Spotlight on: the role of micro-hotels

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They say good things come in small packages, but does that include hotel rooms? With Hilton recently announcing the launch of their new micro-hotel brand, Motto, firmly cementing the genre's place in the urban hotel landscape, Click. takes a look at the steady rise of the micro-hotel scene

Small rooms, impeccably designed and with a firm focus on stylish communal space seem to be the general brief for micro-hotels in 2018. In October, Hilton announced the launch of their latest brand, Motto by Hilton, an affordable micro-hotel built in prime city locations, launching with Marylebone, London in 2020 which will offer rooms around 14 square metres with loft or folding beds, compact showrooms and fold-up furnishings.

Micro-hotels largely focus on popular urban locations, like London, New York and Amsterdam. If you're spending the weekend in a buzzing city, the chances are you won't be spending much time in your hotel room. “Big chains like Hilton and Marriott are now introducing micro-hotel brands like Motto and Moxy to target the millennial audience who are looking for affordable, design-focused rooms in central locations,” says Lucy Huxley, Editor-in-Chief of the Travel Weekly Group.

She says it’s most likely a response to the rocketing popularity of holiday-style rentals in tourist-centric cities like London and Barcelona.

Prioritising social spaces

Japan lays claim to the first wave of micro-hotels with the then-unique capsule hotels back in the 1970s, offering small, space-age sleeping pods at a fraction of the price of a normal hotel. While micro-hotels have slightly larger sleeping spaces, the small but stylish, and most importantly, affordable brief is still adhered to. A hybrid between a modern city hotel and a trendy hostel, BD Hotels opened their first Pod Hotel in 2007 in New York City. While their affordable rooms are famously bijou, they certainly don't scrimp in other areas and offer rooftop terraces overlooking Manhattan, slick bars and modern diners across Manhattan, Williamsburg and Brooklyn. There’s also a Pod Hotel in Washington DC and plans to open one in LA next spring.

"We’ve seen a marked increase in our customers opening micro-hotels," says Anna Gillespie from Vision Support Services, a luxury linen supplier to global hotel brands.

"Certainly the changing demographic of the traveller has a part to play in its growing popularity, but we’re seeing hoteliers actively prioritise social spaces over bedroom size. They’re looking to attract a social savvy traveller and this means that this ‘third space’ is top of the agenda," explains Gillespie.

Another boutique brand to embrace the micro trend is Arlo Hotels which opened the US’s first four-star micro-hotel, Arlo Hudson Square in Manhattan in 2016 with cleverly designed rooms just 15 square metres. While Netherlands-based CitizenM, another big player on the style scene, opens its third Asian micro-hotel in Kuala Lumpur at the end of 2018. But it's not just the big-name chains who are moving into the market. Zoku in Amsterdam is a sleek independent hotel with a firm focus on community areas rather than spacious rooms.

Surge of micro-hotels

It is a well documented fact that the success of holiday rentals has caused mixed emotions in some destinations and several major cities, including Amsterdam, Barcelona and Singapore, have enforced short-term rental restrictions which limits how often owners can rent out their rooms. Others might argue that it’s important that residents and communities in popular destinations can benefit financially from incoming tourism to their city.

Amy McCulloch, Joint Managing Director of Eight&Four, the communications agency behind Melia Hotels International, says: “With the option to accommodate large groups, customise design-led rooms with lighting and fold-up furniture, plus large communal areas for socialising, all at budget prices, suddenly the micro-hotel feels like a better option. And you get your own bathroom."

When it comes down to it, it seems affordable micro-hotels are a positive boon to the urban hotel scene and as travellers only continue to get more savvy with their spend, it’s likely they’re here to stay.

Hero image: credit to Nik Lanus

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Small rooms, impeccably designed yet affordable are the key factors to the micro-hotel, as well as trendy bars and communal work hubs to bring guests together
Focus on good design. Clever use of efficient storage units, fold-down desks and sleek, compact bathrooms can make the most of minimal space
Affordable micro-hotels which don’t scrimp on style or substance, have plenty of hi-tech, and attractive communal areas will always secure a place in the urban market
With the option to accommodate large groups with small design-led rooms with large social spaces and budget prices, micro-hotels offer an alternative to short-term rentals