Less than a month after announcing its launch in key Asian markets, including Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the Singapore-headquartered company has made an entry into Brazil.
Initially, the services will be available only in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, with double rooms starting at US$40 (BRL140) per night.
“Following strong customer satisfaction levels in Asia, we identified Brazil as a market where we could bring similar value: improving the reliability of low-cost accommodation. Put simply, we want travellers to always have a room nearby, without surprises on the basic quality standards. The budget hotel market is also very large in Brazil, with millions of domestic and international travellers each year,” said Nathan Boublil, Global MD of ZEN Rooms.
This is ZEN Room’s first foray into a non-Asian market since launch: “We hadn’t planned to go so fast outside of Asia ourselves. But, after discussion with our investors, we decided to do it for three reasons — 1) good traction levels in our first Asian markets, which validated the business, 2) the current economic crisis in Brazil means that more Brazilians need more budget travel options, and this makes sense for ZEN, and 3) our investors, Rocket Internet, has very successful businesses in Brazil (e.g. Dafiti, EasyTaxi),” Boublil told e27.
Started in 2015 by Boublil and Kiren Tanna, ZEN Rooms is a leading budget hotel network in Southeast Asia, operating in 600 locations. ZEN claims it offers reliable hotel stays at low cost, thus helping democratise travel — similar to low-cost airlines. The rooms are equipped with free WiFi, comfortable double beds, air-conditioner and in-room shower..
According to the firm, all rooms are audited and improved to respect the clear ZEN Guarantee before they get listed on the platform.
“In Brazil, 90 per cent of the 10,000 existing hotels are independent. These can suffer from a lack of trust regarding their reliability, especially inexpensive locations. At ZEN Rooms, the important aspects of a room are checked. So despite the low rates, this means a safer experience for the millions of budget travellers in Brazil,” adds Marcel Vítor Santos, who is responsible for the country’s operations.
In the months to come, the company intends to add hundreds of rooms to the network. “There are plenty of growth opportunities: for example, in Rio, we are already working on supplying more affordable rooms for the summer Olympics”, says João Guilherme Soares, Rio City Manager.
Boublil added that ZEN is constantly analysing markets and will gradually expand if it makes sense. “For ZEN to work, we need markets with clear inefficiencies in the value-for-money of existing hotels and a large traveller population (which ideally mixes domestic and international demand). If these conditions are gathered, ZEN can add value to both guests and hotel partners,” Boublil said.
As part of the launch, ZEN is offering a special discount of 30 per cent on all its rooms in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
Besides Rocket Internet, leading Qatar-based telco Ooredoo is also an investor in ZEN.