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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Are hotels going out of fashion?

If you read Hotel Chatter, Hotel Hotsheet or Happy Hotelier, you'd hardly think hotels were going out of style, however, I'm starting to see evidence to suggest otherwise. As much as I love browsing i-escape, tablet hotels and Mr & Mrs Smith, checking in to a design hotel or lolling about at a luxury resort, I'm beginning to think hotels might be going out of fashion. For starters, all of the other sleeping alternatives are on the rise, whether it's apartment and villa rentals (including renting direct from owners), B&Bs, agriturismo, 'cool camping'/glamping, RVing or caravanning. An increasingly devalued US dollar has made European hotels too expensive for Americans, leading US travellers to look for other accommodation options on the Continent this summer. As a result, the apartment rental business is booming, with help from the US travel media's ongoing coverage of 'Affordable Europe'. Those not feeling the pain of the diminishing dollar seem simply to want more interesting and intimate hotel experiences. We're seeing the shift as we travel around and see how others are travelling. More and more people are opting for longer stays in one place while another growing trend seems to be driving holidays where one night travellers might check in to a locanda (a charming little country inn or rooms above a restaurant), the next night opt for a farmstay or pensione, and then they'll do a hotel. People seem to be mixing it up a lot more. Then there's the increasing popularity of couchsurfing, a phenomenon The Guardian's Vicky Baker has been exploring in her series Going Local; Vicky has been sleeping on friendly sofas all over South America and loving it. The guidebook briefs we're getting are also reflecting changing trends, with less emphasis on hotels and hostels and more directives to source greater accommodation alternatives. So what do you think? Are hotels going out of fashion? I'd love to hear your thoughts - leave a comment or answer my poll (top right).


Anonymous said...

I've been following Vicky Baker avidly too and wondering whether I might dare to try travelling alone using the contacts from Hospitality Club which I recently joined.

The place we stayed in Valencia was a good example of the cross-over in accomodation types. Home Deluxe Rooms is in a modern block with hotel rooms on the first 2 floors but with a communal living and kitchen area like a hostel. Then on the upper floors, apartments of different sizes that you can rent by the night.

Lara Dunston said...

Go on do it! It would make a great story or good blog series. Don't forget to vote on the poll I've just popped up - you'll be the first. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm probably in a minority here but I don't really care too much where I stay - especially in cities, where I spend the whole day tramping the streets and exploring, evenings having relaxing dinners out, and then nights exploring the nightlife. After all that all I need is a cheap and not too uncomfortable bed and I'm happy - splashing out on a posh place most of the time seems a waste, as the last place I want to spend time when I'm away is in a hotel.

Monna said...

Hi Lara,
I believe that European hotels are going out of fashion for the average traveller who is paying her own way. The good news, as you have captured in your post, is that there are so many fabulous alternatives. We travel quite a bit and in the last year (let's say 30 nights of travelling) we have stayed in only two hotels. In both cases (Ibis in Budapest and Novotel in Amsterdam) I booked a hotel room because the hotel provided the best value for the location. This happens very rarely, though.
I love to stay at guest houses and pensiones that are larger than a small B&B but smaller than a traditional hotel. I also prefer to spend my money at small businesses wherever possible.
Incidentally, hotel rooms are also crazy-expensive in Canada. We are planning a road trip from Ottawa to Calgary this summer and it would actually be cheaper for us to drive across the northern USA but, as we are Canadian and would like to see this part of our country, I will start the search for budget accommodations along the Trans-Canada Highway. Wish me luck!

Lara Dunston said...

Hi itinerantlondoner, thanks for your comment. I don't think you're alone. I guess we all travel differently and at different times, and different times in our lives. Sometimes, it's true I don't care as much about the accommodation when I'm on holidays and I'm going to be out on the streets of a city all day every day. But if I'm relaxing and just want to kick back with a book by a pool, the hotel is part of that experience, from breakfast to the nightcap before bed. But as a travel writer - when my travel is work - the accommodation is crucial as I need internet access and I'm going to spend a lot of time in the room writing up my research notes. As much as I prefer intimate properties they don't always have the facilities I need, but then big hotels don't always have the desk space, powerpoints, complimentary internet access etc, either.

Hi Monna, thanks for the feedback. I'm starting to realise just how many alternatives there are. For instance, I didn't realise 'agriturismo' (small family-run country properties where the emphasis is on experiencing the local culture and trying local produce) was so huge in Italy and that so many foreign travellers are opting for this. Ditto locandas, where people stay mainly to eat at the restaurant - they don't have to go far with their room right upstairs. And these properties off much more of a unique experience and better value for money and I think that's why people are choosing them. Keep us posted on your Canadian adventure!

Unknown said...

