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Taking care of business

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Once a hotel has covered the basics, there are some business travel boxes they need to tick.

Once a hotel has covered the basics, there are some business travel boxes they need to tick. Photo: Jim Rice

There are more than 200,000 hotels in the world, and too many of those are failing to give business travellers what they want.

That global hotel tally comes from the most recent estimates of online booking agencies, but what about the #fail? That's a call based on my own experience and tales shared by many business travellers and frequent flyers, from self-employed consultants to corporate comrades-in-arms.

It's not hard to treat the business traveller right. We're not divas waving a pretentious list of must-haves. 

Surely it's not that hard to treat the business traveller right. We're not divas waving a pretentious list of must-haves.

Once a hotel has covered the basics of a convenient location, cleanliness and a high standard of service, here are some of the business travel boxes they need to tick.

Room to work

How can so many hotels get this basic requirement of business travellers so wrong?

We're not staying at your hotel to party like C-grade celebs or 'chillax' for the weekend. We're there to work.

That means we need a couple of things, starting with a desk – something which a number of hotels are dropping in their attempt to give the rooms a more casual vibe.

As a journalist I probably spend more time pounding the keyboard than the average business traveller, but I don't believe any of us consider a sofa, lounge chair or bed to be the ideal laptop workspace.

And with a proper desk comes a proper chair  – anything from a standard secretary's chair to a swish Aeron-style masterpiece – with adjustable height and good lumbar support.

One of the worst offenders I've seen in this category is Singapore's Marina Bay Sands, which uses hard-backed fixed-height chairs with stiff fixed arms that are more appropriate to a dining room.

These didn't even let me get close enough to the desk to work comfortably, and worse, the hotel was completely unable to provide me with anything more suitable.

The final pieces of the working space puzzle: adjustable task lighting and a few spare power points within easy reach.

Fast Internet everywhere

For my money, in-room internet shouldn't cost a red cent at any business hotel – especially not when it's already free at most backpacker hostels, and certainly not when the hotel is already charging you plenty for the room.

However, free internet doesn't need to be a business-grade connection. As long as it's quick enough for zippy web browsing and flinging everyday emails back and forth.

If I want substantially faster speeds for accessing a remote network, streaming media or downloading and uploading supersized files, then I'm prepared to pay a reasonable premium for that – say, $20 per day.

But the baseline is internet that's free and fast enough for everyday use.

And it should be available everywhere in the hotel, not just in the room. Everywhere from the lobby and the lounge to the maze of meeting rooms should be wired so that business travellers can be unwired.

Club lounge

I'm a big fan of executive or club floors which feature a guest lounge. On many business trips this becomes a de facto office outside of the room.

It provides a relaxed atmosphere where you can work solo, meet with clients, catch up on emails and wind down after the day.

Most lounges serve a light complimentary breakfast which beats having to battle the masses at the hotel's main breakfast buffet.

Add a variety of snacks throughout the day and evening, including cocktails, and a good club lounge gets me back every time.

Finding the X-factor

There's always an X-factor, and it's largely driven by personal preferences.

Some business travellers value a first-rate gym or selected fitness gear provided in their room.

Others appreciate hotels that are a little different from the mainstream pack – especially as smaller boutique and design hotels with a fresh feel and contemporary 'urban' design.

Some hotels are – shock, horror – getting truly innovative in gearing up for the business traveller.

One standout example is the full 24-hour room stay being rolled out across hotels in the Starwood family such as Sheraton, Westin, W and Le Méridien.

Starwood is aiming to abolish set check-in and check-out times for top-tier members of the Starwood Preferred Guest scheme, giving them the ability to check-in and check-out at any hour of the day (or night) with a full 24 hours stay in between.

It'll be a boon for business travellers who often find that flight schedules don't match up with a hotel's fixed arrival and departure times.

What do you look for in a hotel when you travel on business, and what are some favourite hotels which keep you coming back?

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

Twitter: @AusBT

 

 

24 comments so far

  • Simple things for me - power points which take any type of plug so I don't have to dig out my adaptors. IPOD dock so I can charge my iPod or iPhone without either firing up the computer or finding aforementioned adaptor. A couple of drama and couple of movie channels for the TV and not just BBC or CNN - it's only on business travel that you realise how much of their coverage is repeated every 20 minutes. WiFi in the room - I hate being stuck firing up my computer when I could have looked up something twice as fast on my iPod. Temperature control that actually works.

    Commenter
    lexie
    Date and time
    June 25, 2012, 10:37AM
    • You can add "laundry service at any time", and "swift check-in" to the business traveller X-factor list.

      My recent stay at The Hyatt Regency in New Orleans was pretty good, but it took ages to go through an overly thorough/chatty check-in process when all I *needed* to do after a long series of flights was get into my room!

      Commenter
      Expense rich, baggage allowance poor!
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      June 25, 2012, 11:33AM
      • $20 A DAY for a decent internet connection ?!?!?

        A very good internet connection can be had at home for around $60 a month. That's about $2 a day. Let's say that occupancy rates are (a miserable) 50%, that makes $4 a day. Whack a 100% margin on and it's $8 a day.

