Remember the last business trip where you spent three hours at a coffeehouse catching up on email? You didn’t want to spend an extended period in a crowded cafe with subpar Wi-Fi, but a large cup of decaf was a lot cheaper than booking a hotel room. San Francisco-based travel startup Recharge wants to help travelers like you ditch the day-in-a-cafe approach with a pay-by-the-minute model. “Nap or shower when you want,” the company’s website reads in a welcome statement.
The model is simple. Travelers open the app, find the nearest Recharge property, check in and check out when they’re ready to depart. According to a recent article in Fortune, Recharge travelers pay 66 cents per minute or $40 per hour. The service is currently only available in San Francisco where hotel prices have surged in recent years. For budget-conscious travelers, $40 - $80 for a quick workout and shower may be significantly cheaper than reserving a full night.
The hotels that are already using Recharge are upscale properties including the Hyatt Regency and the Park Central Hotel. Simone Harms, GM of the Park Central Hotel, said the property’s team was worried about what type of guests the service might attract. Paying by the minute can raise eyebrows for some travelers who associate this type of business model with illegal activities. However, Harms told Fortune that the staff closely monitored guest activity from Recharge bookings during a test in January. The result? No problems whatsoever.
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Will Recharge be able to revolutionize business travel? It has a long way to go. The app is only available for iPhone users (I couldn’t explore the functions and features on my Samsung), and the company will need to make a big investment in advertising dollars to spread awareness among busy travelers. There are promising signs for the service, though. A successful $2.3 million seed round gives Recharge the capital for the first steps toward success. More importantly, it appears that more hotels are recognizing the potential for extra revenue. There are other Starwood properties aiming to partner with Recharge.
The demand in San Francisco’s hotel market is leading to more than experiments with per-minute rates. Check out this article to learn how the San Francisco Travel Association is partnering with Airbnb.