4 Ways Hotels Are Luring Business Travelers

Forget free Wi-Fi. Leading business hotel brands are prioritizing innovative designs and wellness.

By Lyn Mettler, ContributorSept. 12, 2017
U.S. News & World Report

4 Ways Hotels Are Luring Business Travelers

Businesswoman using smart phone in hotel lobby

Seamless service, nutritious grab-and-go meal options and wellness-oriented amenities are just a few ways top hotel chains are appealing to today's business travelers.(Getty Images)

Today's business travelers are in a hurry. They have meetings throughout the day. They're running from place to place, and they need a comfortable, tech- and design-savvy retreat to reenergize for the following day. Whether it's the ability to quickly find healthy meals, squeeze in an early morning workout or simply unwind at the end of the day, road warriors expect a few key perks and services in exchange for their loyalty.

Popular hotel chains such as Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza are undergoing major changes to appeal to both business and leisure travelers, while new brands such as Tru by Hilton and Even Hotels are emerging to put a strong focus on the business set. Here's how hotels are stepping up their game to attract these prized guests.

Innovative Designs

Hotels are heavily emphasizing sleek, stylish and modern design, with high-tech tools and amenities geared toward business travelers that don't compromise on homey touches. "For the road warriors, the biggest thing is to provide enough comforts of home while still making them feel like they are experiencing something unique," says Cameron Lamming, chief development officer for RAR Hospitality, a hotel management and consulting company.

Holiday Inn's new room design, which the company is rolling out at its hotels across the country, incorporates features that are designed to appeal to business travelers, as well as leisure travelers, a group they jointly call "the Contemporary Traveler." According to Eric Lent, the InterContinental Hotels Group's vice president of full service hotels & food and beverage solutions for the Americas, "The design allows our guests to truly make the space their own and to adapt from business to leisure within the same space."

The "Welcome Nook," for example, is designed for guests to drop items such as coats, keys and shoes as they enter the room, serving the function of the mudroom area in their own home. The company also introduced a new room type, the King Bed With Comfort Hideaway, that is flexible enough to appeal to both solo business travelers and traveling families. It features a trundle-type bed that is used as a sofa during the day, giving a business traveler a separate area to work or relax, and transforms into two twin beds at night, which appeals to families traveling with children.

"Business travelers say that functional design, which incorporates practical work spaces into their rooms and public areas, is particularly important to them," says Brian Povinelli, senior vice president and global brand leader at Marriott International. As one example, at the company's Le Meridien properties, rooms now have a bar-height desk with a high chair. "That's the way many people work at home, and the feedback has been very positive," he says.

Select Crowne Plaza Hotel properties are also making significant changes to appeal to the modern business traveler. The new Plaza Workspace area within the hotel lobby has flexible meeting areas for working alone or for groups up to 10 with open collaborative options, as well as more private spaces. These areas also feature tablets that allow guests to quickly order food and drinks without having to interrupt their workflow. The company has found these areas to be popular not just with hotel guests, but with locals who don't work in an office and need meeting space on occasion.

Retooling Restaurants

When a new company purchased The Westin Chicago Northwest in 2015, they interviewed many regular guests, including a large number of business travelers, to find out what changes they'd like to see. "We found that there was a consistent demand for more dining options," says Diane Howard, director of sales and marketing for the hotel.

The property has now completed a total renovation of its restaurants and has added a full mix of options that includes a grab-and-go eatery with Starbucks coffee in the lobby, a casual restaurant open for all three meals, a sports bar with TVs and an outdoor lakefront patio, as well as Seared, a fine dining restaurant. Howard says business guests appreciate having a variety of food choices without having to leave the hotel.

At Even Hotels, a wellness-themed hotel concept from InterContinental Hotels Group that caters to business travelers, there are multiple quick and healthy food options for busy workers. "Even Hotels offers Cork & Kale, which provides a variety of fresh, healthy and natural meal options so that business travelers can fuel up and be ready to take on the day," explains Jason Moskal, IHG vice president of lifestyle brands for the Americas. "The restaurant also offers freshly prepared grab-and-go and retail snacks available 24/7 for guests' convenience," Moskal adds.

Jonathan Wilson, vice president of product innovation and brand services for Hilton, says the brand understands that business travelers can have unpredictable hours that don't allow them to eat at the traditional meal times. "To accommodate [business travelers], many of our properties have removed the time constraints associated with eating meals by adding 24/7 pantry-style grab-and-go markets in the lobbies that provide guests with appealing, fresh food – ranging from snacks to full meals – as well as beer, wine and other specialty and local items," he explains. For example, guests can check out the Herb N' Kitchen at flagship Hilton Hotels & Resorts properties, Made Market pantry at DoubleTree by Hilton and the "Eat. & Sip." market at Tru by Hilton.

Seamless Service

"Business travelers don't have time to figure things out in their room. They need to have quality service," Lamming says. "This is achievable for the hotel staff, because business travelers do not need a lot of attention, they just need things to work and to know that you are accessible when it doesn't."

According to Wilson, "One of the top responses we hear from guests is the need for a seamless and personalized travel experience." With the Hilton Honors guest loyalty program app, "guests can book a room, check-in, choose their desired room from a digital floor plan set against Google Maps, request additional items to be in their room upon arrival and even use Digital Key, which turns their smartphone into their room key," Wilson adds. In addition, members can use the app to request Uber rides and use the Local Scene feature for recommendations about where to go in the city they're visiting.

Hilton's app has seen tremendous success, setting records for usage and engagement, including 30 million digital check-ins, three million room key downloads and more than 13.6 million doors opened.

Added Wellness- and Fitness-Focused Amenities

Even Hotels makes it easy to stay fit while traveling with rooms appointed with stability balls, resistance bands and yoga mats, as well as standing desks. Plus, the brand's properties offer a state-of-the-art workout facilities outfitted with popular equipment like rowing machines.

Meanwhile, Hilton has started to introduce its new "Five Feet to Fitness" room currently in San Francisco and McLean, Virginia, and expanding to other major markets in the near future. These high-tech retreats feature 11 different fitness equipment and accessory options. These include an indoor bike, the Gym Rax functional training station with a fitness kiosk that has more than 200 workout videos, resistance bands, medicine balls, a yoga mat and even a meditation chair.

As hotels up the ante to compete for these travel dollars, business travelers can only benefit. "It is not a science to appeal to tomorrow's business traveler, it is an art," Lamming says.


10 Innovative Hotel Room Designs

10 Innovative Hotel Room Designs

Woman sitting in bedroom of California luxury resort reading a book.

Lyn Mettler, Contributor

Lyn Mettler has written for U.S. News since 2014 covering a range of travel topics, including ...  Read more

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Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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