        And all of that is assuming the hotel hasn't actually bother negotiate with an internet supplier and is just accepting retail rates.

        Let's be honest, once I'm paying $400 a night for an appropriate hotel, I don't expect to slugged extra for what are basics if you are marketing yourself as a business hotel.

        Commenter
        JZCarr
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        June 25, 2012, 11:47AM
        • For the modern business traveller it's important to connect several wireless devices without being charged for each of them. A lot of hotels which offer wifi now charge you on a per device basis. So that'll be $20/day for your notebook, another $20/day for your iPad - oh, you just logged on with your iPhone, another $20 please!

          I'm with the author, I don't mind paying for VERY fast wifi as long as I have the option of a free usable connection, but I can't stand multi-device gouging!

          Commenter
          Son of Ryan Bingham
          Date and time
          June 25, 2012, 12:11PM
          • The reason hotels nickel and dime you on things like internet access is that they expect business travellers to be on expenses.

            Commenter
            Nicho
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            June 25, 2012, 12:31PM
            • I may wish to point out theobvious but a hotel is a hotel not a defacto business/office for you. A Hotel's main function is to provide you a place to sleep & eat(dinner & breakfast).

              I personally think your expectations are way out. When I go on a business trip I may do the occasional typing review of documents for business but I certainly dont do anything major. Business is conducted in my firms or my clients office.

              I would never invite a client to my hotel except for dinner or after work drinks, it is unprofessional. The hotel like my home is for relaxing, no work allowed as a rule. If you can't regulate your work so that all your business is taken car off between 9:00-21:00 Mon-Fri and in your or your clients office then you dont deserve to be an executive. As the trick is to work smarter not longer & harder.

              Now I am talking as a German Exec, so maybe I am biased. But considering my company is one of the beiggest most succesful (not to mention oldest) and Germany is basically carrying the whole of Europe, I think our points are valid.

              I find English speaking people because they seem to equate efficiency with get workforce to spend longer hours at work at same pay, with same output/outcome per hour, or employ more people for samecost. Rather than lookking at a better ratio which is increase the output per hour of each of my employees and paying them more as a reward, which means I have to employ less people in same role.

              Commenter
              ltl
              Date and time
              June 25, 2012, 12:38PM
              • And what, pray tell, is a 'top German Exec' doing reading the bowels of the Sydney Morning Herald online at 4.30am Munich time?

                The very essence of journalism means that journalists (particularly those who are travelling to do their jobs) do not keep your tidy '9am-9pm' hours. If they did we'd never get any news.

                Commenter
                Kate
                Date and time
                June 25, 2012, 1:13PM
              • ITL, we are not all super-executives like you obviously are, and also many of us work in very different roles.

                I have a mate in exec recruitment and I can tell you he NEVER visits his clients at their office, for obvious reasons! They all come to the cafe at his hotel or if more privacy is needed (can't risk being seen by staff etc) they go to a meeting room in the executive lounge.

                Also when some of my suppliers visit Auckland (my home city) I am happy to drop by their hotel for a show-and-tell session of the latest products, because it is much easier to do that then have them lug all their stuff out to my office and the offices of other companies around here.

                Different people want and need and like different things, mate.

                Commenter
                Kiwi Flyer
                Date and time
                June 25, 2012, 1:18PM
              • We know the German way is FORMAL and we understand that formality is not reflected in all cultures. Is a Japanese way of doing business any less valid? Is the American way any less so? At the end of the day business is about trust. If a hotel has great facilities to meet confidentially and establish rapport, build trust and allow for post meeting followup with great e-commerce tools why not get it done when you can. The "quiet" time in a hotel to get real work done is an asset to be utilised.

                Your premise that work must be done between set scheduled times may suit your circadian rhythm and personal standards. Whose clock is more important. Yours? Mine? Who cares!

                My question is how do you stop a super creative thought outside of your set hours? By constraining your workers to operate like machines you will only ever get perfectly duplicated results. In the meantime some clever bastard out there will out innovate you and one day exploit your rigid fixed practice. You will wake up one morning wondering what happened.

                Commenter
                1000years
                Location
                Europe
                Date and time
                June 25, 2012, 3:05PM
              • ITL, I'm very happy for you and your germanic efficiency, but I've not yet discovered a way to leave home, get to the airport, fly to destination, navigate to meetings, call home to the kids, listen to my voicemail and reply to emails, all before I reach the hotel. I agree with you that a hotel room isn't an office for meeting people, but that's what business suites are for. And if I'm spending time away from my family I'll answer a few emails and catch up on stuff so I can avoid doing it back home. And by the way mate - if you're working 9:00 - 21:00 (that's 9:00am to 9:00pm in the old money) maybe you're the one that doesn't deserve to be an exec.

                As for Germany carrying the rest of Europe...
                No wonder your clients don't want to visit you at your hotel - you're a real barrel of laughs aren't you?

                Commenter
                Australian Exec
                Location
                Melbourne
                Date and time
                June 25, 2012, 9:10PM

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