The phrase ‘hotel business center’ is something of a misnomer today. Business travelers and conference-goers expect something above and beyond a room off the hotel lobby with a desktop computer, fax machine, and printer.
So, how can you make your hotel a comfortable base of operations for business travelers, whether they’re staying for one night or an entire work week? Read on to learn exactly what a ‘hotel business center’ is in the 21st century, why you need one, and get nine tips to create a business center guests use and even recommend.
What is a hotel business center?
The hotel business center isn’t just one locale. It’s the rooftop cafe where people check work emails over breakfast, the lobby seating area where a team of coworkers talk over laptops, and the telephone cubby converted for videoconferencing. Other common elements of the modern hotel business center include:
- Small, multi-purpose meeting rooms.
- Laptops or tablets at the front desk. (Either for short-term rental or complimentary for reward program members.)
- Docking stations and network cables in each room.
- And yes, in hotels where demand remains high—a functional work area with computers, desks, a fax machine, and copier.
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What’s the importance of a hotel business center?
Think about today’s business traveler without secure access to email, important files, and cloud-based work platforms like Google Docs; printers, scanners, and copiers; laptops and tablets; and quiet workspaces for phone calls and one-on-one meetings.
Without any of this, you’ve got a tourist at an Airbnb.
Business men and women need more than a place to rest their heads; they need office-quality amenities to stay connected to their coworkers, clients, and prospects—at all times.
Here's how to create a modern hotel business center guests love:
1. Support business travelers’ technology (with a focus on Millennial expectations)
Today’s business traveler brings their own ‘business center’ on the road. Your job is to streamline their work through tech support and convenience. But why focus on Millennial requirements in particular?
Because 2020 is the year Millennials are expected to make up half of the American workforce. By 2025, Millennials will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce. They are the business demographic you want to attract in the coming years—and technology is essential. Here are the must-haves:
- Super-fast WiFi: Gaming, movies, social media, and videoconferencing must-haves, accessible from the lobby through the smallest event space. Be sure your property employs a comprehensive wireless network that can support a wide range of devices and Internet of Things (IoT) applications, and keep an eye out for WiFi 6 to support more devices at faster speeds.
- Secure WiFi: Guests arriving at your hotel need to connect to your WiFi network instantly and with peace of mind. Work with your IT provider to integrate advances like Passpoint (HotSpot 2.0) that allow guests to securely and automatically connect to your hotel’s network whenever they’re in range, authenticating users on secure encrypted connections.
- Electronic device chargers and docking stations: Your guests need to charge their devices in the lobby, outside areas, event spaces, meeting rooms, and most definitely in their rooms. It’s important to keep in mind this doesn’t just mean electrical outlets for devices with power cables, as there are upwards of one billion devices with wireless charging in circulation. And if you are providing wireless charging, look into cloud-based smart wireless charging that can enable you to capture real-time data on customer behavior.
- Networked printers, scanners, and copiers: Proposals, contracts, and agreements, and marketing materials are important pieces of the business puzzle. Be sure that guests on a tight deadline can access every device they need from anywhere on-site to get their work done with ease and convenience.
2. Stay up to date on emerging technologies
It’s not enough to offer technology, the tech must be current if you want to draw business travelers. Questions to ask your team (and re-ask periodically):
- Is your hotel technology infrastructure up-to-date enough to handle demand?
- Do you have a guest text concierge service or messaging platform for smartphones that allows you to update guests and them to ask questions or request service?
- How many of your guest services are accessible via the cloud?
- Do your meetings and event spaces come equipped with state-of-the-art technology to support corporate training, presentations, and conferences?
3. Offer solutions that answer common pain points for business travelers
Today’s 24/7/365 business traveler can be a conference attendee, freelance consultant, salesperson, or even a parent on vacation keeping tabs on their side hustle. Time is of the essence; streamline each touchpoint of their visit so they can focus on the business at hand.
- Self check-in/check-out kiosks or mobile apps: Who has time to stand in line anymore? Guests are booking trips digitally; empower them to use their mobile devices for arrival and departure if they prefer.
- Keyless mobile room entry: Give your guests control over their hotel experience and peace of mind, or even skip the front desk when combined with mobile check-in. Keyless entry systems provide increased security and safety along with reduced liability concerns from lost keys, providing you with operational and cost efficiencies while providing guests with a truly 21st century stay.
- Transportation: Create dedicated spaces for Uber and Lyft rideshare pick-up and drop-off, and if it makes sense, provide a shuttle to and from mass transit hubs. Electric bike (eBike) rentals are a growing trend in many metropolitan areas, as are dedicated—and sometimes discounted—parking spaces for electric vehicles complete with charging stations.
4. Give business travelers the chance to kick back and relax
Business travel is by its nature full of activity and stress; in fact, it increases a person's physical stress load by about 12 percent, thanks in part to business travelers averaging 21 minutes less sleep than leisure travelers.
To be “on” and focused, restorative downtime is essential. Make sure you provide opportunities for your guests to recharge the mind and body so they’re ready to tackle projects and face-to-face meetings.
- Wellness programs: Yoga, aerobic classes, and group runs are growing in popularity with hotels looking to provide stress relief. These are innovative offerings complementing the standard hotel exercise rooms, swimming pools, and in-room exercise equipment.
- Smart TVs with internet: Guests can stream their favorite TV shows or movies, even access hotel services from the comfort of their bed. Guests can have their mobile devices automatically synced to their room’s smart TV during sign-in, all before reaching their room.
