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Arthur Frommer: Low-cost hotel rooms a window to future?

  • Published Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010, at 12:03 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010, at 12:54 a.m.

They are called Tune hotels, boasting "five-star beds for one-star prices." Their owner is a wealthy airline magnate of the Far East (Tony Fernandes of AirAsia), and he has just opened the first European example of this new breed of economically priced hotels charging about 50 British pounds ($78) for a double room with private facilities in high season (but as little as 35 pounds, or $55, when demand is low). Fifteen more such hotels — and that's no misprint — will soon sprout at other central locations in London, or so he claims. Nine other Tune hotels are already operating in various Asian locations (all, thus far, in Malaysia and Indonesia).

Photographs of London's new Tune hotel (at 118-120 Westminster Bridge Road, 15 feet from the Lambeth North subway station) show it to be a thoroughly modern structure built brand-new from ground up. So how does it achieve such a low room rate?

The basis for its budget pricing results from what is not provided in the modest room charge. The policy is similar to that of a limited-service, low-cost airline that gives you bare transportation and charges separately for everything else.

Towels, soap and shampoo? The hotel doesn't provide them. You either bring your own towel and bar of soap or rent them from the front desk.

Daily housekeeping of your room and making up of your bed? It isn't done. The rooms are cleaned and made up only on the conclusion of a guest's stay and the occupancy of the room by new guests.

Telephone, radio, minibar and TV? Nope, you don't get them (but you can rent them for an extra charge).

Coffee maker, tea maker? All optional add-ons. Wardrobes for your clothing? Nope, but you get hangers.

Is this the hotel of the future? Could be. To me, it's fascinating that the CEO of a Malaysian airline should have analyzed the costs of running a hotel and concluded that the way to keep room rates low is to eliminate services, facilities and products that most of us take for granted. We should all keep a close eye on Tune hotels, and give serious thought to seeking a room at one on our next trip to London.

Bookings? You either go to www.tunehotels.com (the recommended course), or else phone (for an extra fee) 603-796-25888 in Malaysia or 622-156-970-060 in Indonesia.

• A suggestion for travel-related charitable giving:

We are entering that time of year when contributions are most heavily made to nonprofit charities engaged in real service to underprivileged people. And in the world of travel, I can think of f ew better goals than eradication of the exploitation of children in travel — namely, an end to the operation of sex tourism featuring children.

An organization that leads in that effort is ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), and one of its sources of funding is the sale of large, colorful, cloth luggage tags made by village women in Thailand. If you'll go to ECPAT's TassaTag website (www.tassatag.org), you'll learn about these "TassaTags." (I have several of them, which allow me to spot my particular suitcase when it emerges on the luggage belt.) Each luggage tag costs $12 , plus $2.50 for shipping up to five tags.

ECPAT's website, www.ecpat.net, describes itswork, which has resulted through the years in many tangible victories against the operators of child-centered sex tours, including important legislation in numerous countries to combat the scourge. Part of the income from TassaTags goes to the village women who produce them; the remainder funds the work of ECPAT.

I think you'll be impressed with the information found at the organization's website.

Arthur Frommer is the pioneering founder of the Frommer's Travel Guide book series. He co-hosts the radio program "The Travel Show" with his travel correspondent daughter Pauline Frommer. Find more destinations online and read Arthur Frommer's blog at frommers.com.

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