Update (14th January 2017): Have booked to stay again in Edinburgh at The Hub in a few months time. Surprisingly far, far cheaper than staying at any of the IHG owned hotels, of which I avidly collect points for. Stay tuned for an update!
As a frequent(ish) traveller, I like my technology, and having had my fair share of staying in Travelodges and Holiday Inn Expresses and whatnot, it’s frustrating seeing the same old stuff every time one stays at these places: all too small TVs (at least they’re flatscreen, right?), inconveniently located light switches and wall sockets, and having to remember to stick your keycard into the wall to make sure that the lights and AC remain on. And then you have a thermostat that’s probably older than you and that it never gets the right temperature that you want, so you’re fiddling with it constantly.
Then you have to wait 600 years in reception checking and checking out.
Yawn, yawn, yawn. But at least you get a decent bed, and a good night’s sleep, yes? Maybe.
There’s a new kid in town, and it’s aiming to make staying a budget conscious (usually – subject to supply and demand and seasons, etc.) a tech lover’s dream.
For my trip to Edinburgh, I booked The Hub by Preimer Inn. As the name implies, it’s a sister hotel to the regular Premier Inn, but with more emphasis on technology and efficiency. But not at the expense of either (nor comfort for that matter). From check in through to turning the lights on and off, you’ll be exposed to the future of proper hotel comfort using a contactless keycard and a mobile app to control your room’s temperature and lighting.
But that’s not all.
You get a huge comfortable bed, a desk and chair (sometimes the desk is hidden away, sometimes you’ll get a slightly bigger room with the desk in a permanent position), a 40″ smart TV with a dedicated panel for HDMI, RGB connectors and USB in, a control panel that controls all the lights, temperature, and the “Do not make up room” and “Do not disturb” electronic signs that light up outside your room.
Check-in was simplicity itself. There’s a QR code with your booking that you scan in the check-in machine (don’t worry – there’s staff on hand to guide you through the whole process) and you then confirm a few details on the touchscreen. You then take a blank, contactless room card and then put it into the reader/writer. You’re then checked in. Two minutes! No queues!
But you can control all that through The Hub’s own iOS (or Android) app if you wish. It’s a tiny bit buggy, but works more or less most of the time. It’s perfectly possible, when connected to the hotel’s superfast (and I do mean it) Wi-Fi and sitting downstairs in the deli seating area to set the temperature ready for when you get back to your room.
When you do leave the room, lights and AC are turned off/or set to a low level. On your return, everything comes back on without you having to stick your contactless room card in a slot or do anything else. It Just Works(tm). No more thumbling around for that light switch.
Speaking of food, I ordered breakfast for all 4 days that I was staying at the hotel. Breakfast consists one of four choices and comes with a sandwich, bagel or muffin, a hot drink (from Costa – so I could enjoy my favourite mochas every day), and a cold drink (typically orange juice). I tended to combine this with a pain au chocolate (£2 extra). The Great British breakfast was delicious – bacon in a toasted sandwich.
I also tried other items on the menu (a tuna/cheese toasted sandwich and a decent, hearty soup containing chickpeas) and I can attest that the quality of the ingredients is excellent, The in house restaurant/deli is effectively a branch of The Proven Dough. It’s not a brand I had heard of before, but would certainly be happy to use again.
The rooms, by the way, don’t have any kettles (they do have hairdryers, however). But that’s okay. You have 24/7 access to unlimited coffee and tea downstairs in the deli/reception area. I tested this by heading down at 1am and there were still members of staff milling around. I went back to the room and promptly tripped, emptying the entire contents of the tea onto the floor. Sigh.
As The Hub’s deli is that – a deli – if you want something a bit more substantial, the location of the hotel in Edinburgh puts you right at the Royal Mile. Literally a two minute walk. But you can also use the regular Premier Inn restaurant – which is 30 seconds away, but I would recommend booking in advance wherever possible.
The only downside was that I couldn’t get AirPlay to work with the Smart TV. I suspect that the implementation by Samsung/Premier Inn isn’t quite compatible with iOS 9.3. I still had that superfast Wi-Fi, and the 12.9″ inches of my iPad Pro to watch Netflix and Amazon. So it was no big deal. A nice idea from Premier Inn, however.
As you can see, The Hub by Premier Inn offers people like me a hotel that makes sense. The Hub by Premier Inn is perfect for the business traveller (the deli/seating area has built in chargers for phones, and electrical sockets for laptops).
Travelodge and Holiday Inn (Express) ought to take note. The Hub by Premier Inn is the future of the modern mass market hotel. While still only available in limited locations for now, I hope that Premier Inn will roll out more Hubs to other cities and towns.
I absolutely loved my stay at The Hub by Premier Inn (Edinburgh Royal Mile) and I’m already planning on going back later this year. What was even better was the price. For the four nights I was away, it cost me only £218. Had I stayed at a local hotel, it’d have cost me £320, and given the experience of my manager who popped up to go to the same conference as me (I combined a working day with a holiday) had, I definitely made the right choice.