Laura, I love your blog only the print is too small and therefore not easy to read. Also with the black background the letters are not really sharp. Can't you make the letters in the sidebar smaller and the important text bigger. Good trips in the future.
Gina from Germany

Anonymous said...

Interesting post Lara.

That's one reason I am fascinated by the pod hotel concept.



Anonymous said...

Hi Lara
I'm the founder and online director of Mr & Mrs Smith ( Of course , we would say this, but I don’t think it’s time to ring the death knell for the hotel industry at all. From our perspective, boutique hotels have never been more fashionable – we’ve just added seven new properties in the South of France and have plenty more Mexico and Greece lined up for next month. We’ve been spending a lot of time in the States recently, where it seems like there’s more and more interest in the sector – and more and more hotel-building projects in the US as a result.

‘More interesting and intimate travel experiences’ don’t necessarily exclude hotel stays, after all; it just depends on the hotel in question.

I do, however, think you’re right to suggest that people are more likely to consider unusual forms of accommodation, and self-catering alternatives in particular – there also seems to be a rise in groups of friends taking breaks together. We noticed this last year, which is why we launched a collection of self-catering properties (Cornish barn conversions [], urban apartments [], live-aboard yachts, [] etc), which are proving extremely popular. I don’t think this is necessarily eating away at the hotel market, it’s just an indication that people are becoming more imaginative travellers, whether they stay at a boutique hotel, a B&B, a self-catering rental, or whatever.

As for the impact of the economic downturn, the growing Euro and the shrinking dollar, I think that has more of an effect on where people go rather than whether they do or not. People will always have holidays but they may be more likely to stay away longer and travel further in order to maximise value for money or look for interesting places closer to home to cut down on travel costs.

Anonymous said...

I have rarely stayed in hotels on my many travels and if I do I always seek out the small hotels that have some character and a good breakfast. I usually rent an apartment but on occasion and depending on locale I have stayed with friends, camped, and stayed at B&Bs. I think the main reason I have avoided hotels is that they tend not to be a good value for my money. I've always been able to find alternative accommodation for a lower price that is of a higher quality or in a more interesting locale. I would say renting an apartment is by far my favorite way of doing things and in saturated markets it is quite easy to find apartments you can rent for 2 or 3 nights though I tend to go to places for at least 2 weeks. I suppose if I had more cash to throw around I might stay at hotels more often but then again I might just rent a villa instead.
And for the person who is driving across Canada I recommend camping I did that one summer and it was amazing. One of my favorite campgrounds was on the Canadian shores of Lake Superior -- really awesome showers -- I'm not quite up to the level of glamping but I don't rough it either.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lara as you may know very well in this part of the world where I
leave Hotels are pretty much in a fantastic fashion. Not only in
Dubai but also in the whole middle east, China, India and part of Asia.
Hotels out of Fashion are mainly in Europe, Australia and South
Africa, this because for what concern europe, peoples have been
effected so much from the economical situation that are trying to
find alternatieves to hotels as B&B, guest house, sharing
accomodations, agriturismo etc..
I'm sure that old fashion travellers like us would find the right
accomodation suitable for the place: for example if I go to amsterdam
I will look into an appartment in Dham square, If I go to Galway in
Ireland I will stay in a B&B, if I go to Ibiza I would love to stay
in a villa but probably I could afford only an appartment. .

Lara Dunston said...


I'm so glad you like the blog, and thanks for your feedback on the design! I've had one person give me similar feedback before so I'll give it some thought. The template I chose is a popular blogger template, so I'm not alone in using it, and to be honest, I love it and don't find the typeface too small personally, but I totally appreciate where you're coming from.

It actually looks different on different browsers too, so while it's easy to read on mine (I tend to use Firefox and I have a mac), I've noticed it's not so easy on others. As it's a template, I can't do anything about the point size in the right column being larger (and I so agree with you on that one that it doesn't make sense) unless I start fooling with the HTML and I'm too busy to do that. But I will definitely think about the way forward. I might have to do a post on this and get some feedback from my readers.


Lara Dunston said...

Hi Guido, thanks for the comment. I'm with you, I love the idea of the pods, although I think the one in Amsterdam looks a lot more stylish and a room I'd want to spend more time in than the Manhattan one I saw (the old Pickwick I think it was?)

Hi Tamara, of course I know who you are - Terry and I have I gone undercover for Mr & Mrs Smith to test out hotels before. To be honest, I don't think it's the death of hotels at all - I just wanted to get some attention so I could try and find out what others thought! I'm a big fan of hotels that get it right - and I have a list of hotels I'm totally devoted to (like the Four Seasons Asian and Middle East hotels for example), although I'm finding that I'm increasingly disappointed in hotel experiences, and I spend over 200 nights a year in hotels (the rest in rental apartments or other forms of accommodation), so that's a lot of disappointing sleeps. But I do believe it's the death of hotels as we have known them, and I think one factor driving that change is the fact that leisure travellers are seeking more special experiences from their hotel stays. And while some of the change is coming from the hotels themselves - the Dusit's D Hotel series and the revamped new InterConts are examples of a new concept that works - I think Design Hotels, Mr & Mrs Smith, i-escape and Tablet are also partly responsible for the shift, and can take some credit for making people want more from their hotel experiences.

