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London’s new wave of “luxury budget” hotels.

by Rajul on July 13, 2009

Base2stay in Kensington offers modern design, hi-tech amenities and friendly service Base2stay in Kensington offers a mix of modern design, hi-tech amenities and friendly service

A new type of “affordable luxury” hotel has well and truly arrived in London.

When this term was coined to me a few years ago by the CEO of YOTEL, Mr Gerard Greene, I wasn’t sure I got it.

After all, you generally get what you pay for, don’t you?

But having now seen several new hotel concepts rolled out and thriving in London, I’ve gradually revised my thinking.

As my article on the Europe a la Carte blog shows, you can now often stay at London’s best TripAdvisor-ranked hotels for less than £100 a night.

If you visit these hotels personally or inspect guest reviews and photos, they don’t look or feel like “budget hotels” in any sense.

The fact is that travellers’ expectations are now higher than ever before.

Business travellers and savvy tourists alike expect to be wired up and comfortable, without paying top dollar for the privilege.

In my view, it’s no more acceptable to charge for wi-fi than for tap water.

The new breed of “luxury budget” hotel in London seems to achieve a delicate balance between luxury touches (like air conditioning, quality toiletries, nice beds, plasma screens, etc) and affordability.

As Robert Nadler, the CEO of base2stay – a leading example of this new breed – told me, it’s a form of “edited luxury”.

Guests are given the power to choose the aspects of the luxury experience they want and those they don’t, in exchange for a lower price.

So if you stay at YOTEL, you agree to cut down on space, though the rooms cleverly squeeze in some nice little mod-cons.  All “luxury budget” hotels must feature the essential “luxury” of a good shower unit and comfy bed.

A premium YOTEL cabin with a workstation, comfortable desk and bathroom in the background YOTEL is one of the new breed of hotels conceived out of clever use of space, luxurious details and hi-tech amenities delivered at a reasonable price

Check the best rate for YOTEL Heathrow from 30+ hotel booking sites

Any “compromise” at Base2stay is less apparent than at YOTEL if I go on the attractive variety of rooms I inspected at the hotel earlier today.

All that’s lacking at this hotel is a bar or restaurant on site.  But this “shortcoming” (in a neighbourhood with lots of great restaurants) only reduces the hotel’s fixed overheads, allowing room rates to be kept low.

Base2stay in Kensington offers value for money that doesn't in any sense feel cheap Base2stay in Kensington offers value for money that doesn’t in any sense feel cheap

Even when I saw the hotel’s apparent “worst room” it was still functional, clean and modern with a great power shower in the bathroom.

Base2stay is currently ranked in the top 20 London hotels on TripAdvisor (from more than 1150 competitors).  Words like “stylish”, “clean” and “great value” crop up frequently in guest reviews.

Check rates at Base2stay

Then there’s also the Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch, similarly well-placed on TripAdvisor’s rankings.

The Hoxton offers its own somewhat “arty” flavour of no-frills luxury.

They even have the audacity to give rooms away for £1 and £29 during the hotel’s regular flash sales.  The Hoxton’s sale and recent guest comments were covered in a previous feature on this blog.

Check rates at the Hoxton Hotel

The trendy Hoxton Hotel is highly-regarded by its guests despite its modest room rates The trendy Hoxton Hotel is highly-regarded by its guests despite its modest room rates

So in conclusion, why would anyone pay a premium to stay in a 4 star hotel?

Yes, you do usually “sacrifice” some room space in the hotels mentioned above.  But who visits London to stay in their room?

There will always be those who want uncompromising luxury.  Institutions like Claridge’s, The Dorchester, One Aldwych and The Lanesborough are timeless and probably safe.

But have “affordable luxury” innovators like YOTEL, Base2stay and the Hoxton stolen a march on London’s more conventional 4 star hotels?

Those more-established hotels not only charge more for the room but also “nickel and dime” you for extras (which they must do to cover their high overheads).

The “new breed” on the other hand make a point of being as price-transparent as possible, to provide what is effectively an all-inclusive stay.

Mini-kitchens at Base2stay include a fridge, microwave and nice cutlery Mini-kitchens at Base2stay include a fridge, microwave and nice cutlery

At base2stay for example, you are given your own mini-kitchen with its own microwave and fridge.  On any given evening, around 50% of guests stock up on provisions from the local supermarket – a fantastic money-saver.

It’s no coincidence that the “affordable luxury” innovators are relatively new kids on the block.

Guest reviews seem to be enthusiastically behind them.  This may support the theory that normal 4 star hotels are in danger of being “squeezed out”.

But I may delay judgement until I meet the CEO of Red Carnation Hotels.  This boutique London hotels group runs 4 of the 5 hotels currently top-rated on TripAdvisor – all 4 or 5 star properties.

So could Red Carnation be the exception that proves the rule?  Stay tuned to London Hotels Insight and we’ll reveal all.

Search for a London hotel – Book Now, Pay When you Stay

Photo credits: The Hoxton Hotel, Base2stay, YOTEL.

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