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When I Am in the UK, I Often Stay at a Travelodge

by Barry Napier, June 2007

I prefer an easy-in easy-out hotel, no fuss and simple procedures, because I am not concerned to receive special treatment; for me a motel is just somewhere to sleep. That is one reason why, when I am in the UK, I often stay at a Travelodge. 

Another reason is that it can be incredibly cheap, when booked at the right time. Book at least 21 days in advance and you get a room that can hold up to two adults and two children for just $30/£15 a night. For $52/£26 per night book seven days in advance. Any other booking – costs are from $92/£46 a night.

Safe in the knowledge that Travelodge was British, I learned, to the contrary, that it is owned by the Dubai Investment Capital Group. In Travelodge’s profile literature the Group is whimsically listed as a ‘Private Equity Firm’. 

Other sources list it as owned by the ‘Dubai government’… which is run by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also the Vice-President of the United Arab Emirates… and who happens to own, yes, the ‘private equity firm’, Dubai Holdings… who own Dubai Investment Capital! 

The question is obvious: if the Dubai government owns Dubai Investment Capital, and yet this is a ‘private equity firm’ owned by the Sheikh – who owns who? Does he therefore own the Dubai government? And, what effect could this have on a large concern such as Travelodge if Dubai played the Arab game of oil price increases? 

Being a minion of no real consequence myself, my question will be lost in the ether, but it amused me to discover that a motel chain I use frequently because it is cheap and plain, is owned by the man who also owns the ultra-glitsy Burj Al Arab and the Jumeirah Group, via Dubai Holdings!

Just goes to show that I’m not so clever after all. Even so, I was delightfully amused by the discovery. I wonder if Travelodge gets all the cast-off luxury sheets from the Burj Al Arab? I would certainly like it if they got cast-off pillows to replace those flat things currently in use at Travelodges. (They must be made of typing paper, because no matter how many pillows I use, they still seem to be as flat as a single one. Never mind, I can put up with that if the prices stay low. As I keep saying, you get what you pay for).

Travelodge claims to be the “UK's fastest growing and most recognised budget hotel company.”  One of its rivals, Premier, makes the same claim. 

In the UK, Travelodge has 312 hotels. Ireland and Spain, with a total of 20,000 rooms. Over 6 million people stay with Travelodge every year.

Travelodge was the first budget hotel chain to be established in the UK, which is pretty remarkable for a quaint old country that, until then, had only seen motels in American movies, in which actors spoke an English unknown to the British, and ordered exotic dishes like ‘eggs easy over’ (??)! 

In 1985, Trusthouse Forte owned Travelodge, opening its first motel on the A38, (a main road through Barton Under Needwood - North of Lichfield, middle England). After that, they opened another six roadside motels in the first year. Travelodge is now owned by Dubai Investment Capital, so progress has been swift. 

But, Travelodge is very hungry, and wants 32,000 rooms (150 new hotels) by 2010 - a new hotel every eight working days. This will be done by new builds and refurbishment of other properties. 

One special aim is to be the most prominent motel chain in central London by 2012, when London hosts the Olympics, with 7,000 rooms in the Capital itself. The company is investing heavily in London right up to 2012, building 20 hotels with 700 new jobs.

Generally, Travelodge plans to open 30 hotel in 2007 alone – that’s one new hotel every nine days. These are located in: Heathrow Terminals 4 & 5 (major airport), Luton (airport), Swindon (central point on the ‘M4 corridor, east-west), Glastonbury (home of crystals, wacky-baccy and music fests), London Euston (major rail terminal), London City Road (smack in centre), Eastbourne (famed spa town on south coast), Holyhead (en-route to Ireland), Blackpool (brash, bright and noisy – the Las Vegas of England, sort of), Redditch (in rich-daddy country) and Windsor (where the Queen puts on her slippers).

Travelodge calls itself a ‘consumer champion brand’, because it keeps prices low, through, it says, “commitment to operational efficiency and a low cost business model”.  The chain rents around two million rooms each year. With such a prestigious holding company, Travelodge is bound to have only the best top-end managers, so the claim is accurate. 

83% of all bookings are done online, because the process is usually easy. Rooms are available 12 months in advance. 2.2 million people access Travelodge's booking website ever month. Access is made easier if you are a ‘member’, cutting down on booking time.

Each room has a luxury king-size bed and a sofa-bed, with en-suite bathroom, colour TV, pay on demand movies, telephone, Internet service and free tea and coffee making facilities.   The bed is fine. I only had one in which my wife and I rolled towards each other with frightening ‘g’ force speed! Other than that, space for clothing is adequate. There is, for some reason, only one chair, but as the sofa-bed is long, Travelodge probably thinks that is enough comfort. Bathrooms are okay, but the extractor fan seems to remain on for a million hours after the light is put out. If you run out of tea or coffee, etc., staff are only too happy to give you more. 

Each motel is usually next to a Little Chef, fine for some who like fast food, but I prefer to go out and find an old country pub and eat real food. In the mornings I usually find a superstore to have a cheap breakfast that costs one third that of a Little Chef!

I have just two beefs, one practical and the other moral. The pillows! I have already mentioned those, but I mention it again… how can a pillow seem plump when you see it, and go completely flat when your head makes contact? Maybe I am expecting too much from sheets of paper.

The other beef is the provision of a porn channel on the TV, paid for by credit card. My wife was highly embarrassed when she first saw even the contents list! My point is that if people wish to watch this kind of garbage, let them do it in their own home. Why bring it into a family-orientated motel? Yes, some will rent their clothes (if they wear them) in anger that I should dare to question it. But, being one who still has morals, I don’t like filth wafting around the room in the background. True, I don’t have to watch it, and it takes effort (pay by credit card) to get the channel to work – but I still don’t see why it should be there at all. Why should Travelodge lower the tone of their establishments, when many folks like fresh air and sexual propriety?

With such a prestigious holding company, Travelodge is bound to have only the best top-end managers.  Travelodge employs 4896 staff, 4678 in the UK, 164 in Ireland and 54 in Spain, headed by Keith Hamill.


Barry Napier


Also See: Dubai International Capital Plans Aggressive Expansion of Travelodge Hotels, Focus on Low Pricing / August 2006



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