Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Hotel No-tell? Nope.

Years ago, my husband and I had a six hour layover in Frankfurt before we got our flight to Prague. Faced with the prospect of six uncomfortable hours in a noisy and chaotic airport, at a time when we were stupefied by our overnight flight from Boston, we strolled over to the airport Sheraton and asked if we could get a room for a few hours.

Yes, we could. So we had room service breakfast, showered, napped and were in ready-to-go shape by the time we landed in Prague.


I think that was the only time I did a partial hotel stay, but I believe that most hotels will cut you some sort of deal if they have room.

And now – what else? – there are apps for that. And rather than get the sort of partial rate that we got at the Frankfurt Airport Sheraton, you can sign up at some hotels for however many minutes of hotel time you need. It sure sounds like an invitation for a quickie, but it’s really a great idea for someone who wants to get cleaned up, take a nap, get a little work done. And in a use case suggested by the CEO of one of the app providers, it’s great for nursing moms who want a moment of privacy. (Never having been a mom, nursing or otherwise, this was never an issue for me, but I know it’s been a problem for plenty of women. At a trade show some years ago, there was a woman using her breast pump while standing at the sink in the ladies room. I probably wouldn’t have remembered her so clearly if another woman asked her whether she was doing portable dialysis. Duh on duh!)

As for the by-the-minute apps:

How it works [for the Recharge app]: Download the app (free on iPhone and Android), find the hotel closest to you, and hit the “book now” button. Your billing cycle starts 30 minutes after you’ve booked, or once you pick up your key—whichever comes first—and ends when you hit “check out” on the app. If you use the room for 47 minutes, you’re billed for 47 minutes. (Warning: You'll be billed an overstay fee if you're caught hitting the check-out button early.) (Source: Bloomberg)

In the NY hotels that are part of the by-the-minute hotel ecosystem, prices range from $0.83 and $2 per minute.

For the hotels, these quick stays can be quite profitable. Even though hotels incur the costs of cleaning the rooms, those minutes add up, and hotels make a lot more on a hourly (minutely?) basis than they do on an hourly basis for “normal” overnight hotel stays.

Given that hotels seem to have made checkout times earlier and check-in times later over the years, there’s a big slug of free time from late morning until late afternoon when, once a room is clean it’s just sitting there idle. And if hotels aren’t sold out for overnight stays, why not make a few bucks? (According to the Bloomberg article, even if a hotel is sold out, 35 percent of rooms are empty during the day.)

Mostly I think this is a good idea. But I do see a couple of downsides.

Once hotels figure out they can charge you for it, there goes honoring requests for late check outs or early check ins. Sure, you can have it but, like the airlines charging for baggage and Subway sandwiches, you’ll pay for it. And I can see that check out times will get squinchier: out you go by 10 a.m. And check in times will get later: come back at 6 p.m.

The only other downside I can think of is that, if you check in after someone has just checked out, you just might find that the bed is still warm. (Ewww, I know, but it might have just been from a napper…)

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