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The Business Traveler’s Hotel Wish List: The Perks and Amenities We Really Want

September 7th, 2016 /

I was at a conference recently where the CEO of one of the major hotel groups was asked his top concern. His answer: “Filling our rooms on weeknights.” As a frequent business traveler, I found his response interesting because I almost exclusively stay in hotel rooms Monday through Thursday. That makes me—and all the other executives, small business owners, and road warriors like myself—quite valuable to this company’s bottom line.

Given the value of business travelers, you would hope business hotels would do everything they can to earn our loyalty. And in many ways, they do a pretty good job. Nearly every major business hotel chain has a loyalty or rewards program, for example. But there are still a lot of things, most of them somewhat nitpicky, that I’d change about the business travel experience.

Here they are:

hotel wish list: free parkingLess-Mercenary Parking Fees. When I arrive at almost any 4 or 5 star hotel, I know that I’m going to be greeted by a professional, friendly valet who will do what he can to make my very first moment at the hotel pleasant. “Welcome to the such-and-such,” he’ll tell me. “Checking in? Allow me to assist you with your bags.” And yet, a moment after that wonderful greeting he will inform me, “Overnight parking is $45 a night.” And there goes the pleasantness.

Far be it from me to suggest that hotels eliminate a revenue stream by giving us free parking. While business travelers like free everything, we completely understand hotels need to make money. But charging midtown Manhattan-type parking rates is not a good way to do it. It would be like restaurants charging for water at $20 per glass. You can make money in lots of ways, but charging an exorbitant fee for a necessary aspect of my stay shouldn’t be one of them.

business traveler's wish list: no valet tipping A Tipless Valet Experience. Speaking of valets, why not take tipping them out of the equation? It’s socially awkward, confusing to international travelers, and causes guests anxiety if they don’t have small bills on hand. I know that I personally don’t carry cash that much anymore and always have to take a special trip to the ATM when I’m staying at a hotel so I can tip the valets and bellmen. Perhaps hotels could factor tips into the nightly rate. However you do it, one thing that living in the world of Uber and Lyft has taught me is that eliminating in-person tipping is a relief.

i-butlerTier-Free Internet. It would be a cliche for me to point out that business travelers revile being charged for internet. Thankfully, most hotel loyalty programs offer free internet to their members. But there’s been a peculiar modification to the hotel Internet feature in the last 5 years: the tiered internet system, wherein you get “basic” internet for free but have to pay for “premium” internet.

Let’s bring the analogy back to water for a moment. If I arrived at my hotel room to find that my shower had very weak pressure, enough that I could clean the soap off my body but nothing more, I would not be thrilled. If I were then able to pay for “premium shower pressure” that would actually make me comfortable, I would be even less thrilled. Knowing that a basic amenity is available but is being withheld until it’s paid for is particularly frustrating. And make no mistake: internet is a basic amenity. When I go to a hotel, I need a bathroom, I need a bed, I need electricity, I need water, and I need internet. Please at least be clear about whether you offer internet for free or not so I can stay at a hotel that does.

i-switchSimple Light Controls. Strange as it may sound to those who don’t spend a lot of time at hotels, it can be tricky to figure out how to turn the lights on and off. Even with my years of experience, I sometimes find myself feeling around the lamp for a full minute or two to find the switch, which is either near the light bulb, at the base, on the cord, or on the floor as a button. This bizarre variation of light switch placement has caused many a burned hand and confused pawing around in the dark. Sometimes the switch isn’t even on the lamp at all; it’s controlled by a panel on the wall, or even worse, on a multi-switch menu by the front door. I’m all for cool extras, but please, simplify the lighting!

i-backpainErgonomic Desks. When I travel for pleasure, I pretty much never use the desk in my room. But when I travel for business, I spend a lot of time there. It seems hotel desk set-ups were designed for the leisure traveler who might park themself there for 30 minutes of Google research before going out for the day as opposed to a person using it as an actual office for a few days. Either way though, a desk that is the correct height for computer usage (I’m not penning many letters by hand these days), and a chair with proper lower back support would be a dream.

