Portable hotel rooms changing the hospitality game

Forget modular building for hotels -- Dutch company Flexotels has brought fully portable hotel rooms to the hospitality game

A Flexotel site
A Flexotel site
Inside view
Inside view

A hotel room you can take with you anywhere you go sounds like traveller’s dream and a hotelier’s nightmare. Dutch-based Flexotels is changing the way travellers spend on accommodation during sporting events and music festivals.

Flexotels, which sports the tagline “Short stay solutions”, developed its ‘rooms’ concept (they’re more like cabins) five years ago.

“I was working in the real estate business developing hotels and leisure centres and I saw a market for temporary hotel rooms at sports and music events,” said Flexotels CEO Hubert von Heyden. “I did two feasibility studies for clients and put the idea under my pillow. I eventually got it out and looked at how to finance it.”

The standard rooms contain two twin size box-spring beds, two chairs and a table, storage space, electricity, linen and towels.

Flexotels' collapsible hotel rooms, deployed at festivals and events all over the world, have now been extended to include a sanitary room.

The new brand, Comfotels, come with the standard fold-out room of a Flexotel, but with the addition of a shower, hot water heater, toilet and sink.

Both businesses and consumers can benefit from the product – consumers can book the pods directly at events such as music festivals (Volt Festival in Hungary is the next event on the company’s website. The rooms retail for anywhere between 130 Euros (US $ 144) and 600 Euros ($621).

Businesses can also book to have a certain number of rooms made available, which they offer to customers. Flexotels are delivered by truck and 10-20 can be delivered at a time, depending upon the type.

Heyden said that he is also seeing a big growth in the ‘otels being used for business to business events.

But Heyden, with his background in real estate and a healthy respect for hoteliers, told Hotelier that Flexotels is not a competitor for hoteliers' business: "We don't compete with hotels -- we are an additional segment to the hospitality market. 

"Take for an example an event like Ascott or Le Mans -- hotels near the event venues are booked months or even years in advance; that's where Flexotels comes in and offers its short stay solution -- more people can attend the event, hotels are less stressed." 

The ‘otels’ have already been a great success at popular music festivals Glastonbury, in the UK and Millstreet in Ireland. Sporting events such as 24 hour Le Mans, the London Olympics and tennis matches are also benefitting from the pop-up hotels.

Heyden said: "Flexotels fulfil three important demands that people at events share; they want to have a good night's sleep, a lock on the door so that they can leave their things and they want to walk to the event site.”

In some situations, the hotel itself offers the rooms – which seems most appealing to countryside hotels who have the land to offer a “campsite experience”, or city hotels appealing to Millennials by sponsoring events (think Citizen M or Yotel).

One hotel following this model is the Overste Hof Hotel & Restaurant in the Netherlands, which hosts the Pink Pop Festival. Guests have the option to stay at the hotel and enjoy bed and breakfast (and a little peace and quiet), or to stay closer to the action in Flexotels – both can be booked directly through the hotel’s channels.

“The people who use our rooms like being at the location of the event they are attending,” said Heyden. “They don’t need to use their cars or the train to get there from their hotels.

“At Le Mans, for instance, the rooms are near the circuit so people are right in the middle of the experience they have paid for.

“With our rooms, event organisers can get 300 people right in the heart of the event who don’t have to travel to hotels that might be miles away.”

One of the big benefits that’s plain to see for people living near annual event sites is less disruption and traffic: guests arrive, stay for the event and leave, rather than driving in and out each day. As soon as the event is over, the Flexotels can be folded up and transported off-site.

When asked about Middle East expansion plans, Heyden admitted that the region wasn't a target market for them yet, mainly because the company is so new and still growing, and also because they would need a local partner.

"We have had requests from Middle Eastern companies, mostly from Dubai and Doha -- particularly around the World Cup. While it's not a priority for us just yet, I'd be very interested to explore what Flexotels can offer in terms of the challenge to provide so many hotel rooms for the World Cup, and also to answer the temporary accommodation need."

Flexotels already has 400 deployable rooms and expects its 25,000th overnight stay this year.

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