Business travelers are a huge source of cash for the hospitality industry. In 2013, their direct spending in the U.S. totaled $266.5 billion, according to one report.
People who travel for work are a different breed than vacation travelers. Because they travel so much, their standards are often higher. They won't settle for mediocrity. They expect connectivity, networking opportunities, and customizable room design. And many forward-thinking hospitality brands are going out of their way to accommodate these changing needs of traveling professionals. Here, some of the best:
1. Hyatt Hotels: For travelers who have to stay connected
Locations in more than 500 properties globally
"The biggest thing anywhere is Wi-Fi," says Allison Davis, manager of marketing communications for Ultramar Travel Management. Surveys show this is the number one need business travelers have. "They have to be connected, there's absolutely no question," Davis says. "It's huge for travelers and their companies because it's one less ancillary charge they have to deal with." Starting in February of this year, Hyatt Hotels began providing free Wi-Fi in rooms and public spaces at all of its hotels. Of course, other hotels also provide Wi-Fi, but it often comes in tiers: Basic service is free, but if you want faster or more reliable service, you have to pay. Marriott only provides free standard Wi-Fi to members of its loyalty program, and even then, members have to pay a small fee. Davis says that as free internet access becomes more standard, the new argument will be over the Wi-Fi quality.
2. Virgin Hotels: For travelers who want to work from bed
Location in Chicago, with more planned
Virgin America has brought its signature air travel experience to hotel lodging. Its debut property, in Chicago, is designed specifically to accommodate how business travelers work. "I don't work at a desk, I work on the bed," says Patrick Martin, senior project designer at design boutique Meyer Davis Studio. "After a long day of travel, you don't want to sit at a desk." Virgin knows this, and has designed the bed's headboard with lower back support specifically for this reason. The hotel will also shuttle you to your business meeting across town in a Tesla Model S, so you're never late, and you arrive in style.
3. CitizenM: For travelers who want to feel at home away from home
Locations in New York City, Amsterdam, Glasgow, London, Paris, Rotterdam
CitizenM in New York has transformed the sterile hotel lobby into a comfortable "living room," complete with cozy couches and communal tables where guests can host meetings. "Everyone is welcome, and anyone can use the free Wi-Fi," the hotel's website boasts. "Guests are looking for other spaces where they can spread out, socialize and relax," says Skift's 2015 report of Megatrends Defining Travel. "Many hotels now realize that it's smart to position — and design — themselves as places where people who aren't even guests are welcome," it says.
4. Kimpton Hotels: For travelers who want to exercise in peace
More than 60 locations across the U.S.
Not every business traveler wants to make their way to the hotel fitness room after a long day of meetings. In 2013, Kimpton hotels began providing free yoga mats in every room. "We think that incorporating exercise in the form of something like stretches or pushups are a good idea on the road," said Mike DeFrino, executive vice president of hotel operations at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. Davis says it's these little thoughtful amenities that win over travelers who spend a lot of time away from home. "I am obsessed with this," she says. "I think it's such a nice touch and anything that makes fitness easier is great. Those little touches can be huge."
5. The Freehand: For young travelers seeking the unique but affordable
Locations in Miami and Chicago
Hotel alternatives like Airbnb have made their way into the hearts and minds of travelers, especially young travelers who don't want the cookie-cutter hotel experience. The Freehand offers unique rooms, shared (hostel style) or single, with impeccable decor that makes guests feel they're getting a unique, custom-designed experience. As Greg Oates at Skift writes, "The private accommodations attract young professionals seeking an affordable room in trendy neighborhoods where existing hotel rates are unapproachable for them." One of the Miami location's most popular features, the Broken Shaker bar, is a watering hole for guests and non-guests, an "intimate but not flashy bar that's designed for meetups," says Martin.
6. Ace Hotels: For entrepreneurs
Locations in New York, Los Angeles, London, Palm Springs, Panama, Seattle, Portland
"The Ace is catering to the startup economy," says Martin. Travelers looking to mingle with entrepreneurial-minded peers need to look no further than the lobby of the Ace Hotel in New York. Its long communal tables, free Wi-Fi, coffee bar, and beautiful design have made it a working space that has been known to draw some of the best minds in Silicon Alley. "I've yet to find a guest among the Ace's laptop nation yet, but I'm currently sitting within spitting distance of Malcolm Gladwell as I write this. I'm pretty sure he's not staying at the hotel either," Charlie O'Donnell of First Round Capital said about the lobby.
7. 17John: For extended-stay travelers
Future location planned for New York's Financial District
While this hotel hasn't been built yet, it's already setting a new precedent for hospitality innovation. Its design has been crowdsourced (landing it the nickname "Cotel") to cater to "nomadic" travelers looking to stay in New York for more than just a few nights. It focuses specifically on helping guests connect with new clients, partners, and like-minded professionals. The rooms themselves are "full-blown apartments with a kitchen and living area," says Rodrigo Nino, CEO and founder of real estate company Prodigy Network. The beds can fold into the wall for more room, and the sliding desk makes for a convertible workspace. A custom-made app shows who else is staying in the hotel and gives guests the option to connect on LinkedIn. Guests can also use the app to book meeting rooms. "You have people doing more than just sleeping or eating in this hotel," says Nino. "They can promote their business enterprises or their social entrepreneurships by connecting with other people."