USA Today Article: Hotels adapt business centers for today’s traveler

The following article is one that I came across on USA Today. The article quotes representatives of Marriott and Crowne Plaza, and references other major hotel brands such as IHG, Wyndham, Westin and Kimpton all as supporters of the continued offer of business center computers and services in today’s hotels. With guests able to stay connected anywhere through the use of smart phones, laptops and other gadgets the business center is still an important fixture. The traveler in this article is quoted as stating that he will not stay at a hotel that does not offer a business center.

Article Below:

“Jeff Pearce rarely takes advantage of the hotel business center when he travels for work. When he does, it’s usually to print out a boarding pass.

Yet the Fayetteville, Ga., resident, who owns a water and wastewater service company, wouldn’t want to stay somewhere that didn’t have a business center.

“When I need something, I absolutely need it and do not want to have to go to Kinko’s,” says Pearce, a USA TODAY Road Warrior, a panel of frequent travelers who weigh in on travel topics.

The business center was once the only place where travelers could stay connected. Now travelers can stay connected anywhere and everywhere.

“I think the need fundamentally has diminished,” says Matthew Carroll, vice president of Global Brand Management for Marriott Hotels & Resorts. People are “traveling with their own technology, whether a laptop or tablet. Even the need to print a boarding pass is going away when you consider that with major airlines, you can check in with an app on a mobile device.”

But is the business center going away? Not quite. Most hotels, including Marriott, are reluctant to completely give up on the business center. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, 88% of hotels polled in 2012 still had business centers, especially if the hotel was upscale.

Rather than do away with the amenity, hotels are trying to adapt the business center for the modern-day traveler. Many are installing wireless printers so that guests can print from anywhere in the hotel. They are also bringing the business center out into the open so they can flow into the common coffeehouse-like areas that travelers now prefer. And they’re outfitting them with more comfortable furniture, so people feel like they’re working in a living room rather than an office.

Some examples:

•Wyndham Hotel Group recently launched a prototype that integrates the business center into the lobby. Computers are available in more open multipurpose spaces with free Wi-Fi and comfortable furniture.

•The Westin Hotels and Resorts last year launched a flexible work space called Tangent that is used in place of the traditional business center in some locations and as a supplement in others. The furniture can be organized in different configurations to accommodate meetings. There is also technology for videoconferencing.

•Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants have re-adapted old pay-phone banks into small partitioned workstations.

•InterContinental Hotels Group’s new EVEN hotels, a wellness brand set to debut this year, will have a Hot Desk rather than traditional business center. The desk will have two laptops. Guests will be able to print wirelessly from the laptops or their own devices.

•IHG’s Crowne Plaza is letting guests wirelessly print to the business center from anywhere in the hotel. There is also complimentary Wi-Fi and single sign-on access for the length of the stay, meaning once you check in and log on, you don’t have to log off until you check out.

“We do know there is still a need to provide that functionality in the hotel, and we’re continuing to do that,” says Gina LaBarre, vice president of brand management for Crowne Plaza. “We want to make sure our guests are as productive as possible.””

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