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These Tiny Hotel Rooms Are Like First Class Airplane Suites on the Ground

Travel + Leisure logo Travel + Leisure 3/11/2019 Marisa Garcia
a car that is sitting on a bed: ZIP Hotels by Premier Inn © Courtesy of ZIP Hotels ZIP Hotels by Premier Inn

Sometimes all you need is a comfortable bed, a bathroom with a shower, and some privacy. Luckily, the new ZIP hotel concept by Premier Inn was designed to satisfy these basic needs — with a flair for design and all of the modern conveniences. And with overnight rates starting £19 (about $25) a night, ZIP is just right for those who travel on a budget, plus an excellent alternative to staying in a hostel.

a sign on the side of a building: Courtesy of ZIP Hotels © Courtesy of ZIP Hotels Courtesy of ZIP Hotels

ZIP’s hotel rooms were designed by PriestmanGoode — based in London and China — a firm that also specializes in designing first class airline cabins, private cruise ship cabins, luxurious train cabins, airport lounges and even space pods. They know how to make the most of whatever room is available.

"ZIP has been an ideal project to work on,” says Luke Hawes, Director at PriestmanGoode, who worked on the ZIP project. “Whitbread has been really visionary in looking at how our expertise in maximising small spaces could help create the perfect budget-friendly hotel room.”

Courtesy of ZIP Hotels © Courtesy of ZIP Hotels Courtesy of ZIP Hotels

At 91.5 square feet (8.5 square meters) ZIP rooms are tiny, but can accommodate singles or couples. There are two single Hypnos® beds in every room which can slide together to create a double bed; or one of the beds can serve as a sofa.

The padded strip around the walls offers warm mood lighting. There are power sockets and USB connections, a mounted bottle opener for refreshments, a window or a light box that serves as a window, a high shelf to store bags, and hangars for basic clothing. The hotel offers Wi-Fi and each room has a 24-inch smart TV mounted on the wall. The en-suite bathrooms have power showers. For guests who need to press clothing, there’s a separate ironing room available in the hotel.

a white sink sitting next to a shower: Courtesy of ZIP Hotels © Courtesy of ZIP Hotels Courtesy of ZIP Hotels

The lobby is staffed, but also has kiosks for those who check-in after hours or who prefer self check-in. In the common area, there’s a breakfast menu available for £3.95 (around $5.20) with a choice of one hot item (bacon roll, egg roll or porridge), one cold item (pastry, yogurt or fruit), and one drink (Costa Coffee, tea, or juice). There’s also a bar, and guests can order-in other meals from local restaurants.

a desk with a computer in an office: Courtesy of ZIP Hotels © Courtesy of ZIP Hotels Courtesy of ZIP Hotels

“Our crew members are on hand to help out and breakfast is served right next to our bar — which is also staffed,” a Premiere Inn spokesperson says. “You can see the postcode of ZIP displayed very prominently in the communal area and this is designed to help our guests who order in a meal delivery for lunch or dinner.”

The designers focused on making the rooms attractive, modern, intuitive, adaptable and easy to clean. They feature warm colors and materials, inspired by the brand colors of Premiere Inn. The decision to build small rooms that left more space in the budget for other travel activities was based on Premiere Inn customer feedback.

“The inspiration were the many guests we spoke to who sought a high standard of accommodation but without the extras that they deemed unnecessary,” a Premiere Inn spokesperson tells us. “So we stripped those out, went big on the clever, compact design, and kept prices down.”

The designers built full-sized mock-ups first, and put them through trials before the build began.

“Our process is very hands on, and we worked closely with Premier Inn to construct and test mockups of the room,” PriestmanGoode’s Hawes says. “We initially built a scale model of the room which let us understand the space and play around with different configurations. We then built a number of full-scale mock-ups, including in our selected trim and finish. These mockups were an absolutely essential part of the process and allowed us to test everything from intuitive use of space to ease of cleaning. Having built full scale mock ups during the development process allowed us to test how users would naturally move around the room, where items would be placed etc, which has resulted in a highly practical environment.”

a close up of a door: Courtesy of ZIP Hotels © Courtesy of ZIP Hotels Courtesy of ZIP Hotels

Premiere Inn made six ZIP rooms available for guests over several months to get customer feedback before the official launch. The first ZIP hotel has 138 rooms and is located in Roath, Wales, just a short ride from Cardiff center. Premier Inn will be looking at the success of this property before they decide to open other ZIP hotels in future.

Offering more comfort than a first class suite on a plane, at a price lower than most economy class tickets, tiny hotel rooms like ZIP may be ideal for a quick overnight stay at the airport.

“There is definitely room in the market for more hotels like this around airports," Hawes tells Travel + Leisure. “There are small room hotel concepts already in some airports around the world. Japan for instance is famous for its pod hotels, where passengers can sleep in a small 'capsule' for up to nine hours. The benefit that ZIP provides is that the space doesn't just provide a bed, it's entirely focused on the user's needs.”

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