Motel 6 started out charging $6 per night in 1962 in Santa Barbara, California. Today, that same motel is charging upwards of $300 per night.
Dawn Gilbertson reporting for Wall Street Journal said that she recently paid $426 for a one-night stay, before taxes.
Is it a really fancy version of the iconic budget motel? While it does have some unique features like a retro blue mini fridge and more modern decor to provide a more boutique feel, it’s still a Motel 6.
“This place still has some budget motel in its DNA,” Gilbertson writes. “... The bedspreads are flimsy, the walls thin. And a sign taped to the outdoor ice machine by the pool urges guests not to fill their coolers with ice, so there’s enough for everyone.”
But it is in a great location close to the beach, “only 200 steps from the sand,” according to Gilbertson.
While prices of Motel 6 motels and vacation stays alike are much higher than the average rates right now, the Santa Barbara location Motel 6 consistently starts in a pricier range than the average Motel 6, according to Wall Street Journal. Whether it’s because of the history or the location, it’s hard to tell.
But what many people learned while traveling during the pandemic is that motels can provide a convenience and familiarity that hotels and Airbnbs can’t really match.
Are motels having a moment?
Did “Schitt’s Creek” make motels cool?
The wildly popular “Schitt’s Creek” featured a wealthy family, down on their luck, staying in a small-town, run-down motel. The motel is a staple of the show and starts to become a familiar home for the cast of kooky, yet somehow endearing characters.
Eventually, working on the motel gives the father Jonny Rose, who made his wealth starting and building a business, the idea to capitalize on the bad rap small town motels get and turn them into a destination for travelers. Members of the family and people from town collaborate to provide boutique-style products and experience in small, budget motels.
The real-life motel featured in the show is even currently up-for-sale and “ready for renovation” for a cool $1.6 million. A fan of the show could easily recreate that motel transformation experience if they can front that cost, according to Insider.
What makes the June Motel on “Motel Makeover” so popular?
Another pair of businesspersons capitalizing on the motel moment are April Brown and Sarah Sklash. The millennial best friends star in “Motel Makeover” on Netflix and document the challenges and joys of renovating a rundown motel.
They started their motelier careers by purchasing and renovating an old motel in Prince Edward County, Ontario, and called it the June Motel. The motel was a huge success, with guests clamoring to get a room in the highly sought-after and rarely vacant motel. Guests are willing to pay upwards of $300 per night for the experience.
Sklash and Brown implement “Instagrammable moments” into every element of the design in the June Motel they renovate on the show in beach town Sauble Beach, Michigan.
That’s part of the charm in the renovation, and it also provides great marketing. Guests will excitedly promote the hotel themselves on social media because of the fun and beautiful backdrops that make great Instagram photos and boomerangs.
The two businesswomen view the old buildings as an opportunity to provide new life to a place that might have nostalgic meaning to guests, and they don’t see the trend going away any time soon.
“I think it’s still in the early stages, but in the last year, due to covid, we see a lot more motels being renovated and transformed,” Sklash told The Washington Post. “I certainly think the pandemic has sparked this ‘Oh, motels make a lot of sense.’”