Hotels have dealt with the recession in one way – by cutting costs. What this means to the guest who checks in is, that there will be fewer staff members working to keep the key hotel going, and there will be fewer luxuries and amenities. To any travel service, hotels or airlines, the cream of the customer base usually will lie with the business traveler. Businesses tend to not compromise too much on the travel standards that they must uphold (especially since the executives on the road are the ones who set the travel budget), and travel organizations make sure that they profit from it all. Business hotels of late, have been moving away from cost-cutting as a way to make it through the recession, and to attract new patronage (read, steal from the competition), have been trying to think of ways to win through innovation – their latest experiment ? They are trying organizing highbrow activities for guests.
When I travel, representing my greeting cards company, I have a couple of regional chains of business hotels I like that I’ll never be drawn away from. But then, I saw an advertisement for the Sorrento Hotel in Seattle in an airline magazine, and I wondered if it was worth a try. What was it that this hotel had to win my interest? They had activities. When you stay at the Sorrento, you don’t need to go out for your entertainment; they have the symphony brought in, they have the ballet and repertory theaters. There are performances each night.
It’s funny, but the most relaxing thing in the world tends to be working hard to grow as an individual. Most of these business hotels feature entertainment that can be awfully enlightening; you come away a better person, and feeling more relaxed about yourself than any free massage could help you feel. One hotel in Houston had a wine and chocolate tasting class two hours each evening, and a hotel in Philadelphia will sign you up for a cooking class in the kitchen with its expert chefs.
Think about it – when you check in at any of the business hotels you have been to lately, isn’t it a curiously cultivated and yet deeply lonely experience? That’s the problem with travel these days, and more than anything, these classy communal activities help you get acquainted with your fellow business travelers, and you come away having learned something about the business community outside of your immediate circle.
Some business hotels have fun little contests planned where you win complementary full course meals at the restaurant, and others will let you have use of a complementary guide to take you around town. The hotel in Miami that I’ll be staying at next month plans to be running an independent film festival right in the lobby, with a qualified magazine film critic there to talk to us about it later. That should be fun.