Thursday, March 06, 2008

Tune Hotels vs. Backpackers’ Guesthouses

AirAsia is one of the most successful airlines in Asia. This budget airline has transformed the aviation industry in Southeast Asia. No content with his success, AirAsia’s founder Tony Fernandes is venturing into hospitality industry with his Tune Hotels.

Like AirAsia, the Tune Hotels group is run on the “no frills” concept. From what I heard, Tony Fernandez plans to set up Tune Hotels in every city served by AirAsia. This will put them in direct competition with budget guesthouses long favored by backpackers to Southeast Asia. How will they fare? Since I personally am a backpacker and MBA student, I am interested in analyzing the two options we have.



Tune Hotels’ webpage says that the room rate starts “from RM9.99”. That’s cheaper than what backpackers’ guesthouses could offer. So, price-wise, Tune Hotels win, provided that you book your room well in advance. (I am assuming that Tune Hotels have the same pricing policies as AirAsia.)


Well, I said “book well in advance.” If you don't, you may have to pay several times more than the amount advertised. One thing Tony Fernandes hasn’t learned is: backpackers’ don’t like fixed itinerary. We change our plans frequently. That will make booking in advance difficult.


When I visited Bali in 2005, I stayed in guesthouses that were transformed from traditional Balinese houses, and equipped with aesthetic traditional furniture and gardens.

Tune Hotels are likely to have similar, nondescript design everywhere they are built. The staffs are likely to wear the same set of red uniform. Also, since Tune Hotels emphasize (over-emphasize) efficiency and cost-cutting, their employees would have to abide by lots of "standard operating procedures", making them more robot-like.


Guesthouses are usually small. They can be found in metropolis like Bangkok, medium size cities like Chiang Mai, small cities like Chiang Rai and even villages like Mae Salong. Tune Hotels are big, so you are less likely to see one in Chiang Rai. Mae Salong? No way!


AirAsia is big in Malaysia. Tony Fernandes is one of the most famous Malaysian entrepreneurs. Apparently, the Tune Hotels group can leverage the brand power of its sister company. Malaysians who fly with AirAsia have a very good chance of checking in Tune Hotels too.

But wait a minute. Majority of backpackers are Westerners, with a significant number from Japan. The AirAsia/Tune Hotels brand may have little impact on them.


So, how will Tune Hotels fare? I believe they will do well in Malaysia, but more work is needed in Bali, Thailand or Vietnam. For now, I will still choose guesthouses over Tune Hotels.

Employees of Tune Hotels are unlikely to be as friendly as this pretty lady of Shinsane Guesthouse in Mae Salong.


  1. Waaah! Now I know why you frequent Thailand so much. Got pretty bed-mate comes with Guesthouse tim.

  2. cocka
    I thought you already knew about that ages ago?

  3. This is like drawing pictures on the wall, eh? ;)

  4. happy
    Maybe you should say 'painting'.

  5. I was merely literally translating a Chinese (Cantonese) proverb. Not right, meh? lol

  6. eh... happy
    I haven't known of such a proverb...

  7. Thanks for the in depth comparison. So shame to say that I has never stay in a backpackers' guesthouse before. Can you tell me where and how exactly I can find information on this. You may drop me an email. Thanks. BTW, she is really a sweet lady.

  8. Cool, AirAsia got hotels too?

    And did I just see a picture of you and a chiobu on the same bed? =p

    One thing I always love abt this blog is that I get to see the world from your eyes. Ain't got that much time to travel, so your photos show me what the other parts of the world has to offer.

  9. jam
    You can get the information regarding guesthouses in travel guide books from Lonely Planet, Moon Publications of Rough Guides, to name just a few. But Taiwanese authors are less likely to write about them, as the people from the island prefer to stay in high-end hotels.

    That is a chair, not a bed...

  10. it's nice to have low costs hotels! i think it would be nice to have that in the countries i wana visit!!! heheh hotels r always so expensif! >.<

    but one thing's scary though..usually cheaper hotels r those that are um...for other type of business!!hehehe

  11. huei
    I think hotels that cater to the other types of business are those mid-range types. Really low cost guesthouses are probably not comfy enough. Worse still if the girl screams 'OMG! OMG!' people outside could listen also.