Business Traveller

As work blends into play, hotel becomes social hub

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Travellers like different things from their hotels.

Some adore the privacy of their deluxe room, away from the demands of family or roommates. In solipsistic comfort, awash with their choice of digital entertainment, they are fed, watered and tidied up after at the dial of a short extension. Others appreciate the more communitarian aspects of a home-away-from-home; the serendipitous conversation at the bar, competitive company in the gym, playmates in the pool, the bustle and hum of the lobby making laptop chores less lonely.

Many more of us probably enjoy a bit of both (I’ve always felt, for example, that business hotels should arrange some of their breakfast tables in a way to facilitate conversation).

Back in 2007, Holiday Inn conducted an extensive study of their customers and concluded that their frequent guests belonged to the communitarian category. Four years later, the physical manifestation of that insight has been unveiled. Their prototype property, Holiday Inn Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia is the first to open a 5,000 square foot Social Hub in its lobby.

Is this the answer to the changing needs and behaviours of business and leisure travellers, or a PR stunt? (I was once on an upmarket hotel group’s press junket in Asia where assembled journalists couldn’t hide their mirth after being sombrely informed by a branding executive that the entrance to the property was now to be termed a “transitional portal”, so I’m wary about such things…)