Try a little bit harder... in hotels too!

I read an interesting post on Girl About Otown on the state of many restaurants in Ottawa and it made me want to expand on that subject. I think hotels, motels and B&Bs in Ottawa should also try a little bit harder. Here's the thing: Ottawa is the nation's capital of one of the most prosperous countries in the world, and with year-round tourism activities, the city should have some of the best hotels in the world. Of course not every hotel has to be an expensive luxury hotel, but most of them need an identity and more personality. (Seriously, how many clone rooms with boring beige furniture and faded flower bedspreads do we need in Ottawa?) Take a look at places such as the CitizenM or Motel One for example. They offer something unique, without being too expensive. Unfortunately, when you look at some of the most popular and original hotels around the world, it seems like Ottawa is far behind.

Did you know that there was Jail-Themed Hostel in Ottawa? It's called Hi-Ottawa Jail Hostel. It's a beautiful building with a lot of great potential but it's just not up to par when you compare it with the Alcatraz Hotel in Kaiserslautern, which is also a prison-themed hotel.

See for yourself:

It's a bit difficult to judge the entrances because you don't get the same perspective. These pictures were taken straight from their website. Still, which one looks more enticing?

Entrance of Hi-Ottawa (source: HI-Ottawa)Entrance of AlcatraZ (source: AlcatraZ Hotel)

There is a huge difference when it comes to the look of the rooms. In Ottawa the rooms look tired. There is no clear personality and consistency in the rooms so they don't necessarily look like they are from the same building. In fact it's hard to see the "prison" theme in the rooms.

Source: HI-Ottawa

On the other hand in Kaiserslautern, there is a clear common thread between the different rooms. There's definitely a bit more attention to detail in the design and decoration of the room. They look clean and fresh. The prison theme is there without forgetting that it's still a hotel. Can you guess what they did to convey the prison-feeling into their rooms?

Source: AlcatraZ Hotel and Flickr (Christinamh)

Common Areas
When it comes to the common areas like the lounges and the cafeteria, hands down, AlcatraZ did a much better job. It's simple, clean and original. For HI-Ottawa, it looks more like an afterthought, specially the cafeteria. Also, some beautiful architectural aspects of the room have been "ignored", which is a shame really.

Source : AlcatraZ Hotel

Source : Trip Advisor, HI-Ottawa

Of course, the jail-hotel in Ottawa has great bones. I love the corridor with the round vaulted ceiling, the natural light coming through and the rhythm created by the column next to each door. It's just that the spaces need a bit of tweaking, some rearrranging, better furniture, appropriate accessories and a main concept throughout the building. I think with the help of professionals, they can definitely take this place to the next level and make it more of a landmark in Ottawa. A place that can compete with the likes of AlcatraZ Hotel.

Source : Trip Advisor

What do you think?


  1. I also read that post about restaurants in Ottawa and didn't really agree with it. One thing that Ottawa does have is alot of good restaurants - however, there might not be a lot of really good and really cheap restaurants in town.

    On the other hand, I totally agree with you on hotels, motels and B&Bs. The few that are above average are super expensive and the rest well, are just blah. Hope someone can prove us wrong!

  2. Thx for the comment! I'm glad you like that pic! OK i totally agree about the hotels in ottawa, they are so blah. The Capital needs modern hotels...they all have the same generic style...i haven't been to the Arc but that is the only nice one that comes to mind lol.

  3. AlcatraZ is definitely the better of the two.

    I've never stayed at a hotel, motel, or B&B in Ottawa, so I don't really know what they're like. Although back in 2001, we checked out a few hotels for wedding guests. None of them were all that impressive, even the newly-renovated one. And I'm guessing they look the same today as they did 8 years ago!!

    It can't be that hard to design a good looking and well priced hotel room, can it??

    Thanks for checking out my post about Ron Burns. I really like that shot of Squirt jumping into the lake too :-)


  4. I'm not sure that's a good comparison, honestly. I mean, no hostel is going to compare very favourably to a hotel, except when it comes to the bottom line. They're totally different environments, and they are geared towards totally different markets, the only thing they have in common is the fact they're both accomodations in former jails. It'd be rather like comparing a shawarma place to a fine Lebanese restaurant. Vaguely similar, but ultimately very different.

    And, incidentally, having stayed in the HI-Ottawa a couple of times, I have to say it does feel like you're in an old jail. It's a lovely old building, and it's very atmospheric, just not as polished as you would get in a hotel.

  5. I beg to differ. There are plenty of hostels or youth hotels around the world that would put a lot of the “luxury hotels” in Ottawa to shame. It’s not because they are geared toward a different market that they can’t offer something better, specially in Ottawa!

    Here are some example:
    - Chic&Basic in Madrid
    -Chic&Basic in Barcelona
    -St. Christopher’s Inns Paris
    -Ops Budget Hotel

    I think it’s more a question of going the extra mile that seems to be lacking at this time. Hostels have a unique opportunity to offer an amazing experience to a unique set of visitors who most likely go to hostels to meet people from all over the world. The hostels should be designed to cater to that particular aspect.

    One thing that comes to my mind as a potential enhancement for HI-Ottawa, would be to have a custom black and white photo booth that would take mug shots of visitors. They could take the photo with them as souvenir and some could also be used as art in the hotel. This adds an interesting human factor to the experience.

  6. Here is a good comparison for the HI-Ottawa:

    A former jail in Ljubljana, converted into a youth hostel. Imagine that!


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