Hotels for the 21st Century Business Traveler

by Francoise Villeneuve with Antoinette Bruno
Antoinette Bruno and Will Blunt
May 2011

Antoinette’s Top Ten
Antoinette Bruno, Editor-in-Chief and CEO, weighs in on the little things that make all the difference when it comes to business travel

  1. Sheets and pillows: If your guests are constantly on the road, high thread count sheets, plenty of down pillows, and a duvet ensure a restful night’s sleep before a big meeting or busy day.
  2. Amenities: Some hotels make cut down on waste from thousands of little plastic bottles by using refillable shampoo and conditioner containers, whether they are luxe bottles or dispensers attached to the side of the shower.
  3. Water: Having free bottled water next to bed is an extra touch that really makes a difference to the guest experience. Bardessono Hotel in Yountville, California cuts down on bottle waste creatively with filtered water in glass milk bottles. The bottles are delivered daily to in-room fridges, flavored with a new fruit or herb every day.
  4. Timely Service: For business travelers checking in late at night, having the beds already turned down and the drapes closed is an added bonus, and being able to sleep until 8am without being disturbed by cleaning staff is a boon.
  5. Newspapers: To avoid environmental waste, hotels should ask if guests want a newspaper or provide a selection on each floor.
  6. Breakfast: Modern hotels are going beyond the grapefruit and orange options for juice in the morning. Hotels like Chicago's Hotel Felix, the Ritz-Carlton in Marina Del Rey, and Le Meridien in Barcelona, Spain offer fresh vegetable and fruit juices.
  7. Fitness: Access to an onsite fitness center with cardiovascular machines and free weights, or passes to a nearby fitness center, helps avoid sluggishness.
  8. Internet: The last thing guests want to do when working on their laptops is make calls trying to find out the password to the wi-fi network, or grapple with a slow connection.
  9. Snacks, Commissary or Executive Floor: Executives burning the midnight oil will appreciate healthy snacks like the bowls of fruit at Campton Place in San Francisco to satisfy late-night cravings. A commissary or executive floor in off-service hours with access to nibbles and drinks is a step up.
  10. Technology: Anyone travelling on business will probably need to plug in an armful of electronics (blackberry, laptop, iPad) and having to wrestle with the alarm clock and lamp plugs to get at a free outlet near the bed can be frustrating, so power strips or plentiful outlets, and even iPod docks are great additions to the business traveler's room.

Berkeley, California Hotel Shattuck Plaza Offers Complimentary Wi-Fi

Business travelers mean major business—40 percent of hotel customers in 2009 were business travelers, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association. And that’s before you even look at the dollar amounts flowing into your hotel as a result of conventions and industry events. But business travel is fraught with stress. Not only are business travelers working, they’re possibly in a city that’s foreign to them, sometimes in a country whose language is incomprehensible, or sleeping in rooms without the personal touches that make up the comforts of home. But these travelers also need the tools to do their jobs efficiently. Great business hotels manage to marry the two—function and comfort.

Downtown San Francisco Hotel Vertigo is Conveniently Located Near Union Square

Executive Suites/ Exceptional Service

Good service for business travelers is about practicality without forgoing luxurious details. This doesn’t necessarily mean more things, but more service, more thought given to anticipating the business traveler’s needs. The Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner provides kiosks on the hotel’s ground floor, just for printing out boarding passes, and the booths are kitted out in velvet and leather, so guests leave the hotel after spending their last minutes there feeling cared for. Plus, Tysons Corner’s exclusive Club Level boasts a private lounge with complimentary food and beverages, along with a concierge staff to fulfill guests every need. At San Francisco’s Campton Place, business travelers can forget about the stress that comes with renting a car; the concierge takes care of rentals and has cars ready and waiting outside the hotel. And Blackstone in Chicago goes one step further in fulfilling the guest’s Jeeves fantasy by providing a private concierge and access to a Lexus LS Hybrid hotel car. And if you enroll in The Fairmont Hotel Group's President's Club (complimentary) you get perks like a complimentary shoeshine in city center hotels, access to BMW bikes, and room upgrades.

