Hotel lobbies are going social
The Holiday Inn's new lobby design includes a media lounge, which encourages guests to hang out in the common space.
Hotel lobbies used to have the look and feel of a home’s formal living room – lovely to look at but not the kind of place you’d want to spend much time in.
To change that, hotels are transforming their lobbies to appeal to varying social habits, hoping guests will hang out and spend money at the hotel, rather than going out to local bars or restaurants. For example, earlier this year the Holiday Inn chain began rolling out a new lobby concept called “The HUB” which “integrates the lobby, bar and restaurant space into an area with multiple places for guests to eat/drink, connect, relax and have fun”. Other hotels are following suit with improvements in the following categories:
Wi-fi is available in nearly every hotel lobby in the world, and in most cases access is free, even if there’s a charge to log on in your room. The desks, computers and printers that used to be in the hotel “business centre” are finding their way into the open space. Electrical outlets are no longer hidden behind the curtains or sofas — instead, they’ve become part of the furniture, incorporated into tables and lamps. The Marriott chain of hotels is installing touch screen “Go Boards” that offer guests quick access to local maps, weather, events and nearby restaurants – information that was once provided by a concierge.
If you don’t feel like sitting in your room to wind down at night, many hotel lobbies now offer giant flat screen televisions and plenty of seating so guests can gather to watch sporting events or movies together. Many lobbies also have “gaming areas” that allow guests to play on Xbox, Nintendo or Wii consoles.
Food and drink
Hotels are breaking down the walls that used to separate full-service restaurants from the rest of the hotel, and are turning the spaces into less formal cafes. Last summer, Le Meridien hotels launched a “hub” lobby concept which is a coffee-inspired space during the day and a wine-inspired space at night. In the US, Marriott Courtyard’s “Bistro” offers cooked-to-order egg sandwiches for breakfast, and sandwiches and salads the rest of the day. At Starwood’s new Element hotels, there’s an evening reception four nights at week that includes free beer, wine and hot or cold snacks.
At the end of the day, would you be more likely to socialize with other hotel guests or colleagues in the lobby, or would you rather spend your free time in your hotel room? Please leave your comments on our Facebook page.
Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel