Motels are undergoing a metamorphosis across the United States


Indeed, technology contributes to the very nature of self-service motels. At Capri, a 1963 property in Ojai, California, renovated three years ago, check-in is via SMS. Its 30 rooms are all open to the air and have been open – and mostly occupied on weekends since September 2020 – said Marlee Rojan of reception. And regularly booked mid-week since March. “For months I would sit here all day trying to make people feel comfortable. We weren’t allowed to serve coffee or water, it was super weird, ”she said. “I would just say, ‘I’m here if you need me!’ Nobody did.

It’s also vital for marketing, which, as Mr. Blood said, can be “a bit of an uphill battle”. Responding to people’s nostalgia plays a big role, as does choosing desirable locations, but Instagram in particular made it easier to showcase the vibe of the new motel. The streams of trendy hotel-motel clusters are compelling scrolls through cool pools and cute couples, patterned pillows, and simple but sophisticated rooms. Reminders held in the palm that these are not your parents’ moldy motels.

Maybe just not call them motels?

“I’m not afraid of it,” Mr. Blood said of the M-word. “But we prefer the motor-lodge.”

“We’d rather not call it a motel,” said Kristin Huxta Bradley, senior communications manager for Kimpton, when asked about the Goodland, a converted 1960s property outside of Santa Barbara. It has record players and DJs by the pool and retro-style rooms bordering the pool. “It’s not the motel experience,” she says. “This is a charming hotel. We don’t have any motels in our portfolio. Call it what you want, of all of Kimpton’s properties, those with exterior lanes “performed well and saw some of the fastest returns to pre-pandemic activity levels,” Ms. Bradley said.

A downstairs drive-through room during a pandemic in the Ojai Dream or Sweet Cape Cod is desirable, no doubt. But a room downstairs, behind the wheel of the highway, or by the side of the street in a city filled with crime, in normal times? Not so much, the big chains decided a dozen years ago.

In 2008, Holiday Inn – which started in 1954 as a chain of hotels outside of the interstate freeway system – stopped renewing contracts with its exterior corridor hotels, citing perceived safety concerns among its guests. . “Big brands view exterior corridors as a liability risk,” said Mr. Scholes. “They made a big effort to get rid of it. We have certainly seen a purge. He dismisses the mod motel movement as a niche, and while exterior hallways have been advantageous lately, that’s not a sign, he said, that the long, traditional hotel hallway, covered in carpeted and tightly closed, fits anywhere.


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