No more sleeping in the cheap seats

Airport hotels are reinventing themselves with style, services and prices that tempt passengers to stay longer

Most of us have been there.

We've booked a cheap no-frills flight abroad only to find the departure time is so early that we have to stay at the airport hotel. Or our flight has arrived so late that we have to stay the night there. In each case, the choice is between sleeping (or not) on a plastic check-in lounge chair or shelling out the equivalent cost of the holiday for an airport hotel. If you choose the latter, then you're likely to encounter the full strength of this captive market.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Just as airports are reinventing themselves, seemingly as shopping centres with a sideline in flying, so airport hotels are catering for different markets and even upping their game to try to get guests to check in for the duration of their stay at their final destination.

One of the most eye-catching developments will open towards the end of this year, when the Hilton group (hilton.com) opens two hotels at Frankfurt airport above the terminal's high-speed train station, just 15 minutes from the city centre. The Hilton Frankfurt Airport hotel will offer 248 rooms, and, along with the Hilton Garden Inn's 334 rooms, will be based in the futuristic Squaire building (thesquaire.com/en/) designed by JSK Architects.

A spokesman for the Hilton Group suggested the industry has to keep on its toes to remain competitive, as witnessed by the recent £800,000 refurbishment of the lobby at the Hilton, Gatwick. Hilton this year spent £300,000 refurbishing parts of its Edinburgh airport hotel, and signed an agreement to build a hotel at Istanbul's Ataturk airport.

And there are some surprises. This November will see the latest Radisson Blu hotel (radissonblu.com) open by the M1, servicing East Midlands airport. The five-storey, 216-bed hotel will acknowledge its location near the National Forest with timber features, along with an aviation-themed canopy with curved aluminium panels. Reflecting the increasing green awareness of many travellers and environmental requirements, the hotel will use a rainwater harvesting system and other techniques that have given it a rating of "excellent" from Breeam, the most prominent environmental assessment for buildings.

According to Pedro Raposo, a senior director at Rezidor, which owns the Radisson Blu hotel chain, airport hotels have had to improve standards dramatically in recent years. "Airport hotels have had to move away from being places where people have to stay, to places where they look to stay," he said. "This has a lot to do with the products offered by the airport hotel industry. In the past, when people stayed because they had an early flight, there was not much innovation or many ancillary services. But the huge increase in leisure and business travel means airport hotels have created different products, such as spas."

And before long, airline passengers will detect another shift, as the airports they fly to promote themselves as destinations in their own right. The thought of a holiday at Los Angeles's international airport or Dubai might sound grim indeed, but a number of airports and hotels are not deterred.

The word on the industry's lips is "aerotropolis" – a term invented by Professor John Kasarda, a transport expert at the University of North Carolina – defined as the sub-city that surrounds an airport, offering residential accommodation, hotels, shopping and entertainment for travellers, airport staff, pilots and cabin crew. Atlanta recently announced plans to develop an aerotropolis on derelict industrial land, and others are already moving apace, including Seoul-Incheon in South Korea, Dubai (where Dubai World City is being built around the ever-expanding airport), Shanghai and Hong Kong. Seoul, for example, is constructing a vast settlement that will house everything from hotels to shopping centres, an amusement park and studios for fashion designers. It even plans to build a hospital on the site to draw on the market for medical tourism. Seoul is not alone. Bangkok's new airport on reclaimed swampland at Suvarnabhumi aims to house more than three million residents and tourists in a similar settlement within 20 years.

Dubai's mini-version will arrive a little more quickly. A 293-room luxury airport hotel will be opened by the Jumeirah Group, Dubai's luxury hotel company and Dubai Duty Free, later this year. "The hotel's proximity to the airport and the wide range of sporting and leisure activities in the vicinity are expected to make the hotel popular with high-end business and leisure travellers, as well as local residents," said a spokesman for Dubai Tourism.

Until such a vision arrives, most of us will be stuck with striking what deals and modest benefits we can from the overnight airport stay. Not surprisingly, the hotel industry rejects accusations that it can get away with wildly overcharging what is effectively a captive market, one of the most common gripes from those who stay at an airport hotel. "Pricing between airport hotels is very competitive – it's all about supply and demand," said Mr Raposo. "Of course you get unusual circumstances, such as industrial action or heavy snow, but in normal conditions rates are competitive."

There's still good money to be made from the weary traveller, though, as Mr Raposo acknowledges. "Airport hotels are key to any company that aims to be big in any region," he said. "They give you high visibility. If you are lucky enough to be able to build on land near an airport, then believe me, you have a strong market for years to come."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
News
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
News
The spider makes its break for freedom
VIDEO
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
books
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot