Hoteliers are adapting workspaces within their properties to cater to the high-tech and flexibility needs of business travelers, who don’t want to be confined to a guestroom, boardroom or business center.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—As technology evolves to meet the needs of business travelers, so must the workspaces at hotels.
The traditional hotel business center—with a desktop computer, printer and fax machine for guests to use—is making way for more flexible workspaces, where guests can plug in their devices outside of the guestroom and meeting rooms, according to sources.
Meredith Latham, VP of Crowne Plaza, Americas, said in an email interview that Crowne Plaza properties are still equipped with business centers, but in 2019 launched a global concept called Plaza Workspaces.
“In the past, business travelers needing to get a bit of work done had limited options. They were often stuck in their hotel rooms without access to other venues where they could have the power, Wi-Fi and other tools they needed to be productive,” she said.
The concept, which first rolled out at the brand’s flagship properties in Paris; Hamburg, Germany; and Wuzhen, China, features five different workspaces, she said. Each space allows for seamless productivity, and some of that is through integrated technology, she added.
In the Americas, the concept is now a brand standard for Crowne Plaza hotels that are due for a renovation, she said. The five spaces are:
- The Pod, meant for solo work, includes a private chair, desk and ottoman with power, along with a tablet for service or food-and-beverage on demand;
- The Nook, also private, but for groups of four to six, with an added screen for projecting presentations;
- The Huddlespot, an open concept with a high-top table accommodating groups of six to eight, includes all of the tech offered in other spaces;
- The Studio, a private meeting space that is bookable by the hour, includes both a boardroom style and living room area and has all of the tech needed for meetings as well as a whiteboard and other tools for collaborative work; and
- The Marketplace, a 24/7 grab-and-go, has all the basics as well as local snacks and drinks with self-pay technology–enabling a swipe of the room key or credit card.
“We currently have 431 hotels in our global estate with 88 more in the pipeline,” she said. “As the brand grows and transforms, you’ll see more and more Plaza Workspaces in gateway cities and business centers around the world.”
The decision to launch these five workspaces was easy, she said.
“Our pilot hotels immediately saw large increases in incremental revenue, driven by Studio bookings, F&B and Marketplace sales,” she said. “When we briefed our owner advisory board, they literally said, ‘why wait?’ So we took action to quickly roll out Plaza Workspace around the world.”
Latham said the traditional business center often makes sense for the leisure guest who needs a computer in a pinch, and guests using the Plaza Workspaces may also need to print, too.
“We ensure they have access to those tools; it’s important that we cater to all of our guests,” she said.
At Motto by Hilton, which launched in October 2018, each property features Motto Commons, a “gathering space and activated community hub,” offering guests and locals space to work and socialize, said Tripp McLaughlin, global head at Motto, via email.
He said Motto properties will not offer traditional meeting rooms or business centers on property, but the Commons will be equipped with flexible seating arrangements, convenient power plugs, free Wi-Fi and the ability to print on-demand to the hotel’s front desk.
Access is key whether guests are traveling for business, leisure or a mix of both, which is why communal workspaces are more appealing, McLaughlin added. Motto Commons also doubles as a café and bar, he said.
In addition to the communal space, Motto also features flexible and multi-functional guestrooms that can transform into meeting spaces, he said.
“For instance, guests traveling for business may book the flex room option, which includes a wall bed with a sofa and table underneath for a unique workspace,” he said.
Motto will also be Hilton’s first brand to fully integrate connected room technology, allowing guests to control in-room features, such as lighting and temperature, via its mobile app, he said.
Ahmed Elassy, GM of the AC Hotel Los Angeles South Bay in El Segundo, California, said his property’s business center is called the “Library” and is attached to the lobby. The Library consists of PCs and a printer and copier machine, he said.
Guests also tend to use the hotel’s Media Salon, which allows people to hook up their devices to stream and share on a screen for meetings. In addition, he’s noticed more guests wanting to conduct business in casual settings such as the lobby bar.
To accommodate that, the AC Hotel Los Angeles South Bay lobby and bar area is equipped with several power outlets and USB ports, he added. His property is now working on adding a large, communal table to allow more people to work in the lobby.
Future of business travelers and tech
McLaughlin said the future of business travel and tech are going to continue to intertwine in various ways.
“Technology will provide us with more seamless and flexible ways to improve traveler satisfaction and allow guests to control their own experience,” he said.
Latham said more and more workers venture away from the office to do work. She said that trend will continue.
“The rise in technology has led to a rise in teleworking, but there will always be a need for in-person connections,” she said. “As business travelers evolve, we will too, and we’ll always stay ahead of the curve so that we meet and exceed our guests’ expectations before they even have to ask.”