Florida Keys Business
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Beating the odds
Accommodating hotel rearranges an industry

Two brothers from Sweden are upending the hotel industry while giving new meaning to the term "accommodations."
Sure, any decent hotelier can offer a warm welcome, free wifi and thick pool towels, but at NYAH — Not Your Average Hotel — Gustaf and Jesper Arnoldsson enforce a surprising policy of "the more the merrier," and the staff regularly rearranges the remarkable guest rooms to accommodate two to six people.

The adjustable design of NYAH’s guest beds allows staff to double or even triple the capacity of a room. Following a few simple flips and folds, a king-sized bed gives birth to twins; a couch becomes a bottom bunk and an overhead bin becomes the top tier of sleeping arrangements.

"We ask people when they make their reservation to let us know how they want the room arranged," said General Manager Frank Dinoto.

A couple may share a king-sized bed, while their two single friends are in adjacent bunk beds. Three single guys will almost always opt for three twin beds, while three women don’t mind sharing a kind-sized bed with a friend, sister or cousin, Dinoto said, emphasizing NYAH’s all-welcome policy that replaced the former Coconut Grove and Oasis guest houses, which were exclusively for men. NYAH is however adult-exclusive, Jesper Arnoldsson said, emphasizing the difference between adult-exclusive and adult-only.

"We’re not that type of adult-only resort," he said. "We just don’t cater to anyone under 18."

The vastly renovated resort comprises seven previously separate properties that were awkwardly divided with stone walls and aging fences before the Arnoldssons took over and opened NYAH in February.

At NYAH, 420 Margaret St., the emphasis is on shared space — in the rooms, around the resort’s five pools, on the sundecks and during evening happy hours — and shared expenses, said Jesper Arnoldsson,

The room arrangement options make a Key West vacation vastly more affordable for today’s travelers.

Two people can stay in a traditional double occupancy hotel room in Key West for, say, $240 a night, Gustaf Arnoldsson said.

That figure falls to $40 per night if all six beds in a NYAH room are occupied.

Even if three people are in a room, the price goes down to $80 per person per night.

But it’s not just about money, Jesper Arnoldsson said, while acknowledging that finances are generally the biggest consideration for Key West visitors.

"But people aren’t just traveling in pairs anymore," he said, quoting travel statistics from the Monroe County tourist Development Council that show the average size of visitor groups to Key West is slightly more than three people. "They come in groups — two girls and a guy, or vice versa. We had six women here last week for a college reunion, and another time we had three generations of women from the same family."

Hotels today are doing guests a disservice by holding them to outdated arrangements requiring rationed towels and roll-away cots that do nothing to diminish a traveler’s "third-wheel status."

And think about it, Jesper Arnoldsson said, even in situations when a large group of friends has booked a bunch of hotel rooms, they end up packing into one or two of the rooms to share late nights and laughter.

"This arrangement makes sense financially and socially," Gustaf Arnoldsson said. "Where else can you stay in Old Town Key West for about $40 a night? We’re creating a hip, cool place by catering to today’s tech-savvy travelers who book online, check in with a phone app and expect free wifi. They can help themselves to the pool towels and to the self-serve Starbucks in the lobby."

NYAH is targeting male and female travelers between 21 and 40.

"We’re not stuffy," he said. "We’re here for a hip, young crowd. And as a service provider, you have to adapt. That’s what we’re doing."

And they’re doing the same at the three other hotel properties they’ve bought in recent years.

The Arnoldssons’ hotel empire in Key West currently includes NYAH, Cabana Inn, which was previously Big Ruby’s; the Southernmost Inn, which was previously Pearl’s; Paradise Inn on Simonton Street and NYAH, which was once Coconut Grove and Oasis.

The other inns offer traditional rooms, though that traditional is likely to start giving way to the new look of NYAH, which is currently the only one of its kind in Key West.
Though the Arnoldssons expect others to soon start imitating their rearranged resort,

mmiles@keysnews.com

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