The Evolution of Airport Hotels
With innovative designs and amenities, hoteliers are aiming to reshape the airport hotel concept.
Gone are the days of lackluster amenities and dining options. Today, guests can expect modern architecture, trendy lounge areas and top-notch dining.(Getty Images)
Like airline food and all-inclusive hotels, the reputation of airport hotels hasn't always been the greatest. After all, such hotels were built out of necessity as a place for weary business travelers and budget-conscious families, not a place to be thoroughly enjoyed or take comfort. But while that image may have held true a few decades ago, it's a far cry from some of the airport hotels welcoming travelers today. Designed with road warriors in mind, today's airport hotels offer expansive rooms with plush beds and city views, restaurants you actually want to dine in and modern art decorating the walls.
The best place to see the notable difference between the airport hotels of yesteryear and the innovative properties of the future is at many of Hilton's updated properties, such as outposts in Amsterdam and Frankfurt, Germany. As soon as you enter the property, you're welcomed with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, colorful art installations and welcoming desk attendants. Even better, there's an elegance, a comfort and an identity that was sorely lacking in airport hotels for years. For Hilton, it isn't just about refashioning the look or updating the beds – it's about changing the entire perception of the airport stay experience.
"People nowadays are not just buying a bed at the airport anymore; people enjoy staying at an airport hotel which contributes to their well-being, to their success and to a memorable travel experience," says Charles Muller, general manager at the Hilton Frankfurt Hotel. "In the same way that leisure and business travelers seek certain amenities at a 'downtown' hotel, there's now a greater understanding and appreciation for what airport hotels can offer in comfort, amenities, services and food," he adds.
This is most apparent at many of Hilton's newest and largest airport properties, such the Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, which recently opened in 2015. The hotel features a beautiful exterior with patterned windows that reflect and absorb the sunlight, a bar and restaurant and, most notably, a spa.
"This property [the Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol] is actually home to Western Europe's first eforea Spa [Hilton Worldwide's global spa concept], which offers experiences that pay homage to wellness practices from Europe, Asia, the Pacific, Middle East, Africa and the Americas," Muller says.
No longer simply a place to sleep, these hotels are being constructed to rival hotels in major city centers. How they're doing that is simple: They're treating each hotel like a separate resort, giving it a unique style, a fresh look and a local touch that was missing from airport hotels of the past. When you enter the Hilton Frankfurt hotel, for example, the look is entirely different than the Hilton Schiphol or the Hilton Beijing. Not only does the design reflect the location, so does the food.
"Many of the culinary offerings at hotels within Hilton's airport portfolio are deeply connected to their respective local destinations. Chefs at Hilton airport hotels from Mumbaito Mexicoto the East Midlands source a variety of their kitchen ingredients from local markets," Muller says. "Here at Hilton Frankfurt Airport we have chosen the bread theme in our RISE restaurant, as it is an essential part of the culture and daily life in Germany," he adds.
With more than 60 airport properties around the world, Hilton is adapting and changing each property to meet the demands of the guests, the marketplace and, of course, the location. And their future, which is ever-changing, continues to focus on updating and revolutionizing the airport hotel concept. "With the opening of each of new property, it is Hilton's goal to continue its pioneering legacy in the airport hotel sector and challenge the perception of what an airport hotel can be for business and leisure travelers alike," Muller adds.
Hilton, of course, isn't the only hotel brand revolutionizing and revitalizing airport hotels. Starwood Hotels & Resorts have been appealing to travelers with their unique and innovative Aloft properties, which are designed with frequent international travelers in mind. Their properties, which span the globe from Montreal to Bogota, feature 24-hour delis (known as Re:Fuel) for those travelers flying in and out at odd hours; social lounges with multiple charging stations (for different adapters); indoor and outdoor pools and even a pet-friendly program for those traveling alongside their furry friends.
[Read: 10 Hotels Targeting Millennials.]
While airport hotels still have a long way to go to cater to the ever-changing demands of travelers today, one thing is for sure: Hilton and Starwood are making it easier than ever for travelers to actually enjoy staying at airport hotels again.
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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.