Jeff Pearce rarely takes advantage of the hotel business center when he travels for work. When he does, it's usually to print out a boarding pass.
Yet the Fayetteville, Ga., resident, who owns a water and wastewater service company, wouldn't want to stay somewhere that didn't have a business center.
"When I need something, I absolutely need it and do not want to have to go to Kinko's," says Pearce, a USA TODAY Road Warrior, a panel of frequent travelers who weigh in on travel topics.
The business center was once the only place where travelers could stay connected. Now, travelers can stay connected anywhere and everywhere.
"I think the need fundamentally has diminished," says Matthew Carroll, vice president of Global Brand Management for Marriott Hotels & Resorts. People are "traveling with their own technology, whether a laptop or tablet. Even the need to print a boarding pass is going away when you consider that with major airlines, you can check in with an app on a mobile device."
But is the business center going away? Not quite. Most hotels, including Marriott, are reluctant to give up on them. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 88% of hotels polled in 2012 still had business centers, especially if the hotel was upscale.
Rather than do away with the amenity, hotels are trying to adapt the business center for the modern-day traveler. Many are installing wireless printers so that guests can print from anywhere in the hotel. They are also bringing the business center out into the open so they can flow into the common coffeehouse-like areas that travelers now prefer. And they're outfitting them with more comfortable furniture, so people feel like they're working in a living room rather than an office.
--Wyndham Hotel Group recently launched a prototype that integrates the business center into the lobby. Computers are available in more open multipurpose spaces with free Wi-Fi and comfortable furniture.
--The Westin Hotels and Resorts last year launched a flexible work space called Tangent that is used in place of the traditional business center in some locations and as a supplement in others. The furniture can be organized in different configurations to accommodate meetings. There is also technology for videoconferencing.
--Kimpton Hotel and Resorts have adapted old pay-phone banks into small partitioned workstations.
--InterContinental Hotels Group's new EVEN hotels, a wellness brand set to make its debut this year, will have a Hot Desk rather than a traditional center. The desk will have two laptops. Guests will be able to print wirelessly from the laptops or their own devices. (continued...)
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