Fresh Fruit in Guest Room at Campton Place - San Francisco, CA

Meeting Event Space

A well-stocked business center is a must. This means not just having the facilities to do business but maintaining them, and filling the printers with ink and paper regularly. Houston Hotel Sorella has a business center with high-speed Internet access, and is equipped for the biggest events with over 18,000 square feet of meeting space, and another 14,000 square feet to come this year. Museum Hotel in Wellington, New Zealand has ample space, but tailors their conference facilities to sustainably-minded business by using New Zealand's first certified carbon neutral audio visual company, Vision Media, for their audio visual equipment. And at the Millennium Seoul Hilton in Seoul, South Korea, you can hold meetings in a conference room with natural light and mountain views, instead of the headache-inducing florescent overhead bars of light. It also gives a sense of time and place that removes the traveler from yet another anonymous-feeling business center that could be anywhere in the world. The Hilton Orlando maintains a dual-identity of resort and conference destination by balancing a sprawling business and conference center (complete with UPS store) and a spa that celebrates the Florida orange tree with Neroli-based treatments. To heighten the experience and convenience, guests can get anywhere in the hotel—the pool, meeting rooms, cocktail lounge, you name it—within five minutes.

Hotel Zaza in Houston offers High-Speed Internet Access

Good Location for Business

When your guests roll out of a (hopefully comfortable) bed after working late, blurry eyed and frantically ironing their shirts, being at the epicenter of a city’s business world makes the pace of their day a little less frenetic. Luxury boutique hotel Le Saint-Sulpice in Montréal, Québec is not only located in a picturesque part of the city—Old Montréal—but is also just steps away from the international business district. It manages to balance a serene décor with prime real estate. The guest feels pampered but is able to make their morning meeting. Being near public transport doesn’t hurt either—the Galleria Park Hotel in San Francisco is located right near Union Square, mere blocks from the Metro.

Houston's Hotel Sorella Boasts a Sprawling Business Complex

Budget Conscious

Yes, it would be great to roll out the red carpet for every guest. But research suggests that budget is a major factor for business travelers when making their travel decisions. With more and more companies tightening belts in 2010 and 2011, making affordable housing feel top dollar brings in major business. Rooms at Chicago’s Crowne Plaza clock in at under $200, quite the feat in the big city. But they substitute the sterile feel of a budget hotel with comfortable rooms with views over the Windy City. Touches like relaxing lavender room spray and ear plugs mean that guests can still enjoy the comforts of a luxury hotel without the price tag. Downtown San Francisco Hotel Vertigo is conveniently near Union Square. It’s also seriously stylish on a budget, with a cheery orange and brown lobby, and modern décor and iPod docks in rooms.

Museum Hotel in Wellington, New Zealand has the Country's First Certified Carbon Neutral Audio Visual Company's Equipment

High Speed Internet

What did we ever do before the Internet? Free in-room wi-fi without a hard-to-find password makes working in your hotel room angst-free. High speed is recommended—guests will not appreciate the price cut in their rooms if their access to Google docs and company email (or the Friday song on YouTube, either way) is impeded by sluggish Internet access. Hotels like Green Valley Ranch in Vegas (baby) and Hotel Zaza in Houston, offer high-speed Internet access so guests can conduct their business efficiently. And complimentary wi-fi is a nice added touch at Berkeley, California’s Hotel Shattuck Plaza. It might even be worth building the cost of high-speed Internet into the room rate, so your costs are covered but using the Internet isn’t such a hassle for your guests.

Let’s face it; all of your business guests will have different likes and dislikes, needs, and pet peeves. But the little touches can make all the difference. After all, business travel is hectic enough. If you can alleviate some of that stress for your guests, you might see more return customers—and business from their companies.