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The rise of the microstay

You may well be familiar with the term ‘staycation’ — holidays in your home country — but the latest travel trend is a ‘daycation’ — dubbed a ‘micro-stay’.

The market for this emerging service is still changing as word spreads and demands evolve. So who is using this service and what options are available?

What are microstay hotels?

Microstay hotels are hotels that can be booked by the hour, not just by the night. Inspired, in part, by capsule hotels, they are sometimes known as day-stay or short-stay hotels. They first became popular in Europe but can now be found in most travel hubs across the world.

This once niche service of offering short, non-overnight stays in hotel rooms is expanding around the world. A need to maximise revenue by hotels has been met with a demand from consumers. The hotel industry is under pressure to adapt and adopt new trends — to keep up with consumer needs and competitors. As Bill Carroll, teacher at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, comments: “Hotels own a physical asset 365 days a year and they need to maximize revenue for every square centimetre, 24 hours a day.” Changes in hotels’ booking strategies often attempt to maximise revenue by exploiting unused assets. In this instance, its space.

Cue the rise of the micro-stay. Hotels can sell unused space and time while weary travellers can rest and refresh without committing to an overnight stay. This service allows guests to book a hotel for less than the typical overnight stay of 20 hours. Some hotels offer stays for as little as three hours.

Also known as a daycation, hotels are capitalising on the ability to sell the same room twice in one day, simultaneously offering savings to those looking for a place to rest outside of the common check in times. This innovation of booking by the hour allows for increased customisation of stays, with hotels ditching defined check-in and check-out times. Favouring flexibility is a prerequisite of today’s fast-paced society, where every minute can matter.

It becomes apparent, however, when reading articles and literature from the early days of the initiative, that hotels had concerns around the sleazy connotations of ‘renting rooms by the hour’.

History and locations

The concept — which originated from Japanese ‘capsule hotels’ — is widely accepted across Europe. The 2008 recession resulted in reduced budgets for overnight business trips. With no less hectic schedules, people travelling within a single day, wanted a place to rest or prepare for meetings. America and India soon followed suit and began adopting the practice. BYHOURS was founded back in 2012 in Spain as a booking platform for hotels offering micro-stays. They currently operate in the UK, Latin America, and as far as the Middle East.


“People are asking for customized everything when they travel, including check-in and checkout times” says Michelle Grant, Euromonitor’s Travel and Tourism Research Manager.

Most hotels offering micro-stays are usually located in large city centres for ease of access. BYHOURS founder, Christian Rodriguez, attributes the success of the website to business travellers who want micro-stays close to transport centres. Others making the most of this unique option tend to be jetlagged travellers, families with long transit times, hospital visitors in between visiting hours and even weary shoppers.

Such a short stay may sound indulgent, but the opportunity to spend a few hours in the comfort of a hotel room, rather than having to find a seat in a busy public area, has proven preferable to many. For example, a room at the Ibis London Blackfriars hotel might cost £130 ($170) for one night, but only £60 ($80) for a stay during the day. Because these stays typically provide the same comforts of a traditional stay, but for a fraction of the price, its popularity is unsurprising. Often including spa and gym facilities, hotels offering micro-stays are the perfect place to enjoy a few hours R&R — especially if you’re a jetlagged business person.

So successful is the principle that some hotels are even offering families and individuals access to their pools for a small fee. This is particularly popular with expats living in hotter countries and experiencing warmer climates than they’re used to.


Hotels have long provided businesses with meeting spaces and corporate hospitality — but rarely with the benefits of a shower, a bed or a place to freshen up. Digital nomads in particular are making use of the quiet space and free wi-fi a hotel room provides, while the new environment may help creatives find inspiration.

The otherwise empty rooms found throughout hotels, are even rented out as office space at an hourly rate, due to the demand for shorter rental periods. Cheaper options are sometimes offered for smaller meetings, without the need to pay for an unnecessarily large room or the added cost of refreshments within a meeting space.

On the contrary, some hotels are doing their utmost to attract clients and business travellers by adding experiences and services from games consoles to office equipment such as printers.

