Japanese-style Yotel pod hotel lands in New York City

Yotel comes to New York City New Yorkers finally got an answer recently to what hotel will be included in a massive mixed-use development currently under construction in Manhattan's bustling theater district: The Yotel.

Bloggers speculated for months about the design and makeup of an $800-million hotel and residential development at 42nd Street and 10th Avenue in Times Square. Curbed NY even went so far as to post leaked plans for the 60-story complex that developer Related Companies claimed were inaccurate.

The Yotel will include a 669-cabin -- so called by the company because the inspiration for their design came from first-class airline seats -- hotel built above a Frank Gehry-designed Signature Theater. When it opens next year, the 23-story Yotel will feature a restaurant, lounge, spa, and the following tongue-twister -- "the largest hotel outside terrace space of any hotel in New York" -- spelled out in a press release announcing the plans.

The announcement is noteworthy in New York, where there's practically a hotel on every corner, because the development will be Yotel's first pod-style building outside an airport. The company's three existing properties, located at Gatwick, Heathrow and Schiphol airports, feature cabins solely with interior windows modeled on pod hotels popular with tired Japanese commuters.

But will some of the Big Apple's 44 million annual visitors consider spending the night in a 17-foot-by-10-foot room, with the company's signature purple lighting, that goes for about $200 -- a rate similar to larger rooms offered by nearby hotels?

Yotel's founder, Simon Woodroffe, who conceived the concept in 2002 after traveling first class on a British Airways flight to Kuwait, is betting that upper-end amenities, including fancy bedding, monsoon showers, flat-screen TVs and wireless Internet, will sell New York travelers on the compact cabins.

"There is a huge range of hotels, but we want to be unique in offering affordable luxury," wrote Jo Berrington, Yotel's marketing director, from the company's London headquarters. "The quality of rooms will be top of the range and space, although relatively small, is exceptionally well designed."

A rate of $200 a night is comparable to fees charged by nearby hotels rated three out of five stars in an Expedia search, including the recently renovated Paramount Hotel, where rates start at $209 for a 150-square-foot room, the Hilton New York, with an overnight price starting at $199 for a 330-square-foot room, and Club Quarters, whose 210-square-foot rooms go for $196.

The three existing Yotels allow travelers to book a double or single cabin -- in which the bed folds out of the wall -- with a bathroom, in four-hour increments, or overnight. In rating their experience online, travelers likened the 118-square-foot cabins to a "very, very luxurious railway carriage just for two," and cautioned that "if there are two of you, book the premium cabin."

In reviews posted on TripAdvisor, travelers also complained that Yotel is a "tad pricey" and that there's a "significant difference in price according to the time of day you book in."

Company spokeswoman Berrington said the chain's rates at Yotels in Gatwick and Heathrow start at $37 for a four-hour stay and top out at a maximum of $95 a night for a single and $128 for a double. She added that by staying overnight at the airport, travelers avoid expensive taxi and bus fares to travel to higher-priced off-airport hotels.

"We are an excellent value for the money and our customer satisfaction ratings speak for themselves," she said.

Travelers in the United States may get to experience Yotel for themselves in the next few years, as the company said it's in talks to open locations at "key" airports and city centers.
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