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Singing a budget Tune…

by Andrea on July 11, 2011

Tune Hotel Westminster buys the same (Hypnos) beds as the ones used at many luxury hotels - hence the promise of "5 star beds at 1 star prices"

I remember staying in a budget hostel in Bruges with a sign on the wall as you went upstairs to bed: “When you’re asleep, this looks like the Hilton”.  That’s very much true of the Tune Hotel in Westminster Bridge Road.

Or perhaps they could have said “When you’re asleep this feels like the Hilton.”  Tune Hotels takes pride in providing ‘five star beds at one star prices'; and although I did my very best to emulate the fairytale princess and the pea, I had a very comfortable night at the hotel.

I was staying in one of the hotel’s three special needs rooms previously featured on this blog.  They’re a bit larger than the normal rooms as they need enough room for a wheelchair to get around comfortably – but apart from that they’re designed pretty much the same as the other rooms.  London hotels need more good accessible rooms of this standard.

A wooden floor and big mirrors help open up the space, along with a rather nice custom-designed wallpaper in light green, to give a fresh and spacious feel to what is actually quite a small room.  On a sweltering day in London, the air conditioning was particularly welcome.  Interestingly, this is a feature on which Tune Hotels UK has agreed to differ with its Malaysian parent – air con is standard in London and not an added extra.

The accessible bathroom at the Tune Westminster is obviously a lot larger than a standard one which would be rather pokey but perfectly clean and functional

And then there’s the bed by Hypnos, regarded as one of the best suppliers with customers including the St Pancras Renaissance, Royal Horseguards and Lanesborough Hotel.  Very comfortable indeed, with sparkling white sheets and duvet – for once my alarm clock had a tough job to do.

Tune has also done a good job on the bathroom.  While it contains everything necessary for a disabled person to use the facilities, it doesn’t look institutional in any way.  In the standard rooms the bathrooms are bijou – shower, sink and toilet in a tiny space – but perfectly usable.

Tune also scored five stars on friendly service from the moment I walked in, thanks to Elly, who beamed at me when I arrived.  Genuine friendliness is difficult to simulate – it is evident that Tune is hiring effectively.

The average room price here is £50 and early bookers can beat that average down handily.  Tune makes it work by deconstructing the hotel package and charging extra for such things as towels and soap (you can bring your own as many travellers do), TV (£3 for 24 hours; if you’re arriving late and leaving early then you need not bother with the TV!),  and use of the hairdryer and in-room safe.  You can even pay for early check-in and late checkout – it’s a proper low-cost airline pricing model.

When you pay so little for a "no frills" hotel, you don't necessarily expect warm and friendly, smiling staff - it's something which the likes of Ryanair could learn from

For drinks and snacks, there are vending machines in the admittedly rather cramped reception, selling a range of hot and cold items.

Apparently only one in five of the hotel’s customers buys add-ons – and the hotel gets 98 percent customer satisfaction and manages a 97 percent occupancy rate.  That suggests that Tune – unlike Ryanair – has got the ‘budget’ formula right.  Besides, the add-ons are competitively-priced; internet access via the lobby’s PCs at £1.50 an hour for instance isn’t vastly dearer than internet cafes (and more honest than luxury hotels which charge handsomely for WiFi without stating it clearly on their website).

Tune is right next to Lambeth North tube station and a few minutes’ walk from Waterloo – so while it is not London’s poshest location, you can get pretty much anywhere in short order.  And it’s also right on top of a Costa Coffee, which offers a special breakfast deal to hotel residents (including some delicious pecan and banana breakfast bread).

Butlers at the Lanesborough can even help with technology issues - useful since the hotel provides free laptops in rooms and free WiFi throughout the hotel

If Tune Hotels offered free WiFi they'd positively "disrupt" the hotel market further - but at least they're transparent about their WiFi charge

Overall a surprisingly good stay and pathbreaking concept, which you can learn more about through our interview with the Tune Hotels CEO.  By the way, we have a message for him: offer free WiFi and you’ll turn an already strong value proposition into a compelling one (currently the budget chains Travelodge and Premier Inn are missing the free WiFi opportunity).

It would also further embarass the likes of The Ritz with its rip-off WiFi charges (to make things worse, unlike Tune, The Ritz makes no clear mention of these charges on its website before you book).

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Photo credits: Tune Hotel Westminster.

Disclosure: Andrea was a guest of Tune Hotels.

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