Future is bright for Yotel
Boston Herald | Jessica Van Sack
October 31, 2016
With hotels suffering from Airbnb disruption, there’s one offbeat, rapidly expanding chain that may have found the industry’s antidote — and it’s coming to Boston’s Seaport District next year.
The chain is Yotel, a playful, technology-packed take on modern hospitality, where virtually everything that can be automated is automated, in which sofas transform electronically to beds and a robot whisks away your luggage.
Based on a romanticized version of the luxury airliner travel of yore, but updated with a hipster vibe and too much purple uplighting, the Yotel concept is guaranteed to seem foreign to anyone over the age of 40. On a recent stay at Yotel’s flagship New York City location, I found the futuristic decor and all the purple glowing walls a bit much. But ultimately, smart rooms and even smarter prices (in my case under $200/night for a room with a bunk bed) may win over even the stodgiest among us, like a pair of baby boomers I met in the elevator — they could have done without the club music, but they loved their room and the price. Yotel may even claw back some market share from newfangled online services, a belief that is fueling furious expansion around the globe.
As a Herald investigation found last week, the sharing economy hasn’t just disrupted the hotel industry, but also left a raft of unintended consequences such as the removal of desperately needed housing stock from the real estate market.
But much like the taxi industry’s resistance to ride-hailing apps, hotels are their own worst enemy. Rather than meeting this challenge with innovation, large resort chains seem to think the answer to their Airbnb woes lies with mergers, acquisitions and rewards programs (as if families, international travelers and millennials have all embraced house-swapping and renting apartments and homes because hotels didn’t quite give them enough of those Marriott Rewards points).
Yotel began as a way for tired travelers to rest at the airport, but somewhere along the way, the chain — now expanding to San Francisco, Miami, Brooklyn, Singapore and more — began to zero in on a hotel experience that is more clever, convenient, social and less expensive.
Those four attributes also happen to be why travelers now peruse Airbnb listings before they go to hotels.com these days. (It’s just plain clever to stay in someone’s vacant room or their home while they’re away, it’s convenient because of the household amenities, and it’s social because you get to meet your hosts. Often, Airbnb rooms are just plain cheaper than hotels as well.)
Yotel features a self-service airline-style check-in that greets you upon entry into an area called Ground Control. Guests can store their bags using an automated ¬Yobot that will keep bags safely locked before check-in and after check-out. No more waiting for a concierge to hunt through a locked room to find your suitcase. The process takes 30 seconds.
But the automation isn’t about replacing humans, in fact it’s the opposite. Yotel says they’ve freed up the staff to attend to the needs of guests that can’t be automated.