Offices of the future

Marriott International Hotels’ Workspace On Demand service cleverly converts spare space into meeting rooms. Despite the increasing ease of conducting business online, hotels are benefitting from a preference for traditional face-to-face meetings — especially amongst the C suite.

Paul Cahill, Global Brand Leader at Marriott Hotels commented on the opportunity: “We are challenging the notion that you have to be a hotel guest to use the hotel. We are opening the doors and saying, ‘Come in, work in our lobbies and use our free WiFi. Gather your team in our meeting rooms, whether it is all day or just for an hour.’ ”

Use of communal areas with access to free Wi-Fi, printers, scanners and the all-important coffee are frequently used to entice potential businesses, expertly blurring the lines between a hotel room and corporate rentals. Seattle’s Hotel 1000 does just this, offering drinks, snacks, parking and Wi-Fi, charging users between £11-26 ($15-35) per day for a ‘pop-up office’. Going one step further are Westin Hotels, offering sound systems, whiteboards and even gaming systems, widely promoting the unique service they call Tangent.

With more and more individuals predicted to become location independent in the future, this is a valuable investment. Caroline Bremner, author at Euromonitor International, noted that “hotels will become ‘offices of the future’, and this is very much likely to become a global trend.”


There are rewards for finding creative ways to increase revenue, with hoteliers hoping to encourage micro-stays for those attending these ‘micro-meetings’. Michelle Grant is an advocate:

“Hotels needed ways to boost their revenue, so more of them started renting guest rooms for less than 24 hours.”

With Airbnb entering the hospitality industry in 2008, the need for traditional hotels to adapt increased. By mid-2012 the platform had taken bookings for over 10 million nights, that’s one night every two seconds. Reacting to the demands of the modern consumer by offering ‘relaxed’ bookings, where guests can select and pay for only the hours they need, is just one of the ways hotels have competed with similar services.

Online bookings

BYHOURS have completely changed the way people book these customisable short stays, through the recent introduction of their own hotel booking app. With the increased use of mobile devices, this innovation is crucial to help hotels secure bookings and increase revenue. Their complete booking system is clearly working, with over 200,000 transactions since its launch, offering some of the world’s best hotels at heavily discounted rates. Similar sites include Dayuse-hotels, Between9and5, SliceRooms, Mi-stay and Frotels.

Worktel is one example of business-focused apps that allow firms to book hotel space for business. Workspace On Demand owes much of its success to the Marriott's collaboration with Liquidspace.

High-end off limits

While companies like Marriott are eager to capitalise on otherwise unused space, many high-end hotels remain hesitant to embrace the trend. Without explicit comments from the likes of Dorchester or Waldorf we can only guess at the reasons: are they happy with their profits? Do they operate at 100% capacity? Or do they fear erosion of brand by discounting their premium products?

Associate professor at New York University's Tisch Center for Hospitality, Bjorn Hanson approximates the daily cost of cleaning luxury rooms to be $22. The risk of potential damage to the rooms could easily outweigh the revenue.

These high-end hotels are caught in a conundrum. There is a demand for flexibility but they don’t want to undersell their quality rooms, or could it be the seedy connotations associated with couples renting out a room for only a couple of hours, deterring them?

Budget and economy brands continue to embrace the undeniable need to meet the demands of modern consumers and boost occupancy through creative solutions. The micro-stay concept benefits both guest and hotelier alike, offering a refreshing take on traditional stays while rewriting the reputation of ‘by the hour hotels’. And this mainstream usage for businesses and consumers is emphasised in many hotels’ marketing, a tagline of HotelsByDay being: “Convenience for your day. A quiet place to work during the day.”

Whether you’re a globally mobile professional in need of two hours’ jetlag catch up or a family Christmas shopping in a new city, there’s a new way to rest, relax and recuperate. 

Don’t be deceived by its ‘micro’ title, quoted in the World Travel Market Global Trends Report and continuing to increase in popularity, it’s clearly here to ‘stay’.

If you’re desperate for some calm and quiet in your life, but can’t find a nearby hotel offering a micro-stay, try incorporating these mindfulness tips into your daily routine.

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