Mark Norton’s premonition that YO! was destined to go on to other things led to the question: ‘What would a hotel look like if it was called YO!?’
YO! knew at a base level that it wanted to bring ‘what rich people had’ to everyone, but to do that required a ‘quantum leap’ in thinking…
Simon was lucky enough to get an upgrade to the sleeper bed in British Airways first class. He went to sleep with the conundrum of how to make a Japanese capsule hotel acceptable in the West, and woke up realising the solution was all around him.
‘All I needed to do was find the designer of the BA first class cabin, and ask them to help me design a hotel.’ When he asked around, a lot of people put their hands up, but Simon asked Russell Mulchansingh to take on shaping the concept. From that, through many sketches, a full-sized polystyrene model was born.
Hotels are generally drawn then built. Cars and airline cabins are sketched and modelled full-size. Both were true of YOTEL. There were a number of full-size prototypes, each growing more refined with input from various studios; Conran Design, PriestmanGoode and later Rockwell Studios in New York. A firm hand from Gerard Greene saw the first YOTEL opening at Gatwick Airport in the UK in 2007.
Robots were used to handle baggage in New York, beds deployed as they did on airplanes, rooms sold by the hour, producing up to 250% occupancy in airport locations, while windows looking onto the corridors enabled locations within terminals.
When people first see YO! concepts, Simon perpetually seeks these magic words: ‘This is so obvious – why didn’t someone do this before?”.
YOTEL now has 1000 operating ‘cabins’ in three countries, and a further 4000 planned or ‘in build’ in ten locations. This will make YOTEL into the largest of all YO! brands, and one of the top ten value hotels worldwide.
IFA Hotels and Resorts joined YO! as major partners and investors in 2005. They eventually bought the hotel operating company, leaving YO! Company and Simon with an ongoing royalty stake – allowing Simon the time to move on to the next YO! Projects.
The seeds that sowed YO! and later YOTEL can be seen and read about in The Book of YO! available from Amazon.