The Element Times Square West by Westin [Review]
I love the concept of budget hotels. As a family of 5, we can’t always afford the high luxury hotel stays, though believe me, I am all about the personalized attention and constant pampering. Budget hotels make traveling possible for a lot of people, whether they are world travelers or seasonal travelers. How you travel doesn’t matter. Finding ways to afford travel is key. Finding these lodging options in popular destinations, like New York City, is gold.
It is no wonder that the Element Times Square West by Westin, a Starwood eco-wise brand, which I had been invited to check out for the purpose of this review, was crowded when I arrived for my one night stay. It is located in one of the busiest sections of town on 39th street, a short walk from major transportation hubs Penn Station and Port Authority bus terminal, and steps away from Times Square, Hell’s Kitchen, and other major tourist attractions. There’s no denying the location is prime.
The rooms offered some money-saving options, with a small kitchenette in each room and free WiFi. Element recently launched the Pedal-Powered Charging Stations in fitness centers brand-wide, a service that allows guests to charge up their personal devices while working out. In addition, they offer the complimentary Bikes-to-Borrow program encouraging guests to hit the trails and take in their destination. They also offer complimentary evening reception, with food and beverage pairings (four nights a week).
The $238 ticket price for the standard size room is pretty good for all this hotel offers in location, space, and amenities.
The trick to being a successful budget hotel the appeals to a broader consumer base, however, is making sure that guests don’t feel like they are in a budget hotel – something that isn’t always at the control of the property and needs to continuously be reassessed.
When I went down for the complimentary breakfast the morning after my stay, I walked into a bit of a chaotic scene; dirty counter tops, no seats, and scarce food. I chose instead to eat out after making an attempt to get a bagel and being pushed aside by a fellow guest. I saw the staff trying to clean the area, but struggle to keep up. The food in complimentary breakfasts themselves are tricky, because they aren’t always the most appetizing.
Another sign of how busy the hotel was, was in the crowds waiting for the elevators, which were slow. For me, walking down the stairs was easy because I was on a lower floor. But the hotel has 40 floors and it was a source of frustration for many.
Though the public spaces were a bit unkempt when overflowing with guests, during the day or late evening, when most guests are out or in their rooms, you can really appreciate the flow of the space, and the services they provide – such as complimentary computer and online access in one of the common areas, and the “store” which provides snacks, microwaveable meals (which you can prepare and heat up in your room), and toiletries.
The “greenhouse” is adjacent to the food service area and is a wonderful space with natural lighting where guests can relax, read a paper, or enjoy a coffee or tea, which is also available all day long, free of charge, in the lobby. Go to the small rooftop terrace with a self purchased food or drink item, and enjoy a meal while overlooking the sunset over the Hudson River, or the lights in Times Square.
That’s a lot for your money, especially when it comes to hotels in NYC. Because the rooms were clean, comfortable, and well designed (they have larger suites, as well as provide adjoining suite options for larger groups), because there were Starwood brand details that could be felt throughout, such as the Heavenly Bed product that my family and I love so much about the brand, and because it offers so many free amenities, as well as enviable location for a good price, I would be hesitant to tell someone to not consider it as an option.
Most travelers to NYC don’t spend a lot of time in the hotel when they come here, and might not be as affected by the details that failed to impress me. However, I would like to see more budget brands, especially one of this caliber, push the envelope a little further in the experience they offer their guests. It’s nice to have “complimentary”, but it’s not fun to feel “cheap”. And I spent some of my time straddling between the experience of both.
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