The amenities business travelers are seeking from their hotel experience can seem like a contradiction at times. Business travelers want a place where they can relax and recharge their batteries yet also need an environment that is conducive to work. They want some interaction with the hotel staff to feel like they’re special but also require fast and seamless service that quickly can get them checked into their rooms and on their way to wherever they need to go.
To find out how hotels are accommodating business travelers’ seemingly paradoxical needs, we spoke with Professor Stephani Robson, a senior lecturer at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration who specializes in hotel design and consumer behavior.
Efficient + Engaging
“Hotels are trying to move toward two very distinct things at the same time: A seamless process coupled with an engaging experience,” says Robson.
It’s a bit of a balancing act, she explains, to create that easy, automated process while also making guests feel welcomed and appreciated through staff-guest interactions. “Especially business travelers who are on the road a lot, they crave a bit of warm human contact as well,” she says.
So while being able to check in with a smartphone is a nice touch for business travelers arriving late after a night flight or a long day of business meetings, she says hotels also have to figure out how to make these guests feel like VIPs. Some hotels are providing these personal touches through the very same technology. For instance, both Hilton™ and Marriott™ are allowing guests to make various “on demand” requests through their mobile apps.
Other hotels are tapping into the “bleisure” trend by offering business travelers extra services, such as guided tours and additional support from the concierge, to make the most of their limited time in the destination.
Making a great first impression
As Robson points out, hotels across the board have been investing a lot into making their public spaces, especially the lobby, not only a beautiful sight to behold but also an inviting place where guests want to hang out to escape their “austere” guest rooms.
As one of Robson’s favorite hotel brands, the luxury boutique citizenM™, sums up the trend well on its website. It says: “We realize that when at home, you mostly use the bedroom for sleeping and hang out in the living room and kitchen instead. So we cunningly designed our lobby to feel like a comfy, inviting and homey living room instead.”
Another trend citizenM does quite well, according to Robson: using communal spaces in the lobby to bring individual travelers together — which brings us to our next point.
Robson says more lobbies are being transformed to mimic the trend of co-working spaces. More and more, business travelers are forgoing the isolation of their guest rooms to come work in the lobby surrounded by other people.
“We are herd animals and like to go where other people are,” she says, noting it also can be an effective way for business travelers to network — the possibility of “people from different fields bumping up against each other” and striking up a conversation.
In fact, the trend has caught on so much so that several hotel brands have decided to remove the bulky desks from the guest rooms to free up space, while others have introduced in lobbies office amenities, such as built-in USB charging stations, copiers and TVs.
Some hotels have been transforming dull conference rooms into work areas that inject a bit of fun into the functional with eye-catching décor and accessories.
InterContinental Hotels Group™ (IHG), for example, has been working with design firm IDEO to develop innovative “Flex Meetings” spaces with different configurations throughout the public areas of their Crowne Plaza™ properties. According to a report by Skift, most will have iPads™ where you can order and pay for food and beverage that’s delivered to your table, and some also will have monitors where you can connect your laptop for presentations.
The brand is also investing in tech upgrades like faster Wi-Fi and more power outlets — a must for all the different devices business travelers have that need charging. Robson believes in the future more hotels will begin offering wireless charging stations as another solution.
As we pointed out in a recent Atlas article, a number of hotels have been converting standard guest rooms into a mini fitness center of sorts, making it even easier for business travelers whose exercise routines often get disrupted due to their crazy schedules to squeeze in a workout or two while out on the road.
Hilton Hotels & Resorts is the latest to do so with its new Five Feet to Fitness room, which incorporates 11 pieces of equipment in the room, including a stationary bike and a Gym Rax™ training station.
Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants has been offering for some time yoga mats in every room and on-demand TV programming that guides guests through yoga or Pilates sessions. Meanwhile, Westin Hotels & Resorts recently announced a partnership with the boutique cycling company Peloton™ so guests can go for a spin in the privacy of their own room.
And EVEN Hotels, an InterContinental Hotels Group brand that focuses on travelers’ wellness needs, always has had exercise equipment in guest rooms, including a foam roller, yoga mat, yoga block, core exercise ball and resistance bands.
The one downside to all that hotels are doing to accommodate business travelers? It will be that much harder for travelers to ever want to leave.