Each time I return to New York City, I try to somehow find inspiration from the unique and unfamiliar by staying in a different boutique hotel. Luckily, the city that birthed Ian Schrager never disappoints, and neither did my recent stay at YOTEL NYC during the HSMAI Conference in February (so much so that’s it’s stayed top of mind ever since).
I mention the HSMAI Conference since YOTEL is already doing so much of what the audience learned from this year’s event. That is – remember to always stay agile in a cluttered marketplace, and try to solve the problems your guests are actually having instead of creating problems that will fit your solution << Insert iBeacon Technology Here >>.
YOTEL understands this – and by operating this way, they’re well ahead of the curve. Here are a couple of ways that they’re thriving:
1 – Use of Space
I spoke with Isabelle Matter, General Manager of YOTEL San Francisco (opening end of 2017), and she explained that “YOTEL’s success lies in their ability to create comfort and luxury in compact spaces by using clever design and technology.” At first mention, you might think that comfort and compact spaces are contradictory, but it turns out luxury isn’t alway about gluttony. Just look to various markets (i.e; car sizes outside of the United States or the current tiny house craze) for real world examples. YOTEL has picked up on this and is expecting these consumers to look for something more comfy, familiar, and affordable as the many followers of this trend visit cities across the globe.
Oftentimes, less is more, and the YOTEL Cabins are a prime example of this in practice. Each last nook of space is utilized in a non-cluttered manner, while some areas even holds multiple purposes. From the bed that turns into a couch come day time (in a fashionable, non-murphy bed way) to the rain shower tucked away in the corner; every last bit of space is utilized in such a manner that provides ultimate comfort to the guest and doesn’t include any of the unnecessary.
But it doesn’t stop there. YOTEL properties are built with every inch of space (even the empty) in mind, and the proof is in their mix of private black box/urban entertainment hall, Green Room 42. Both the theater kid and business traveler in me finds this a great use of space. It’s the perfect place to put on a performance (and what a nice perk being in close proximity to Broadway) or – paired with the massive terrace and tech filled meeting rooms – create an intimate setting for breakaways during meetings or private events at night.
Here we have one single room that’s constantly being repurposed and booked out. Safe to ask – why doesn’t every hotel have this kind of versatility to their space? It seems YOTEL had this in mind while laying the first brick and it would appear to be paying off as groups seemed to be flooding through during my stay.
2 – Use of Tech
Though some might expect to walk into a YOTEL and have Rosie The Maid from The Jetsons welcome them, the tech is anything but overwhelming. In fact, YOTEL has found a way to use just enough tech to give it the futuristic feel, without the innervation of being in a new, Orwellian-esque world.
I was afraid YOTEL would turn out to be one big gimmick, but instead I was surprised by how comfortable I felt despite the overall tech feel.
The “wow factor” seems to be a big reason why everyone associates YOTEL with tech – and every YOTEL will have their own individual “wow factor” like the YOBOT in NYC (robotic luggage storage pictured in header). Yes, they have a good deal of tech sprinkled throughout the property as well, but it’s this one aspect that thrives at giving off the feel as soon as you walk through the door (not to mention the brilliant amount of press it drags in).
Yet, the majority of tech on property isn’t there just to impress — other than the YOBOT, it’s there to assist the guest and make their experience less painful and more exciting. The self check-in kiosk is a prime example, as it allows guests to breeze through check-in and adds a nice sense of control to the experience from the get-go.
The list goes on, but the futuristic feel is just enough to add to the ambiance and I loved exploring every last bit of this property. It feels as if you’re exploring a new world, but it’s still one that you can understand and feel comfortable in as the tech is lightly sprinkled in between the beautiful futuristic design.
All this being said, I’d still love to see more of the human element than just the one concierge in the lobby corner when arriving at a YOTEL, and think it could help in the long run. For example, I couldn’t help but notice that many people were coming off the street to view the YOBOT in the lobby. This could be a great opportunity to introduce people to the other amenities with a few humans present – in addition to the kiosks and bots. Maybe someday we’ll have artificial intelligence doing it all but until then, humans still have the best understanding of human needs – and it might provide some comfort to first time guests while they’re branching out into the new experience that YOTEL provides.
Hotelier Bonus: For those hoteliers out there, it turns out YOTEL is actually staying agile with their use of internal tech as well. Good to keep in mind as many still suffer through archaic systems day after day.
Whether or not the YOTEL model sticks, only time will tell. But for now, the boutique-hotel-loving-techie in me is a big fan, and I’d be surprised if occupancy ever goes down with the incredible average daily rate (ADR) this hotel boasts for such a popular city. Even more, this is the first hotel in a while that I could recommend to ANYONE (from my backpacker hostel friends to savvy bleisure travelers), and that’s not a bad “níche” to start with.
In the meantime, make sure to check out one of their five existing locations and make up your own mind on this model. They’ll have a few more opening this year – one in Boston, one in Singapore, and one in San Francisco. You won’t be disappointed.
Disclaimer: We don’t work with YOTEL and no payments were made for us to write this article. This is literally just a fan-boy article that my boss somehow gave the go ahead on.