Motel 6 began charging $6 per night in 1962 in Santa Barbara, California. Today, that same motel charges over $300 per night.
Dawn Gilbertson, reporting to The Wall Street Journal, said she recently paid $426 for a one-night stay, before taxes.
Is this a really fancy take on the iconic budget motel? Although it has unique features like a retro blue mini-fridge and more modern decor to give it a more boutique feel, it’s still a Motel 6.
“This place still has a budget motel in its DNA,” Gilbertson writes. “… The bedspreads are flimsy, the walls thin. And a sign taped to the outdoor ice machine by the pool urges guests not to fill their coolers with ice, so there’s enough for everyone.
But it’s in a great location near the beach, “just 200 steps from the sand,” according to Gilbertson.
While prices for Motel 6 motels and vacation stays are much higher than average rates right now, the Santa Barbara Motel 6 consistently starts in a higher price range than the average Motel 6, according to the Wall Street Journal. Whether it’s because of the history or the location, it’s hard to say.
But what many people have learned from traveling during the pandemic is that motels can offer convenience and familiarity that hotels and Airbnbs can’t quite match.
Do motels have a moment?
Did “Schitt’s Creek” make motels cool?
The wildly popular “Schitt’s Creek” featured an unlucky wealthy family staying in a run-down small-town motel. The motel is a staple of the series and begins to become a familiar home for the cast of wacky, yet endearing characters.
Eventually, working on the motel gives father Jonny Rose, who made his fortune starting and building a business, the idea to capitalize on the bad reputation of small town motels and make it a destination for travelers. Family members and locals work together to offer boutique-style goods and a small budget motel experience.
The actual motel featured on the show is even currently up for sale and “ready to remodel” for a whopping $1.6 million. A fan of the series could easily recreate this motel makeover experience if they can afford the cost, according to Insider.
What makes the June Motel on “Motel Makeover” so popular?
Another pair of businessmen capitalizing on the motel moment are April Brown and Sarah Sklash. Millennial best friends star in “Motel Makeover” on Netflix and document the challenges and joys of renovating a run-down motel.
They began their motel career by buying and renovating an old motel in Prince Edward County, Ontario, and called it the June Motel. The motel was a huge success, with customers clamoring for a room in the highly sought-after and rarely vacant motel. Guests are willing to pay upwards of $300 per night for the experience.
Sklash and Brown are implementing “Instagram moments” into every design element of the June motel they are renovating on the show in the seaside town of Sauble Beach, Michigan.
That’s part of the charm of renovation, and it also offers great marketing. Guests will enthusiastically promote the hotel themselves on social media due to the fun and beautiful backgrounds that make for great photos and Instagram boomerangs.
The two businesswomen see the old buildings as an opportunity to breathe new life into a place that might have a nostalgic meaning to guests, and they don’t see the trend fading anytime soon.
“I think it’s still in its infancy, but over the past year, because of covid, we’re seeing a lot more motels being renovated and transformed,” Sklash told The Washington Post. “I definitely think the pandemic triggered this ‘Oh, motels make a lot of sense’.”