Third of our trio of budget hotels this month Travelodge starts the year with a major reworking of its jaded image and sales pitch. Losing ground to competitors like Premier Inn and Ibis Style, despite opening the greatest number of new rooms amongst the top ten hotel operators, Travelodge has struggled under a mountain of debt in recent years. A restructuring in 2012 has freed the company from this burden and with rejuvenated competition also coming from Ibis, the company’s refurbishment crew have moved into the flagship Covent Garden property with its 641 rooms as they start a £57 million refurbishment programme to restore the brand’s competitive edge.Designed by in house designer Frances Whitley the new look contains many references to the old, but looks fresh and contemporary. Like Ibis, Travelodge is attempting to claim the crown as the chain with the best bed with its newly designed bed, a claim Premier Inn already makes for it’s Hypnos bed and Ibis for its own newly developed offering. This bed skirmish outcrop from the bed wars started by Starwood many years ago (see, for example, this article from February 2006 or this Marriott offering from 2005), and maybe shows a belated recognition that even at the budget end of the market a guest looks first for a good night’s sleep.
Boss of Travelodge, Grant Hearn hasn’t moved very far from his days as part of the old Forte operation, being based in the same office just up the road from this flagship property at the heart of London’s major tourist area in Covent Garden. This is perhaps the reason that prototyping of the new room sets has been carried out at this hotel, but the designer has also worked with customer feedback to get the design right, and there is little to criticise about the clean, sharp result. One item excluded from the room is a phone, and this writer can testify to the need for this seemingly extraneous item to be still included in bedrooms even in these days of mobile phone usage.
Stricken with pain, I was unable to summon help and too weakened to be able to get to the door. To get help I had to use my mobile to dial the emergency services, who in turn had problems getting through the key card guard system to come to my aid. In some situations it seems a room phone is still a necessary piece of kit for an hotel bedroom.