New hotel encapsulates Milan tourist renaissance

  • Thursday 26, December 2019 11:04 AM
Sharjah24 – AFP: Cheap and cheerful capsule hotels are forever expanding from their Japanese cradle, including now in Milan where the tiny, stacked rooms are helping the Italian city cope with exploding tourist numbers.
With no-fuss convenience for both the city and transport links, digital connectivity and a social side among their chief selling points, the capsule hotels target the Generation Y crowd.

Some people, though, just stay out of sheer curiosity.

After sleeping like a log at Ostelzzz, down a quiet street in the centre of Italy's economic capital, he's ready for more.

In the size of one standard hotel room, eight capsules -- each measuring 1.45 by 1.45 by two metres (4.5 x 4.5 x 6.5 feet) -- are stacked on top of each other, four above and four below, with an enclosed toilet space in the room and showers down the corridor.

Inside the capsule is a mattress with duvet and pillow, two charging plugs for mobile phone or laptop, a lockable cupboard for luggage and a bedside table.

All this for between 19 euros a night ($21), including breakfast, and 150 euros during Milan's world-famous Design Week.

Japanese origin 
The first capsule hotels were born in Osaka, Japan in 1979, travel blogger Agnese Sabatini said.

The tiny rooms took off thanks to commuters who had drunk too much or just missed the last train home.

Since then, the concept has taken off around the world, first in airports, from Paris to Moscow and Bangkok, and then in cities like Singapore, Seoul or Mumbai.

Nevertheless, in Europe, capsule hotels are rare outside of airports.

There is for example the City Hub in Amsterdam and the Lucerne capsule hotel which opened in Switzerland at the end of 2018.

Milan is the first Italian city to have a capsule hotel, but the company behind it, ZZZleepandGo, is expanding.

Capsule hotels will be open at six airports, including Milan and Warsaw, by year's end, with Vienna and four in Brazil to swiftly follow, making it the biggest such company in the world, says chief executive officer Gianmaria Leto.

With the ambitious expansion plan, the Italian company said it expects its annual turnover to grow to 10 million euros ($11 million) in five years, compared to one million in 2019.

Milan has seen a tourist boom since the city's Expo 2015, thanks to its fashion and design weeks, as well as its Duomo (cathedral), museums and vibrant nightlife.

The city went from 4.2 million visitors in 2011, to 6.8 million in 2018, of which 65 percent were foreigners.

Last September saw 700,000 visitors, up 18 percent year-on-year, many of them youngsters.

"Four years ago there were just three youth hostels, now there are 26, there's exceptional growth," said ZZZleepandGo chief operating officer Fabio Rocchetti.

The hotel, which can also be booked via the Airbnb website, attracts a varied clientele, and not just visitors to the city.