Prepping for the US Pod Hotel Invasion.
By Melanie Nayer ~ Weekly Exclusive Column
Wednesday, 25th April 2012
The concept of capsule hotels are nothing new in Asia; Japan conceived the concept years ago with 'pods' at airports, and the trend caught on fast thanks to rushed travelers needing a quick place to sleep for a few hours before heading on to their next flight.

The capsule concept got a little bigger when it entered the Europe, setting up shop in London's airports and reinventing itself into larger "nap pods", set up in between gates in Munich's airport. But can the smaller room, higher technology hotel room work in New York?

Hotels in New York vary in just about everything: size, function, price, location, design, food and beverage, and even guests. While most international travelers know New York for its luxury hotels, one new hotel in Hell's Kitchen has captured the eyes of international travelers and local New Yorkers, thanks in most part to its simple form and function.

The Yotel just opened last year and is already drawing in guests who want nothing more than a clean room and a cool vibe at a reasonable price.  The New York hotel has garnered rave reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and Hotels.com, and is a fan favorite for business travelers with short connections through London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

With only 12 hours to spare in New York City, I opted to check out the Yotel and see what all the fuss it about. Slightly larger than the typical "pod" hotel room, the Yotel takes its cue from Japanese-designed capsule hotels and adds just a little more space, and a lot of functionality.

The hotel takes almost an entire city block, but its compact rooms are what the most impact - a small space workable for travelers thanks to technology in every corner.

There are a few various room types and all the rooms include the basics you'd need for a night: bathroom amenities, hairdryer, lighted mirrors, flat-screen TV with airport flight times for JFK, LGA and Newark, endless outlets for plugging in, and a heated towel rack (which I considered the "luxury" of the room). The suites are a little more luxurious - and certainly larger - some with rotating circular beds, pool tables, fireplaces, hot tubs and wrap-around terraces. There aren't coffee makers or mini bars in the rooms, but on each floor there is a "galley" area that has water, coffee, tea, and a vending machine.

The common areas include three bars, one Asian-fusion restaurant, an outdoor terrace, fitness center, meeting space and lounge. For the transient business traveler, the lounge area also has private rooms with windows overlooking the city, flat-screen TVs, desk space, phones and L-shaped sofas.

Down the street from Yotel, The Pod 39 Hotel (located on 39th street) is readying to open this spring, making it the second pod hotel to open in New York.  The 367-room Pod 39 will share its sibling's concepts – a communal space for travelers to socialize and connect, guest rooms with a stripped-down, no-frills decor, and a casual dining restaurant.

The hotel's public space -- a trend many hotels are rethinking -- is located on the 17th floor of the building, overlooking the river and the city's skyline. Room rates will start at $119 with three configurations available: bunk, double and queen, each with an en-suite bathroom.

These hotels serve an important purpose: provide a functional space for travelers looking for less than opulence, but more than just a mattress. During my visit, the Yotel was at almost full capacity and packed with every type of traveler from families to college-aged kids and solo business travelers.

At night, local New Yorkers from around the area gathered at the hotel's bar and outdoor terrace to enjoy a cocktail with friends after a long day at the office. The various demographics that traipsed through the lobby over a period of 24 hours was an astounding blend of cultures that truly defined why New York is considered a melting pot for the world.

Melanie Nayer is a hotel reviewer and expert on luxury travel around the world. She has covered all aspects of hotels including corporate restructures, re-branding initiatives, historical aspects and the best of the best in luxury hotels around the world.

Melanie writes a weekly exclusive column for 4Hoteliers.com
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