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Amenities Guide

Business hotels use guest feedback to select amenities


Business travel is coming back, according to industry analysts. Many hoteliers say there is a constant upgrade of business amenities and services to keep up with the demands of corporate travelers. Surprisingly, not all of them are related to technology. They are as varied as the profile of the individual properties.

Many are based on current trends in diet and health, said Lennie Zilz, vice president of Columbia Hospitality and general manager of the Leadership Center at Cedarbrook in Seattle. Columbia Hospitality is a management company with 14 properties in its portfolio.

From the onset, the design of the conference center hotel was geared to the business traveler with such in-room features as extra-long, deep tubs, a well-lit desk area and free high-speed Internet access, Zilz said. More recently, six Internet workstations were added adjacent to the meeting rooms because guests asked for them.

A request for an airline check-in counter was nixed because guests easily can access a boarding pass online at the hotel. In December, low-carb and low-calorie dishes were added to the menus as a response to guests' requests, Zilz said. Lighter fare such as wraps, salads and sandwiches can be ordered for dinner.

A poll on the property's Web site will be launched in June to further gauge customer needs, he said.
These needs have crossed over into the leisure segment, said Michael Howerton, vice president and general manager of the Renaissance Boulder Suites at Flatiron in Broomfield, Colo.

"It's interesting overall what's emerging as a desire on the part of the corporate guest," he said. "They are looking for amenities for the leisure guest. They want more comforts, the same thing as when they travel for leisure."

The all-suites Renaissance, an upscale property with 237 units, opened in October 2002 with such in-room amenities as waffle-cloth Japanese robes and bath salts, which generated a lot of positive feedback from business guests, Howerton said.

Likewise, the demand for spa services, which normally are linked to leisure guests, was unanticipated. Other leisure perks like a welcome glass of champagne and cold towels for freshening up at check-in were extended to corporate travelers.

"The profile is fusing leisure and corporate," he said. "The corporate guest is looking for more pampering now."

Pampering might be the frosting on the cake because facilitating communication is one of the most essential elements of business travel for hotels. With this in mind, all Renaissance hotels offer a package called Wired for Business," said Randy Griffin, vice president of sales and marketing for the Eden Roc Renaissance Resort & Spa, Miami Beach.

Guests receive unlimited long-distance calls and HSIA rolled into one fee, he said. It's become so popular that 95 percent of the hotel's corporate guests buy it. At the same time, the hotel installed high-speed Internet connections in all public areas.

"This was the biggest thing a few years ago," he said. "Now it's a mandate."

A more recent addition at the Eden Roc property is a 24-hour business center, which is staffed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. After 7 p.m., the printers and copiers are self-service.

Like the others, the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando did its homework before opening.

"We did lots of focus groups before it opened two years ago," said Suzanne Stephan, director of marketing. "We deleted minibars because guests think they are too expensive and they cannot get reimbursed for it. Instead, we put in refrigerators with bottled water and fruit juices and it's part of the resort fee. This has been widely accepted."

Focusing on customer needs also is creating technology breakthroughs, she said. One result is the new "Gaylord i Connect," an in-room high-speed Internet system that was launched at the beginning of June. It's free and for the average guest, it connects to hotel services such as housekeeping, restaurants and the spa and has a beverage menu for online requests.

In the case of meeting planners, the setup can be programmed to link to attendees' guestrooms. The meeting planner can make changes in the program and on-site schedule from the comfort of the guestroom.

"i Connect came from our research on how to make the meeting planner's job easier while in the hotel," Stephan said. Another new amenity is an in-room safe big enough to fit a laptop with its own recharger inside. Creating family activities and children's programs for attendees traveling with their families also is a top priority.

Regardless of the many amenities built into hotel stays, some things are more indispensable than others, said Carlos Rodriguez, principal and executive vice president of acquisitions/development for Driftwood Hospitality Management in Jupiter, Fla., which owns and manages 26 hotels.

"On site, some things are a must," he said. "For example, two phone lines and high-speed Internet access are no longer a choice. Neither is a business center, boardrooms nor break-out rooms. In some of our hotels, we've added cordless phones and speaker phones."

The four boardrooms at the company's Crown Plaza at Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, Fla., have high bookings to prove this, he said. As an added extra, at checkout, corporate guests receive a gift like a teddy bear to take home to their children.

"Little by little, we gain their loyalty," Rodriguez said.

Many hotel executives agreed that wireless high-speed Internet was next on the agenda. Howerton and Griffin said that although their hotels have the service in all public areas, there is a strong demand for in-room hook-ups from guests.

On the other hand, Griffin and Rodriguez said that items such as high-definition TV is not on the agenda because it doesn't induce travelers to choose a hotel.

What is a business-class hotel?

"One which focuses on business travelers and meeting attendees so that all areas of a hotel are comfortable to do work in."

--Lennie Zilz, vice president of Colombia Hospitality and general manager of the Leadership Center at Cedarbrook in Seattle

"A business hotel is more service intensive. You need to probably have more in-room amenities than a leisure hotel, where you need more public area amenities like a pool and a games room."

--Carlos Rodriguez, principal and executive vice president of acquisitions/development for Driftwood Hospitality Management in Jupiter, Fla.

"The services from concierge to transportation are provided from the point of view of the traveler. For example, we provide a concierge level shopping service with Nordstrom if a guest needs a fresh shirt."

--Michael Howerton, vice president and general manager of the Renaissance Boulder Suites at FlatIron in Broomfield, Colo.

"Before business travelers chose downtown; now it's a resort hotel on the beach. All the amenities are here that they need to conduct business.

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