If airline lounges are the coveted perk of the business traveller, then hotel club lounges are their best-kept secret - until now.
One of the rewards for frequently-flying business travellers is access to swanky airline lounges, with their comfy couches and open bars. Now Australia's five-star hotels are getting in on the act, with entire floors dedicated to "club" rooms and even-more-opulent lounges and bars squarely aimed at attracting well-heeled businesspeople.
What are sme of the perks for clubroom floor guests? Think free internet, complimentary meals and canapés, and cocktails at dusk. Oh, and the jaw-dropping panoramic views offered by many beat any airport lounge's hands-down, and are great for impressing clients.
In some respects, the club lounge is a bit like the pointy end of the plane.
In some respects, the club lounge is a bit like the pointy end of the plane. While check-in for regular hotel guests means queuing at the front desk, clubroom guests can expect to receive their room key in the comfort of the club lounge, far from the pesky public.
Another similarity to business class plane travel are the entry requirements to this exclusive club - you can either pay up-front for a clubroom, usually found on exclusive hotel clubroom floors, or receive an upgrade through a hotel loyalty program. Clubrooms themselves may include free wi-fi, complimentary laundry services and similar business-focused perks for those willing to pay around 20 per cent more than for a regular hotel room.
However, once on the clubroom floor, the club lounge and its amenities are yours to enjoy. As with plane travel, though, some lounges are better than others.
For pure wow factor, Sydney's Club Intercontinental on the rooftop of the Intercontinental Hotel boasts the best harbour views in town with a wrap-around balcony. It's accessed exclusively by clubroom guests who think nothing of handing over the credit card, distracted by the views, when checking in. Expect to share this gracious space with visiting dignitaries and celebrities making the most of the complimentary food, drinks and cocktails come sundown.
The club lounge at Melbourne's Crown Metropol, '28', is also all about the view. Perched on the 28th floor with a five-metre floor-to-ceiling glass façade and views out to the Dandenong Ranges, 28 offers a dining area, lounge area, marble bar and outdoor terrace and includes complimentary breakfast, all-day tea, coffee and soft drinks, pre-dinner cocktails and canapés, and dedicated meeting areas.
The Sydney Hilton unveiled a restyled Executive Lounge by architect Mark Landini late last year as part of a $7 million upgrade to both guest rooms and the lounge. The lounge can seat up to 120 guests in private and communal areas, and a redesigned boardroom for up to 12 with built in audiovisual and teleconferencing has been added. To encourage interaction and networking, two larger communal tables are also found in the lounge. A coffee and juice bar, daily breakfast, all-day refreshments, and evening canapés and drinks are also available.
The Four Seasons in Sydney already has excellent service for business travellers, including complimentary overnight shoe shine and coffee and muffins in the lobby lounge to "grab and go" between 5.30 and 9am. The hotel doesn't offer clubrooms, however guests can pay a fee upon check-in, or purchase an executive package when booking. This gives them access to the Executive Club on the 32nd floor, hot and cold buffet breakfast, all-day refreshments and bar snacks, evening drinks and canapés, complimentary garment pressing, complimentary in-room and in-club internet, and daily newspapers and magazines.
The Marriott on the Gold Coast relaunched its club lounge as the Elandra Retreat Club in 2011 (above). Think of the three levels of guest rooms and a club lounge as a resort within a resort with ocean panoramas, private sitting areas, extensive reading library and seven complimentary food experiences each day (breakfast, morning tea, afternoon tea, canapés and cocktails, sweets and coffee) so guests need never leave.
Both the Perth Crown and the Melbourne Crown Towers club lounges have also undergone extensive refurbishment in recent times. In Perth, the 9 Lounge reflects an art deco style and offers free breakfast in the morning and tapas and drinks in the afternoon.
Guests at Melbourne's Crystal Club at Crown Towers (above) experience a dedicated private check-in service with concierge facilities, complimentary breakfast, snacks and evening canapés, free wi-fi, swanky lounge and dining area, a sun-drenched deck and meeting facilities.
Club Sofitel in both Brisbane and Melbourne afford some of the best city views in their respective towns. In Brisbane, the lounge is on level 30 and includes hot breakfast, pre-dinner drinks and canapés, plus "sweet dreams" hot chocolate and desserts before bed. The Brisbane club is Australia's largest executive club lounge over two floors and exclusively for guests staying in club accommodation.
Melbourne's Club Sofitel is for guests in clubrooms on levels 47 to 49. Expect private check-in and check-out, the usual all-day refreshments, open bar with canapés in the evening, wireless workspace, private meeting rooms, plasma televisions, electronic games and stunning views.
Not to be outdone, the Melbourne Grand Hyatt also has panoramic city views from its address at the fashionable end of Collins Street, also with exclusive check-in service, concierge, breakfast, all-day refreshments, evening canapés, bespoke furniture, international magazines, meeting rooms and complimentary wi-fi.
Have you visited a club lounge? Was it worth you or your company paying extra for?