European day-use bookings take off
 
European day-use bookings take off
08 APRIL 2013 7:09 AM

Once considered sleazy, renting hotel rooms during daylight hours is emerging as a more accepted—and profitable—endeavor for hoteliers.

GLOBAL REPORT—In times past, actively marketing rooms in the daylight hours was considered by many hotel operators to be sleazy with its connotations of trysts and possible security concerns or threats to a hotel’s reputation.  

But in these fast-paced and frazzled times, more and more guests are seeking day-use rooms for a chance to refresh and relax between appointments or flights.

And new online booking outfits are standardizing the concept, working to provide the service for hoteliers, who are not keen to trumpet the availability of day-use rooms on their own websites.

“We started this company because we saw that many thousands of travelers needed hotel rooms for the day, and there was no way for people to book day rooms on hotel chain websites,” said Pieter Bik, co-owner of Between9and5.com, a booking site based in Brussels.

Launched in 2009, the site now features approximately 350 hotels in 50 countries around the world. Between9and5.com works almost exclusively with well-established brands, not individual properties, and most of its hotel partners are in the 3- to 5-star range.

“We partner with branded hotels only with very few exceptions because these hotels in general have a higher number of rooms so there are always some available for day use, there are enough branded hotels worldwide, and they have their own internal controlling structures regarding guest satisfaction,” Bik said.

Convincing the chains
“When we started out, we approached the hotel chains and we had to convince them that there was a market for this service. But now they come to us,” Bik said.

He said the advantage of day use to hotel operators is obvious: It creates extra revenue as hotels almost always have rooms available outside the usual overnight hours.

As for disadvantages, such as requiring extra staff like cleaners to deal with a higher room turnover?

“Four- and 5-star properties have cleaning staff all day, so if a room has to be tidied up at 7 a.m. after the overnight guest checks out and again at 5 p.m. after the day guest, it is not a big deal,” Bik said.

But Michael Benjamins, the senior sales manager of Town Hall Hotel, a 98-room boutique property in East London that uses Dayuse-Hotels.com, admitted that juggling rooms can be tricky.

“You’re full the night before, you’re full that night and in between you have some day-use guests coming in so housekeeping and reception have to be at the top of their game.

“And a room has to be cleaned twice, but if a guest is only there a few hours it is not a big cleaning job so it might cost an additional £15 ($23),” Benjamins added.

A profitable arrangement
Benjamins, who has used Dayuse-Hotels.com at the Town Hall Hotel for approximately 18 months, said the relationship has been profitable.

“I calculate that day use has generated around £10,000 ($15,300) of extra income, which we would not have had as these rooms were sitting empty. If we were closer to a major railway station, it would be much more,” he said.

During the low season, room rates for day use are around £50 ($77) cheaper than the regular overnight rate. Guests have free use of such amenities as the gym and indoor pool.

Isaac Mestre, GM of the 5-star, 75-room Hotel Miramar in Barcelona, which uses Barcelona-based ByHours.com, said the attraction of day-use rooms is simple.

“It means more money,” he said. “If we sell a room for three hours, say from noon to 3 p.m., that’s revenue that would not be there otherwise. ByHours.com was very smart to standardize a practice, which already existed.”

“An average rate for 12 hours use in the low season would be €90 ($117), or half the regular rate. Customers pay for what they are using, and I believe that step by step, we’ll see more of this in the hotel industry, Mestre said.

Day-use booking platform ByHours.com has sold blocks of three, six, 12, 24, 36 and 48 hours at hotels in Spain since it started early last year.

Rates for a three-hour stay can be as low as €20 ($26) depending on the season and the hotel. On weekdays, the most popular packs are of three, six or 12 hours, while weekends see guests opting for the longer stays.

“Forty-eight hours is perfect for those guests who arrive at a destination on Friday evening and want to leave the same time on Sunday,” said ByHours.com Founder and CEO Christian Rodriguez.

Guest stays booked through Dayuse-Hotels.com are more standardized, with noon to 4 p.m. as the minimum and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. as the norm, but often check-out times can be as late as 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., said César Ogé, business development manager for Benelux and the United Kingdom.

The company charges a commission of between 18% and 24% of the room rate, he added.

U.S. prospects
Day use, Bik noted, is so far largely a European phenomenon.

“It has not been widely accepted in the United States as the hotel world is different there. I cannot say that U.S.-based hotels are reluctant, but so far we have been concentrating more on Europe.

“However, we have around 10 hotels in the United States, and we are getting requests from hotels there. It will take a little time to get things really rolling in that market,” Bik said.

Most of Between9and5.com’s guests are business travelers, but Bik said another significant market demographic are cruise ship passengers who need a room in port cities before they embark on their trip. 

Along with the usual guest segments, ByHours.com is seeking to capture the families of patients who are undergoing treatment at Spanish hospitals.

 “We now have 200 hotels on our website, both independently owned and operated properties, as well as hotels of leading Spanish chains like Husa, Abba, H10 and others,” ByHour.com’s Rodriguez said.

“ByHours.com also works with Novotel, and we are negotiating with Accor to add other brands from the group,” he added. Expansion plans include the United Kingdom, France and Germany, beginning with airport and train station hotels and then focusing on city center partners.

“We have agreements in principle with some private hospitals to put links to ByHours.com on their websites so friends and families of patients can access our services, and we offer special room rates for these guests,” he explained.

Dayuse-Hotels.com operates out of Paris and was founded three years ago by David Lebeé, who had noted a demand for daylight rentals while working at the small Hotel L’Amour.

Perhaps reflecting its French origins, Dayuse-Hotels.com does not shy away from its popularity with couples who enjoy a midday rendezvous; a group the company first targeted before expanding the concept to other guest segments.

“In general, we have three types of guests, and couples are the majority, followed by corporate clients and then transit,” Ogé said.

Operating in nine countries with approximately 450 hotels as partners, the company has around 20 hotel partners in the New York area with expansion plans for the rest of the United States, as well as for Canada, Brazil and Russia.

“The concept has been easier to sell in countries like France and Italy. Day use has been an institution in France since the beginning of the hospitality industry,” Ogé said.

“It has been harder to get acceptance in the United States and the United Kingdom, perhaps because of puritanism, but also maybe because the concept is not that well known.”

Ogé said the company works with branded hotels, but they have the option of being listed as what he calls a “white mark,” which means that Dayuse-Hotels.com will not mention the brand name or the full name of the property on its website.

“It’s still too early to attract the big brands as they are nervous about the day-use idea because of its connotations. But that won’t be true anymore,” he argued.

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