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Easing the business of travel

Date
Club lounges, such as this one at the Intercontinental Sydney, can be a home away from home for business travellers.

Club lounges, such as this one at the Intercontinental Sydney, can be a home away from home for business travellers.

How hotels are making life easier for the business traveller

Like most business travellers, I spend a lot of my time in hotel rooms and hotels in general. And after clocking up enough nights in enough hotels, you become attuned to – sometimes accustomed to – those little touches that make your stay so much better.

Some are just a matter of getting the basics right, while others are new technologies that can make a big difference to your comfort and efficiency on the road.

Having last year highlighted many ways in which hotels fail to meet the needs of business travellers [http://www.smh.com.au/executive-style/business-travel/blogs/high-flyer/taking-care-of-business-20120621-20par.html], here are some of the top indicators that show a hotel really 'gets' the business traveller.

Ample and accessible power points

I'm continually baffled by how many hotels – even newly built, top-end business hotels – fail at the simple design requirement of accessible power points to charge up your laptop, tablet and so on.

That means putting spare AC power points at a decent height above the desk rather than having to unplug the desk lamp to free up a socket or ferret around behind the desk to plug in your kit.

And it's not just at the desk. Most business travellers use their smartphone as an alarm clock, so there should be a power point on either side side of the bed.

In both cases, bonus points are awarded for fitting an international 'universal' socket which accepts the four common types of AC plugs (US, UK, Euro and Australian) so there's no need to use your travel adaptor – and risk leaving it in the hotel room instead of packing it into your day bag.

And USB ports, too

On a related note: with so many travellers now toting smartphones, tablets and associated bits of kit such as pocket Wi-Fi routers, hotels need to be fitting USB jacks alongside AC sockets.

Accor gets a nod here for the "connectivity panel" in its new and refurbished Sofitel, Pullman and Novotel hotels, which combines a USB socket along with various other connectors.

Wi-fi hotspots in hotel cars

An increasing number of hotel and hire car services come equipped with their own wi-fi hotspot, which uses a 3G or 4G mobile broadband connection to provide a free wireless Internet feed for any smartphone, tablet or laptop.

For example, Brunel Chauffeured Limousines – which holds the chauffeur contract for both Qantas and Emirates – has outfitted all its cars with such a hotspot.

I recently used a similar service offered by The Peninsula Beijing between the airport and the hotel.

I tend to spend a fair chunk of each flight writing emails and working on other documents, and having a mobile hotspot means I can send off all those emails as well as download and deal with newer emails during the drive.

By the time I arrived at the hotel all that "work" was done, so I could spend more time relaxing in the room instead of playing email catch-up.

Club lounges

I truly love a good club or executive lounge. It's a welcome place to escape from the room, for meetings or just a change of scenery while working, as well as somewhere to take a break or enjoy a pre-dinner drink before heading out for the evening.

What are the hallmarks of a great lounge? Plenty of space so you can get away from noisier guests, and ample work-friendly desks as well as lounge chairs.

Attentive staff, 24-hour access and a decent range of food available almost around the clock seal the deal.

Hong Kong's Ritz-Carlton ticks all those boxes and then some – I could easily spend an entire stay there, and retire to my room only to shower and sleep.

Bedside iPhone speaker dock

Decades ago I used to carry a pocket-sized Sony "world radio" as part of my travel kit so I could tune into the local FM stations.

These days, of course, we all carry our music with us on an iPod, iPhone or other smartphone.

So the natural fit is a bedside dock that can pump those tunes out through a decent pair of speakers while also charging up your device.

Many upmarket hotels opt for a Bose Wave music system rather than a dedicated iPhone or iPod dock, which is a win if you enjoy high-quality music, but it lacks any iDevice socket.

The solution is to pack a short cable fitted with a standard 3.5mm audio jack. Plug one end into your music player's headphone socket and the other into the audio input jack on the rear of the bedside dock.

This also lets you enjoy the better quality of sound available from a bedside dock if you use an Android smartphone or if you've upgraded to Apple's iPhone 5 family, which is equipped with a different connector to the original Apple 30-pin connector that's found on most hotel iDevice docks.

What are some of the most traveller-friendly features you've encountered at a hotel? What else should hotels be doing to earn your loyalty?

David Flynn is a business travel expert and editor of Australian Business Traveller.

Twitter: @AusBT

13 comments

  • Adults only areas.

