First there were pop-up boutiques, with their short-term leases injecting new life into vacant storefronts. Then came pop-up restaurants, as itinerant chefs began borrowing the kitchens of their vacationing comrades. But, oddly enough, it is the hotel industry that is taking the here-today-gone-tomorrow concept to a new extreme. To coincide with the Summer Olympics, England's Snoozebox is erecting a temporary 320-room hotel out of shipping containers in a park 90 minutes northeast of London. Each room comes with a bathroom, an air-conditioning unit, a key card and wi-fi access, and the whole hotel can be assembled--and ready for guests to check in--within three to four days of arriving at a new location.
Snoozebox, which rents its rooms for $100 to $300 a night and was valued at nearly $35 million on the London Stock Exchange in May, installed a similar pop-up on the grounds of Windsor Castle for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and in August it will move on to the Edinburgh International Festival. The company's rivals are relocating for concerts and car races, with some, including the Pop-Up Hotel, based in Somerset, England, modeling their custom-designed canvas tents after those you might find on luxury safaris. Across the pond in California, Shelter Co. this spring began offering offbeat brides--and anyone else looking to have an elegant soire in the woods--tents outfitted with 400-thread-count sheets, down comforters, coolers of wine and prices on a par with the Four Seasons'. Weekend rates begin at $750.
Snoozebox and its lower-impact brethren provide truly portable lodging. But another pop-up purveyor is doing something sneakier: renting out existing hotels, stocking them with organic bath products and maybe some new throw cushions and then jacking up the prices. That's essentially what Berlin-based Design Hotels did in May when it took over the San Giorgio Beach Hotel on the Greek island of Mykonos for this year's high season. To spruce up the beachfront property, which was built in the 1990s and is a few hundred yards from a big nightclub, decorators brought in wicker chandeliers, director's chairs and sea-grass rugs and renamed the place San Giorgio Mykonos.
"You can spin hotels around that have great bones but are getting really tired," says Design Hotels CEO Claus Sendlinger, whose company's 231 hotels include the prestigious Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City and the Dolder Grand in Zurich. The website for the revamped San Giorgio has pictures of straw hats slung over chair backs and emphasizes the hotel's ability to help travelers with "relaxing from their daily life and just being themselves." "Through the images we use and the language we use, it attracts the creative class," says Sendlinger. (And by "creative class," he means people who are willing to rough it for $189 a night.)