- IoT and Smart assistants: The familiarity and convenience of devices, such as the Amazon Echo, can go a long way toward customer goodwill and return visits. Imagine tired guests closing room blinds, dimming lights, or adjusting the room thermostat from their mobile device!
- Provide info on dining and recreation: Whether through printed materials or downloadable apps, guests welcome easy access to local leisure and dining options. If your facility is wired to support IoT functions, you can even have VR (virtual reality) headsets in rooms for 3D virtual tours of local attractions.
5. Cater to the "bleisure" traveler
Many business travelers aren’t all business and will extend their stay—especially at hotels located in big cities and near tourist destinations. Make the decision easier with these ideas:
- Provide digital and print guides to the region with detailed information on local restaurants, parks, historical monuments, sightseeing options, beaches, wineries, craft breweries, entertainment, and outdoor attractions.
- Partner with local guide services and recreational organizations to create special discount packages for business guests.
- Promote the use of nearby attractions for team-building. A study from Destination Hotels showed that more than 60 percent of corporate travel planners want more team-building experiences. These can range from guided trips to escape room adventures to on-site menu tastings by local designed by local chefs.
- Make it easy for guests to transition from business to leisure with easy-to-book options for local adventures linked on your website. When trying to influence their decision making, use condensed, direct call-to-action messaging with simple payment processing options.
- Provide shuttles to local destinations in the evening and on weekends, and make the convenient option clear with signs near self check-in kiosks and the front desk.
6. Create comfortable, bright, and flexible workspaces
Seeing how face-to-face interactions are 34 times more successful than emails, travelers at conferences, conventions, and business development trips are getting off their electronic devices to do business and network in person. Hotels can give them innovative, unique spaces to do just that in a comfortable, yet professional atmosphere.
Consider these options for business travelers:
- Small, quiet breakout spaces are becoming the norm in offices—and hotels. These spaces should be flexible and well-lit (preferably with natural lighting), with the capacity to accommodate one-one-one sessions and group meetings.
- Hotel lobbies and reception areas are the new co-working spaces. Maximize them for business travelers with comfortable furniture in layouts that promote conversation and collaboration. Provide plenty of wall outlets and charging stations for laptops and smartphones. Consider adding small, lightweight movable tables and chairs that can be easily reconfigured by small groups.
- Situate food and beverage options (grab-and-go snacks, free coffee, water dispensers with fresh fruit) nearby, so guests don’t have to leave the area when they get hungry.
7. Give business travelers enticing food and beverage options
The business traveler who invites a colleague to dine at your hotel restaurant or bar is an ambassador for your brand. His or her guest(s) are potential new guests for you, who in turn could spread the word throughout their professional network. The options and atmosphere you provide go a long way to churning new business.
- Provide F&B options even if you don’t have a restaurant: Apps have more than one meaning in the food world. Promoting delivery services like DoorDash, GrubHub, and UberEats can help you connect hotel guests and event attendees to local restaurants in the form of a customer-conscious service offering.
- Room service to every room: Give groups in meeting rooms the option to order lunch or dinner using smartphone guest messaging and online ordering.
- Make the F&B experience local: Millennials and more love immersion when traveling. Share regional flavors with guests by hosting popular local food trucks during conferences, or design a pop-up restaurant that generates buzz among guests and the community, building your brand and even adding a little extra revenue.
8. Make business guests feel valued through personalization
All guests want to feel valued, especially those at an event with little or no time to spare. Here are ways to make business travelers feel valued while helping generate positive reviews, brand loyalty, and return visits.
- Offer high-touch concierge services during conferences: Of course, you’ll be attentive to all of your guests. But business travelers are on a tighter schedule than vacationers, so prompt responses to their requests are essential.
- Make an effort at hyper-contextualized personalization: Focus on what your guests want and need, utilizing pre- and post-stay surveys and smart mobile device technology like geofencing to share and collect information. When communicating with business guests, make sure your emails and messages are not purely promotional, but rather purposeful and pertinent to the individual.
- Bridge the generational divide: Sure, Millennials are flooding the business travel circuit. But what about their successors, Generation Z? Or Generation X, which came between Millennials and the Baby Boomers? Research the unique styles and expectations of each generation. There will be extensive overlap, but you may discover unique services and amenities to add.
9. Spread the word about your business-focused services and amenities
This is a bonus tip. Now that you’ve done the work improving your offerings for the business traveler, you need to get the word out. Here are key ways to market your hotel to professionals and corporate travel managers:
- Utilize social media: Photos and videos are especially effective in showcasing event venues and flexible workspaces.
- Build partnerships with local business organizations: The local Chamber of Commerce, startup support organizations, and visitors’ bureau can serve as useful referrals once they understand the many ways you support today’s business traveler.
- Engage with online reviews: Make a point of seeking out mentions of your business services within reviews on a handful of targeted online hotel review sites.
- Encourage business guest reviews: Place signs asking for feedback in easy-to-spot locations, or create a mobile push-notification asking about their experience at check-out.
- Update your online listings: Whether it’s your Google listing or something more specific, make sure your online identity includes reference to being ‘business-friendly’ in some fashion.
- Run a digital ad campaign: In addition to your general Google Adwords and other campaigns, hone-in on the business traveler with appropriate references to your many business services.
You're equipped to improve your hotel business center for the modern traveler:
Business travel is big business, bringing in $327.3 billion in 2018. Competition for a bigger slice of that pie is intense, especially when it comes to accommodations. For your hotel to be a successful business travel destination, it needs to be a place that mixes home, office, leisure, and a good night’s rest.
Ready to attract business guests on a large scale? Learn why unique hotel experiences are the key to group business.