    Commenter
    Groucho
    Date and time
    November 27, 2013, 1:59PM
    • I travel 80% of my time across Asia and occasionally Europe/Africa. The points covered above are excellent - those are the most important factors for me returning to a hotel. Other areas could include:
      1. Recognising return customers and their preferences
      2. "Healthy" menu options - and a 24 hour gym
      3. A good shower with adequate water pressure
      4. Fast and easily accessible internet
      5. Nice snack options at the bar!

      Commenter
      riverdove
      Location
      Singapore
      Date and time
      November 27, 2013, 2:29PM
      • - A Nespresso machine in the room - a half dozen types of pods, four of each one was there, plus real milk, not UHT. It was just great to have a coffee you could actually enjoy without calling room service or looking for a cafe - pretty not efficient when you should be working.
        Made the visit to the hotel feel less like being forced to work and travel and more like just working in a different place.
        - Electricity outlet visible, lined up just above the top of the desk
        - lobby/business centre free use including (reasonable) printer use - nothing worse than trying to figure out where you could print from

        Commenter
        Raida
        Location
        chewing salty razors
        Date and time
        November 27, 2013, 2:37PM
        • Because USB ports can be used to hack many devices only a Gold-plated fool would ever directly plug a device into an un-trusted USB port.

          Get a special Power-only USB cable if you want to charge a device, but never take the risk of plugging a device directly into anonymous USB ports - anywhere!

          Commenter
          DC
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          November 27, 2013, 3:03PM
          • Also a business traveller, most of my travel is either domestic (Australia) or to Europe. These are the things that make my life much easier

            - electricity outlets at a decent height in easy reach from the desk.
            - comfortable adjustable proper chair.
            - good light around the desk area.
            - A good gym (with a concept 2 rower, some free weights, kettle bells etc) open 24hrs or at least from 5am! (The Sebel Adelaide has a decent gym)
            - Proper simple healthy food available (props to the Crown Plaza Adelaide for an awesome Grill Your Way room service menu.) Or at least room in the fridge to put some groceries!
            - Decent water pressure in the bathroom.
            - Free buiness services, (eg printer in room Wifi)
            - A king bed that's not just two singles pushed together.

            Commenter
            Meg
            Date and time
            November 27, 2013, 3:25PM
            • I would add:
              1. Blackout blinds & excellent soundproofing for 24 hour sleepy-time.
              2. A good lobby-bar and restaurant with plenty of table for 1 options (eg. facing a window).
              3. Free wifi - I can't believe they still charge for that!
              4. Also +1 on the Nespresso idea

              Commenter
              cyril
              Location
              melbourne
              Date and time
              November 27, 2013, 5:05PM
              • The Novotel at Bangkok Airport has a 24 hour day so that if you check in at 11 PM you do not have to check out until 11 PM the next night unlike the standard 10 or 11 AM check out the next day, this is a brilliant thing as flights do have a habit of flying most of the time --- obviously this Hotel has the scale and the wage rates to make this possible but surely 4 or 5 star hotels at Airports should make this de rigeur ---

                Commenter
                byron twain
                Date and time
                November 27, 2013, 6:45PM
                • Completely agree regarding the executive lounge. There is nothing worse staying in a hotel when you're trying to have a quiet drink and a tour group suddenly invades. I spent a month in one hotel that had a great one, nice view, snacks always available, serve yourself full bar and the option to order up from the restaurant.

                  Also agree on the table for 1 options. Often outside restaurants do this much better.

                  A nice armchair. When email is caught up, you've gotten away from the mandatory dinner early and you just want to watch a bit of TV and relax, not having to sit on the bed or desk chair is a nice touch.

                  Commenter
                  Andrew JHB
                  Date and time
                  November 27, 2013, 9:52PM
                  • I'm a huge fan of in room Nespresso machine's

                    I stayed in a hotel last week in Jakarta that offered to take my business shirts away to iron and also my shoes to shine. I was seriously impressed.

                    By the way - why does it take some hotels 10 minutes to check you in. It should take a minute max.

                    Commenter
                    AT
                    Location
                    Hong Kong
                    Date and time
                    November 28, 2013, 12:03AM
                    • 1. A comfortable, good quality bed including pillows
                      2. A clean airy bathroom and shower with taps in good condition
                      3. Access to selectable video inputs on TV's to plug in iDevices and laptops
                      4. Working, free, high speed wifi for multiple devices
                      5. Good reading and desk lighting
                      6. Sufficient and well placed power outlets (you can't trust unknown USB outlets unless you carry cables without the data pins connected)
                      7. Desk chair suitable for desk work

                      Commenter
                      John
                      Date and time
                      November 28, 2013, 6:21AM

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