Are all hotels the same? Almost never, and certainly not when it comes to business travel. HRM Asia looks at the facilities, services, and advantages that matter most to leaders and executives traveling in Singapore and beyond.
When you’re scouring through the hotel listings, it can sometimes seem that all properties look pretty much the same. They have the same types of rooms, the same sets of facilities, and even come in at around the same per-night price points.
While each hotel will inevitably look to appeal to a broad range of guest demographics, including business travellers, family groups, and solo holiday-makers, they will also tend to have a natural specialisation of one or another.
When it comes to business travellers in that light, there are several key criteria that can help sort the best accommodation options from the rest of Asia-Pacific’s crowded market.
Whether it is a location close to key business centres, the size and layout of the rooms, or the range of dining options on site – business travellers heading to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Hong Kong in particular appreciate a hotel that can cater specifically to their requirements. While they may not use every facility or service on every stay, knowing they are available when required can be the difference between a relaxed stay and successful meeting and continued stress throughout the business traveller’s time away.
In this special feature, HRM Asia looks at some of these key criteria that business travellers specifically look for when selecting a hotel.
It can’t be said too simply – location close to the key place of business is a vital aspect of hotel choice for anyone traveling for work. While that will usually be the Central Business District of the destination city, it could also be a technology business park or a local exhibition and convention centre.
Particularly in the mega-cities of Asia, there is simply nothing worse than having to run the traffic gauntlet while lugging laptops and presentation notes from one side of town to the other. If the hotel requires more than a 20-minute taxi ride to the key place of business, many business travellers will automatically look elsewhere.
(Of course, some hotels – including those on Sentosa Island in Singapore, are able to counter a seemingly inconvenient location with efficient transportation services, including shuttle buses or access to taxis on demand.)
In Singapore, the Central Business District is still the most important centre for business hotels, but demand for accommodation in areas on the other side of Marina Bay, around Bras Basah and the Suntec Exhibition Centre, has also grown significantly in recent years. East of the city, the fast-growing Mapletree Business Park and Changi region are also important destinations.
In Hong Kong, business is concentrated in the aptly-named Central district, although more and more businesses are setting themselves up in Kowloon on the other side of the bay. A number of major creative industry businesses are also located to the west of Hong Kong Island, in Quarry Bay.
And in Kuala Lumpur, it is the Sentral district that attracts the greatest number of business travellers. Locations close to the iconic Petronas Towers and KLCC shopping mall form both the tourism and business hub for Malaysia’s capital city.
The facilities that matter
Pore through the brochures and the web listings and you’ll see that every hotel – of almost every class – offers a wide variety of facilities and opportunities to both make guests feel at home, but also allow them to splash out on something special while they are away.
But which of these are most important to business travellers, and which can be safely left out of the equation? The answer is not nearly as simple as the question might imply.
Take the humble swimming pool, for example. Almost every hotel of at least four stars has one, but is it really needed for business travellers? How often do business travellers really head for a swim after a meeting or presentation? The answer, particularly in the tropical regions of Asia, is “yes, the pool is absolutely important”.
It is true that in other key business centres of the world, particularly New York and London, high real estate prices are focusing accommodation developers’ attention on different drivers of demand. But in Asia, the hotel swimming pool still provides an important part of the post-work relaxation offer. It is not used every day by every guest; but it is important that it is there on those days when only a refreshing splash will help business travellers feel at home in an unfamiliar and hot city.
Likewise, a well-equipped gymnasium can be a vital service for a wide range of business travellers; including infrequent exercisers.
There is a similar “there when you need it” philosophy behind the presence of business centres in leading hotels. While business travellers typically carry all the technology they need with them, and a sufficient wi-fi service is all that is required to keep them connected to their colleagues and loved ones, there are times when a backup is required, or when older-school office equipment – photocopying, fixed line phones, or even a fax machine – is preferred.
Alvin Lim, Director of Marketing for Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, says access to a dedicated executive lounge is also a key criterion for business travellers. “It provides a serene, conducive environment for business travellers to host discussions or take a break over a cup of tea while overlooking a great view,” he says.
Tip your concierge
There is a cliché about hotel concierges, made famous by the world of Hollywood, that suggests their work is full of glamour and intrigue. At the very least, they seem to have extraordinary access to things like otherwise sold-out theatre tickets and restaurant reservations.
The truth when it comes to business travellers is much more mundane, but still vitally important.
The best concierges provide a central information point and a wealth of knowledge about their city and the local surroundings in particular. Whether it is an urgent taxi to the airport, directions to the nearest train station, or advice on the local dining and nightlife, they provide an authentic, and ready-to-assist service for any question a traveller may have.
Business travellers are working outside their usual base of operations, and so need access to local information for a whole host of potential reasons.
While some suggest hotel concierges are becoming obsolete – with a variety of internet-based applications able to do most of what they offer on a task-by-task basis, Virginia Casale, president of the international hotel concierge network The Golden Keys International Association, says only human concierges offer a one-stop shop of everything.
She says online sources do offer reasonable information, but it can be difficult to know which apps or advice to trust. More often, business travellers suffer from an “information overdose” when trying to find a single answer to a simple query, she notes.
The little things
On top of all these facilities and services are the smaller, less-boasted-about things that the best business hotels will aim to consistently achieve. These are the factors that turn a “good” stay into a “great” one, and leave business travellers feeling that at least part of their trip was like a vacation during work.
Things like being made to feel welcome, for example, go a long way toward making guests enjoy their stay in a stress-free environment. This could just be staff handling the check-in in a friendly, and efficient manner, or it could be about accommodating an unexpected request to the best of their ability.
The size and make-up of rooms is another key point. Space is always at a premium, but business guests should be able to relax, without having to step over their luggage or squeeze in between the bed and wall.
Options are also very much appreciated. That means having a good selection of television channels available, including both news and entertainment channels. “The audio-visual equipment should also be easily connected to guests’ own devices,” Lim says.
A variety of dining choices is also a definite plus for business travellers, particularly if they include the option (and space) for in-room service.
Business travellers will also appreciate anything that can help them function in their temporary home away from home. Access to closet and hanger space, in-room safes, several electrical outlets, and even a steam iron will all help to make the stay, and the guest’s business, go smoothly.
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