When a guest of The One Hotel Angkor wants to find a unique souvenir to bring home from Cambodia, the owner happily escorts him or her to the best shop in town. Martin Dishman extends that personal touch upon arrival, too: You are met at Siem Reap International and transported to your very own room at the mod French-colonial hotel — the only room at The One Hotel, as its name suggests. Which means everything is about you.
The three-story hotel opened in 2006 — pre-Airbnb. But now, new mono- and micro-hotels (generally those with four rooms or fewer) have grown more common around the globe, especially in the past 18 months, perhaps riding on the coattails of the trend that smaller is better.
One thing the one-room hotel has over the room-for-rent? It is totally legal — just as Airbnb may turn out not to be in certain cities. (Sorry, NYC.) Each has what is traditionally expected in a hotel (a lobby, housekeeping, free breakfast), and none is laden with someone else’s potentially creepy past or present — or personal toiletries. That’s a good thing for those of us who haven’t drunk the Airbnb Kool-Aid. Could there actually be a middle ground between the hotel equivalent of eating off a stranger’s plate and a cutesy B&B?
With Airbnb, there’s frequently an element of surprise that some of us don’t like (although, according to the company’s Facebook page, 445,000 do). Thankfully, some hosts do practice full disclosure. For example, the neighbors are junkies and dealers in this one-roomer; when you’re not renting this room, it is a hat-costume closet.
Does that help you hit the “Book Now” button? If your answer is no, the one-room hotel may be your solution. It’s an ingenious way to open unused spaces in various businesses to the public, and they’re often run by people who know how to treat a guest. And unlike personal homes, they are licensed as hotels and pay appropriate taxes to help their cities out.
Dishman, who has been a hotelier for 30 years, took a gamble on the idea. In his case, necessity was the mother of invention: When he realized the building he bought couldn’t hold the four hotel rooms he had planned, he adjusted. “We could do two small rooms,” he recalled. “Then the lightbulb went off. One room! Do it up with all the amenities, like an in-room MacBook, that larger hotels could not offer economically.”
It has a private rooftop terrace that overlooks the trendy Linga Bar, also owned by Dishman, and is, as it turns out, The One’s sugar daddy. “One-room hotels are not financially viable by themselves,” admits Dishman. “We always had the bar. It gave us more facilities as well as revenue for those times when we did not have guests. With a one-room hotel, you are either 100 percent full or completely empty. Full revenue or zero revenue.”
And miracles! It smells, looks and tastes like a hotel — the only thing missing are other guests.
Four One-Room Hotels around the World
1. Amsterdam: Hôtel Droog, on the top floor of a former 17th-century textile guild, is just one part of a bigger design business that Renny Ramakers started in 1993. Within the guild is a designer’s version of Disneyland: a gallery, tea room, fairy-tale gardens, a modern furnishings store and the aptly named Room Service café — facilities all open to hotel guests (and the public). The room is kitted out with Droog’s cool design accessories, so if you like something, you can buy it in the store. Opened in 2012.
2. Prague: For those who fondly remember From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and want to re-create that nostalgic yarn, One Room Hotel fits the bill. It’s located in a television tower with a restaurant and observation deck open to the paying public, but book the one room and you get 24/7 access to the 360-degree view 280 feet above Prague. Amenities include a Hästens bed, a mini-bar, reception, a bar and a restaurant. Opened in 2013.
3. Copenhagen: In the hands of former film set decorator Leif Thingtved, an 1890s shoemaker’s house became the Central Hotel. A retro sign is out front, perched above the Central Café. Everything in the room is built and decorated by Thingtved; fresh flowers, fruit and wine are in the room upon arrival. Yes to daily breakfast and housekeeping. Opened in 2013.
4. Siem Reap: The three-storied One Hotel Angkor in Cambodia’s tourist capital is French-colonial but updated with swank. Example: a Jacuzzi on the rooftop deck. There’s also a Weber grill on the terrace, for the hotel’s version of room service 3.0 — a chef will come to the room and BBQ dinner.
All beg the question: If you check into a hotel with just one room and no one else is around to hear you make noise through the thin walls, do you still make a sound?
Why you should care
Because, believe it or not, not every hip traveler likes to sleep in a room strewn with other people’s sh*t.