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No frills and little sleep in Basel's easyHotel

The morning after

(swissinfo.ch)

swissinfo checked in on opening night to the first easyHotel outside London to check out the hotel version of the low-cost airline – but got little sleep.

Just like easyJet, the hotel offers travellers the bare necessities, even if the new hotel chain may be taking the no-frills approach a little too far.

Known for his media savvy, the founder of the easyGroup, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, was on hand for the launch of the Basel hotel. He told a dozen mostly Swiss journalists that he would stay the night and boasted that he had chosen the tiniest windowless room, measuring nine square metres.

Stelios (as he prefers to be called) revelled in the fact that there was space for nothing more than a double bed: no place to store his luggage – "I know how to travel light," he said (see interview under "related items") – and no window to look out or let air in.

At first glance the easy rooms exceeded my expectations. They are bright and modern and the beds are all doubles fitted with comfortable mattresses.

The orange doors painted with the easyHotel logo open outwards to save space, and the modular bathroom units in each room are big enough to turn around in with outstretched elbows.

Like easyJet and the other services Stelios has launched under the easy brand, easyHotel can only be booked online.

Easy orange

"You could paint a door orange ten years ago and it would not have made a difference," Stelios said of the power of the internet.

The "very small windowless" rooms start at SFr24 ($19), single or double occupancy, and the rates vary according to demand.

Guests have to pay for extras, such as breakfast, television and having the room made up and the bed linen and towels changed.

"Guests would rather spend their money on cultural events and good food," said Philipp Fink, the owner of the Basel franchise.

"They'll accept lesser priced accommodation if it's clean and well operated."

Pot sweetener

To sweeten the pot, the easyGroup has signed a deal with the Basel tourist board, offering packages starting at around SFr160 including return flight, one-night stay and entrance to Basel's museums, Rhine ferry rides and guided city tours.

easyJet's decision to make Basel one of its two Swiss hubs has been a big boost for the city's tourist industry.

The Euro-Airport saw a 25 per cent increase in passengers in the first half of this year, and easyJet now accounts for a third of all air traffic at Basel.

"Basel benefits from easyJet because the airline brand is so well known," explained Daniel Egloff, director of tourism.

"People fly with easyJet who have never flown before because they could never afford to. It's a good concept that should work for the hotel as well," he added.

Convinced that the hotel project would also take wing, I checked in.

More spacious than Stelios's, my room's three additional square metres included a corner to stash my overnight bag and – sans furniture – I at least had a windowsill where I could place my valuables.

There were a few clothes hooks screwed to the wall instead of a closet and a small ledge in the bathroom to put my toiletries.

Dilemma

So far so good, but then I decided to turn in for the night and was faced with a decision which would make or break my easy experience. Should I leave the window open on this muggy night to let in fresh air as well as the noise from the busy street below, or keep it closed and suffocate?

Opting for the former, I spent restless hours listening to the loud rumble of passing trams and bar patrons argue as they staggered past beneath my window.

I quickly understood why Stelios had chosen one of the windowless rooms: they have air conditioning.

After hearing a car screech its tyres as it raced down the road – and what I assumed was the siren of a police car in fast pursuit – I took a deep breath and slammed the window shut.

"We forgot to air out the rooms during the day, so the room temperature was higher than it should have been in the evening," Fink explained when I told him about my sleepless night, ignoring the fact that a lack of oxygen was at issue not the temperature.

He also said the rooms would no longer be affordable if he had to cover the cost of installing air conditioning throughout the hotel.

I could not help wonder why the brainchild of easy everything had not thought of making earplugs available at the reception. Guests would have to pay extra of course.

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel in Basel

Key facts

The easyHotel Basel rooms come in three sizes; very small (9sqm), small (12sqm) and standard (16sqm).
Prices start at SFr24 per room.
Reservations can only be made over the internet.
The hotel is designed for short stays of 2-3 days.
It is centrally located and beside Basel's conference centre.
The Basel tourist office is offering packages including a return flight on easyJet, a night in the easyHotel and entrance to museums and guided tours.

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