Hotel Chains is a new occasional column on chain hotels around the world. There are many excellent independent hotels around the world and The Rapid Traveler has time to review almost none of them. He will not be replacing guidebooks. His preferred mode of leisure travel is to move fast, rarely staying more than a night or two in any place, so he does not invest time finding the perfect hotel. He wants hotels that he can arrive late at night, have few negatives surprises, get a good night’s sleep and be off in the morning. There are local hotel chains all around the world, often providing much better value at the budget and mid levels than the big international chains. And at the luxury level, particularly in Asia, they can far surpass the biggies. Even the sniffiest Starwood aficionado is muted after experiencing a Peninsula or Mandarin Oriental. A local chain lacks the rich local experience of a B&B but is much less generic than a Marriott.
Tune Hotels, a personal favorite of The Rapid Traveler, kicks of the column in snappy style. Tune, along with Air Asia, is part of super-entrepreneur Tony Fernandes‘ empire. They have eleven hotels in their Malaysian base and a few each in Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines plus London. Their five principles are: “5-star beds, power showers, central & convenient locations, clean environment, and 24-hour security.” The room is not much bigger than the excellent bed and the bathroom little more than the great shower head, but they deliver on those most important essentials. Everything else is an add-on, from air conditioning to towel and toiletries. The add-on charges are minimal, for instance in Malaysia the comfort package of 12 hours of AC, towel and toiletries is about US$5.25, added to room rates that are in the tens of dollars. The buildings are hip, attracting a young mix of locals and foreign backpackers. There are all kinds of discounts and packages, too.
The Tunes hotels are all recently opened, mostly after The Rapid Traveler’s days swooping down from China, but he has stayed several times at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (KLIA LCCT) and Kuching locations, both in Malaysia, and always had positive experiences.
The KLIA LCCT hotel is particularly useful if connecting from KLIA‘s (KUL) main terminal to LCCT. In The Rapid Traveler’s first KLIA experience he stayed at the main terminal transit hotel thinking he could stoll to his Air Asia gate without leaving the terminal. Oh was he wrong, thankfully Gilfriend of Rapid Traveler (now Mrs.) was a good sport and he learned a lesson about Malaysian airports, though almost was similarly burned several years later in Kota Kinabalu, which has a similar set-up. The main terminal and LCCT are separated by a 30-minute bus ride (3.0 RM, payable only in RM cash), the bus difficult to locate, not nearly as frequent as needed, and not running at all between midnight and six a.m. KLIA is a superb airport but this is its major flaw. So get to LCCT early and enjoy its only hotel and the Australian backpackers quaffing convenience stores beers at the tables outside. For a better meal head to the food court favored by LCCT employees adjacent to the main LCCT building.
Readers, do you love or loathe Tune Hotels? What chains do you suggest for future columns?