleaning,” said Jonathon Day, associate professor at Purdue University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in West Lafayette, Ind. “These companies need to be transparent about what they’re doing and demonstrate it, so we have a sense of comfort.
Sooner or later life will return to normal or a NEW normal in the short term, just like the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919 and the Hong Kong Flu of 1968 left us so will COVID-19 leave us as well. Efforts to provide travelers with a relatively inexpensive mode of accommodation will always be sought out in the future.
Notes and additional reading:
Pod 39 New York: https://www.thepodhotel.com/pod-39/
Manga Art Hotel: https://mangaarthotel.com/index-en.html
Moxy Times Square: http://moxytimessquare.com/explore/.
Mama Shelter: https://www.mamashelter.com/en/london/restaurants
Hilton Honors: https://hiltonhonors3.hilton.com/en/hhonors-mobile-app/digital-key.html
Hilton Honors - This was introduced in 2018 Pre-Pandemic
Michael is an Architect at Number TEN Architectural Group