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From Motorhomes to Bus Hotels – Whatever Next?

A new travel trend has emerged on the West Coast of the United States. ‘Bus hotels’ allow passengers to have an undisturbed night’s sleep in total comfort while in transit, arriving at their destination the following morning. Cabin – a company which takes customers between the Californian cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco – is a pioneer of bus hotels, and it isn’t hard to see where they have taken their cue from.

Large luxury motorhomes, known as RVs in the US, have become an essential holiday option for lovers of the outdoors who don’t like to compromise on comfort. Cabin has introduced many of the features associated with RVs to its own venture, including spacious sleeping berths, fully stocked bathrooms, kitchenettes and fast wifi.

So what is story behind the bus hotel? How far back can we trace its roots? And what does the future hold for this concept?

Finding the happy medium

You can travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco, or vice versa, for as little as $20 on a coach. But if you leave in the morning, the approximate eight hour journey time means that you need to make a day of it. Choose the night time option, and you may experience a quicker journey thanks to less traffic, but getting any restful sleep is far from guaranteed.

So why not fly? Well, for one thing, you could be looking at around $70 for a one way ticket. And although the flight time is around 1 ½ hours, by the time you travel to and from each airport, and go through security, you could be adding another four hours on to your journey.

Cabin has sought to appeal to this gap in the market. It has realised that some passengers don’t wish, or can’t afford, to sacrifice any daylight hours travelling. What this luxury road travel option provides is a good night’s sleep, and the ability to wake up fully refreshed, without having ‘lost’ any time.

For a private sleeping berth with Cabin, you’d pay upwards of $84, but with the daylight hours saved, and the extra costs associated with airport travel (such as taxis), for many people this represents decent value. After all, they do say that ‘time is money’.

A strategy for slumber

Working to a company ethos of aiming to “maximise every waking and sleeping moment,” Cabin put a lot of thought into how they could coax, and keep, their passengers asleep. Routes were reviewed in order to determine the highways and roads which would cause the least disturbance to those on board.

The design of the cabins themselves uses materials which are more akin to a hotel than coach, achieving a level of cosiness which is conducive to getting some shut eye. An on-board service team can ensure cleanliness throughout the vehicle at all times, and they have even come up with an idea which allows each passenger to get their desired amount of sleep. While the Cabin luxury coach typically reaches at its destination at 7.00am sharp, there is the option of a two hour lie in, checking out at 9.00am. For those who don’t have a breakfast meeting planned, the chance to recharge for longer can be a welcome one.

The company claims that the features are born from their own testing and development processes, but we can’t help but think that motorhome holidays have had a huge bearing on the project. Or could the roots of the bus hotel concept be traced back even further... as far as 1945?

The first bus hotel?

Rotel Tours, a German company founded in the wake of World War Two, can stake a claim to having ran the first ever bus hotel.

These ‘rolling hotels’ went on trips to European destinations such as France, Italy and Spain, often for the purposes of pilgramages. In the 1950s, they transported passengers all the way from Munich to Jerusalem via Turkey, and today, Rotel services tourists as far afield as China and Mongolia.

Founded by Georg Höltl, Rotel offers accommodation on the move which is less akin to a luxury motorhome, and more similar to a giant ‘capsule hotel’ on wheels. The cabins are either mounted on top of the passenger compartment or attached in a separate trailer. The sleeping berths are typically closed during the day while the vehicle is moving.


Group sizes for these coach holidays are usually between 20 to 36, and passengers get to keep the same seat and sleeping berth for the duration of the holiday. In total, Rotel has over 3,400 ‘beds on wheels’ around the world, and its trips are known as a social experience in which passengers get to know each other, as well as the areas they are travelling through.

Instead of dining onboard, Rotel bus hotels try to make the most of outdoor seating areas along their route, as well as purchasing as much locally sourced food as possible for the preparation of passenger meals.

Bus hotels: The future

While Cabin might be focusing on the business travel market and Rotel on the tourism sector, the future of the bus hotel could combine elements of the two. With the rise of ‘glamping’, along with luxury motorhomes, it is clear that there is a demand for comfortable travel which allows us to appreciate the ‘Great Outdoors’.

The Cabin concept could be extended to the leisure side of the travel sector, giving tourists a way of experiencing more of a country by road. Airplanes and trains don’t offer as much opportunity to ‘live and breath’ a destination as road travel, and if bus hotels are able to include outdoor activity options in their packages, we might see a whole new type of luxury motorhome holidays emerge.

What does the expert say?

Sarah Wakely is the Editor in Chief of Practical Motorhome. Sarah gave Salop Leisure her opinion on whether motorhomes have influenced the emergence of the bus hotel, and weighed up the prospects of the trend catching on in the UK.

She says: "While the bus hotel experience is certainly different to the relaxation of a motorhome holiday, in terms of design we can see some crossover. The berths which passengers sleep in are not a world away from the beds which you would expect in a large four to six berth motorhome. With the UK being a considerably smaller country than the US, it could be a while before a 'bus hotel' style service becomes a viable alternative to trains, airplanes and standard coaches."

Do you have your heart set on a motorhome which can offer you luxury and comfort on your outdoor adventures? Head over to http://www.salopleisure.co.uk/ and browse the extensive range of new and used motorhomes available at the Midlands’ premier dealership. Alternatively, call our team today on 01743 282 400 for more details.