i-iron-shirtClothing De-Wrinkling Abilities. Every business traveler has this problem: you arrive at a hotel at 11pm, you have an important meeting the next morning at 8, and you hastily take your wrinkled dress clothes out of your bag, hanging them up in the hopes that gravity will de-wrinkle them by daybreak. When you wake up to find that your clothes are still wrinkled, you hang your clothing in the bathroom, run a boiling hot shower, close the door, and hope that the steam will do its work. It usually does, though not without your clothes becoming a bit damp in the process.

Please, hotels, save us from this inevitability! Some of you provide us with irons and ironing boards, but for some reason, I never use those. I also know that I can put my clothing outside my door at night and pay $12 for you to press it, but it will probably take longer than the amount of time I have and I also don’t feel like paying $12 when the steamy bathroom method works well enough.

My request is that hotels either put a clothing hook in or near the shower stall in a place where the water won’t hit it, or better yet, provide us with a portable steamer so we can quickly and easily get the wrinkles out and be on our way.

i-towelWider Towel Racks. At most hotels I stay at, the towel racks available are made for towels that are neatly folded several times to attain a kind of fluffy appeal. This looks nice visually, but there’s no way for me to dry my towel after I shower because the rack is too narrow. With all the efforts hotels seem to make to be more environmentally friendly and not waste towels, giving us a way to dry our towels so they are in fact reusable seems like a good move. (I know I can drape the towel over the curtain rod or the glass door of the shower, but I always wonder how clean they are.)

i-handing-documentEasy Printability. Business travelers need to print materials for presentations, and they typically have two ways to do that: the business center or the front desk. I personally don’t care for business centers for many reasons, including a) the potential that no computers are available, b) pesky printing fees, c) the strangeness of typing my e-mail password into a shared computer terminal that may or may not be secure, and d) the concern that some technical issue will occur and no one will be around to help. I much prefer to simply email the document to the front desk and have it sent up to my room once printed. At most of the 4 and 5 star hotels I stay at, this is not a problem. But occasionally I will be told that the front desk cannot print documents for guests. I wish that was never the case. I value my time and convenience and I love when my hotel feels the same.

i-checkoutModern Checkouts. It’s been years since I waited in line at the front desk of a hotel to checkout in person. I always just leave. If there’s an envelope placed under my front door the night before, I’ll take a look. To me, it would be much easier if they just e-mailed my bill to me. The good news is, a number of hotels nowadays are doing exactly this. However, there’s one more area of improvement that remains unaddressed: the organization of the bill.

Typically, a hotel bill is a chronological mish-mosh of charges I vaguely understand: the nightly rate (that one’s easy), a 7.5% blah-blah tax, a 2% yada-yada tax, a parking fee, a resort fee, in-room dining including gratuity, premium internet, etc. I usually just look at the internet charges and in-room dining fees to make sure they’re accurate. Others check their nightly rate carefully to make sure the proper discounts have been applied. My suggestion is to organize the bill by category so I can quickly go to the section I want to double-check and be on my way. And if you do email my bill, please put the front desk’s number in bold at the top so I can click it on my phone and call right away if I have something to say. Don’t worry, I have no desire to be on the phone discussing my bill any more than you do.

i-upgradeEasier Access to Upgrades. Probably the most exciting moment I can have during a harrying work trip is arriving at my hotel to find that I’ve been given an upgrade to a nicer room. For business travelers lucky enough to be a part of Jetlux Hotels or another independent hotel loyalty program, this is a common occurrence, but for most of us, it’s not as frequent as we’d like. If you have the inventory available and it’s a Monday night, why not create an unforgettable experience for us? Life on the road can be hard, so we really value unexpected perks.

Well, that’s my wish list. Got anything to add? Let us know in the comments.

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