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Yotel hotel chain with tiny rooms plans big expansion

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC
Tuesday, 20 Aug 2013 | 7:00 AM ET
Yotel airport standard cabin
Source: Yotel
Yotel airport standard cabin

If you've endured long layovers at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport or at London's Heathrow or Gatwick airports, Yotel may already be part of your travel vocabulary.

Since 2007, the small chain has been well-known for its short-stay, in-terminal hotels offering hip, ultra space-saving rooms inspired by the design of first-class airplane cabins. Because the average stay is about seven hours, these locations have a very healthy 200 percent occupancy rate.

The brand's first off-airport hotel was the 669-room Yotel New York, which opened near Times Square in 2011 and quickly became popular with both leisure and business travelers seeking affordable, amenity-rich lodging in one of the world's most expensive cities.

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"It's a mix of tourists looking for a bargain and business people on a budget," said Chris Heywood of NYC & Company, the city's marketing and tourism organization. "You feel like you're in a cool place, but the amenities make it easy to get business done."

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Now a deal has been announced for construction of a 600-room Yotel on Singapore's bustling main shopping street, Orchard Road, which is home to numerous upscale malls and many four- and five-star luxury hotels.

"Yotel is another fantastic partner, bringing its unique 'affordable luxury' and offering travelers even more flexibility in their accommodations selection in the heart of our central district," said Serene Tan, regional director for Singapore Tourism Board Americas.

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Singapore's Yotel opening is set for 2018.

"We want to use the Singapore deal as a springboard for expansion into Asia and are targeting a number of cities and airports there," said Yotel CEO Gerard Greene. Meantime, he said, additional Yotel properties are being planned for other major cities and their airports in the United States and Europe. Details about some of these locations will be available in a few weeks, but Greene is confident "there will be sites that will open before Singapore."

Rooms ("cabins" in Yotel-speak) at the Singapore and other in-city Yotels will have the same ergonomically attentive, compact design as those in New York. There, basic "premium" cabins are about 170 square feet (small even by New York City standards, but larger than the 100 square-foot airport cabins) and include a motorized bed that converts to a couch, a large flat-screen TV and a small desk with multiple power ports. A curtain separates the work/sleep space from the sink, shower and toilet nook, and there are complimentary hot beverages in a 24-hour kitchen on each floor. Room rates (which in New York begin around $200,) include robust property-wide Wi-Fi and a breakfast of muffins and tea and coffee.

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There's no word yet on whether any of the new Yotels will have a robotic arm, or Yobot, like the one that can be seen tirelessly storing and retrieving luggage in the lobby of the Yotel New York, but we sure hope so.

—By CNBC contributor Harriet Baskas. Find her at StuckatTheAirport.com and follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas.

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