Midrange hotels needn’t be mediocre
For a traveler spending a night in an unfamiliar place, lodging may be the most important part of the trip. Whether your choice is a luxury or budget hotel, the few hours you spend there may determine your impression of the city. After a night at a noisy and shabby hotel near a subway station in France 20 years ago, my romantic Parisian fantasy was broken. The accommodation does not have to be a luxury hotel. A simple and comfortable room is enough to enjoy the air of a new place.
Over the Chuseok holiday weekend, I visited Tainan, a historic city in southern Taiwan. Prior to 1887, Tainan was the capital of Taiwan prefecture. My first impression was determined when I checked into the JJ-W Cultural Design Hotel, a recently opened West Market boutique hotel that was the center of trade in Tainan since 1905. The hotel has 27 rooms and is far from a five-star resort.
Just as its name suggests, this Cultural Design Hotel offers a different concept for each room. A filmmaker, gallery director, photographer, writer, painter, architect, and other artists and professionals participated in the room designs. My room reconstructed the street of Wutiao Harbor. Paintings on the white wall illustrated layouts of the old coastal houses. The round wire coffee table was art by itself. An antique trunk in a corner of the room accentuated the atmosphere. The armchair and stool were pieces of furniture and culture. For guests interested in the products, contact information was attached.
With convenience and artistry, the hotel was not merely a place to stay the night. It told the story of the neighborhood. It was an open space for art and culture. The lobby was used as a gallery, hosting exhibitions, and the conference rooms were located on the lower level. The municipal authority of Tainan is converting old buildings for modern use and design while preserving the old downtown, and the hotel’s approach was in tune with modernization of the Tainan style.
Foreigners visiting Korea say one of their biggest concerns is finding the right lodging. It is only a slight exaggeration to say there are luxury hotels and rundown motels, with little in between. We need to consider turning old hotels into boutique hotels to provide midrange accommodations.
Hotels may want to collaborate with authorities and artists to renovate and upgrade existing facilities into tourist-class hotels. If we let foreigners determine their first impression of Korea based on their first night in an unpleasant room, the vision to become a tourist hub in Northeast Asia will end in vain.
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Bae Myung-bok