Norae, I agree that a lot of hotels aren't great value but I love finding ones that are, where you think "Now, that was really worth it!" But I agree I'm thinking that less and less these days. Like you, I love staying in apartments, for a whole long list of reasons, but mostly because I can live in 'real', lively neighbourhoods for a while and live like a local rather than be stuck in the center of a downtown area perhaps.

Sommelier, I so agree with you. I think some of the best hotels, and best-value hotels are in the Middle East and Asia. Dubai does hotels really well these days - from the service to the chic well-equipped rooms to the restaurant offerings, they're superlative compared to many global cities. You can find far more excellent five star hotels in Dubai than you can in Amsterdam or Paris (apart from the 'grand dame' hotels that is) and the Asian hotels, especially in cities such as Bangkok, are just such great value - 5 star luxury at 3-4 star prices! Thanks for your feedback!

shehab said...


I am writing this to you from a family friend's sloane avenue penthouse in London where I am spending a week catching up on all things cultural. Given the choice between hotel and pad for visits longer then three days I tend to choose the latter (Rio, LA and Ibiza are three cities I opted-out of hotels at recently).

I still love hotels but it has been a long while since a new hotel has truly broken new ground and blown me away (staying at Morgans or the Royalton in the early 90s were revelatory travel experiences! but not even Schrager has managed to come up with the next revolutionary wave of hotel concept although the gramercy is lovely, refined and wonderfully-scented!). I also agree with other commenters in that the hotel / alt accom divide is increasingly blurred.

There will always be room for both but discerning travelers do have that constant desire to get closer to the local experience and there's nothing like being able to throw a dinner party for new friends in a new city!

Best to Terry please!


Lara Dunston said...

Hi Shehab - thanks for the comments! Great to hear from you! I so agree with you. We're increasingly disappointed by badly-designed 'design' hotels - even Ron Arad's Rimini hotel didn't excite in the way I thought it might. I'm thankful for the blurring of boundaries but I feel that (some) apartments are catching up to hotels (with their chic furnishings etc) faster than hotels are evolving into places where we want to spend longer.

Enjoy your culture-fix!

franki durbin said...

best topic of convo I've seen on a blog in ages! I agree with so many of the opinions. At the end of the day the answer to the accommodation dilemma usually is "it depends"...

excellent topic - and, hello, Tamara!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lara,

I am the PR Manager for (a sister company of VRBO since we're both now part of HomeAway, Inc.) and I agree with Marvin. I don't think hotels will ever go out of fashion as there will always be a place for them, however, the holiday (or vacation!) rentals industry is undeniably booming and in a period of huge growth as more and more travellers discover the benefits and joys of renting a holiday 'home', as opposed to just a room; namely more space, more privacy, more flexibility and perhaps most importantly, truly authentic experiences.

Increasingly, across the world, for travellers nowadays holidays aren't just about taking a break and getting a bit of sun, but about enriching their life through new and diverse experiences, and through widening their horizons by learning about other cultures and people. And renting a holiday home really lets you do this.

In addition, as holiday rental sites become more sleek and easy to use, and offer more comprehensive content and features, it is now easier than ever to find rental accommodation worldwide, which is another factor that is driving growth. At and HomeAway, we are very excited about where the industry is going, and passionate about bringing the joys of vacation rentals to the world!

Anonymous said...

Hi Laura,

This is Lars from Dubai- we are seeing an increasing no. of new appartments coming up in Dubai and all major agencies confirm that there is great demand for them. As a "normal" hotel you can sometimes not compete with the size of the rooms (actually studios or 1 or 2 room appartments) and we even had case where corporate travellers preferred to share an appartment rather than staying in 2 separate hotel rooms (at a higher rate). Nevertheless, I believe in general there might be shifts in business mixes of hotels and their segmentations, but overall hotels will always be in need as the worls becomes so small....

Cheers, Lars

Unknown said...

Hi Lara, your article is really interesting.
It is true that there are now a lot of different ways to accomodate yourself during holidays, weekends...
But i don't think hotels are going out of fashion. On the contrary they are becoming more and more trendy, unique, special.
Boutique Hotels are a way for people to enjoy fully their stay. Indeed they allow people to enjoy the city while they are staying in a place full of charme and caractere. It feels good when you have a good place to rest.
Of course it depends of everyone's needs.
I advise the Boutique Hotels of the group Epoque Hotels which has a wide variety of hotels in all the world.(