A tiny Brisbane boutique hotel has beaten larger international chains in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney to be named Australia's best destination for business class travellers by hotel price comparison website hotelscombined.com.
Spicers Balfour Hotel topped the listing after the Australian-based website – which lists 400,000 hotels around the world – concluded it offered the best work-life balance for those who work on the road. That's despite Brisbane being named as the world's most expensive city for international business travellers.
The Spicers Balfour edged out two Melbourne hotels, the Langham and the Intercontinental at The Rialto, as well as Adelaide's Intercontinental and Sydney's Westin.
A spokeswoman for hotelscombined.com says the selected hotels were assessed as Australia's best at helping guests to maintain a sense of work-life balance.
“They have been recognised for having model hubs for business travellers, equipped with the service and technology products needed for productivity, as well as great entertainment and the creature comforts of home,” she says.
The Spicers Balfour in New Farm is significantly smaller than its competitors with a total of only nine guest rooms. However, it offers the use of a boardroom and a rooftop bar and terrace for meetings with clients, high-speed internet access and unlimited Wi-Fi, a spa and wellness centre, and in-room features such as Nespresso machines and Bose sound systems.
David Flynn, the editor of the Australian Business Traveller website, says boutique hotels such as the Spicers Balfour eschew the club floor and business lounge setup of larger competitors for a funkier, more informal approach to accommodating businesspeople.
“Often they don't have formal restaurants, or the executive floors and the meeting rooms, and that does suit the dot com crowd, the modern younger consultant crowd, who are happier to find their own local cafes and meeting places,” he says.
“But a lot of the more booted and suited businesspeople would want the meeting room space, the private lounges, all of that. When you're staying in a hotel, it becomes your home and office combined.”
The Langham Melbourne in centrally-located Southbank takes the more traditional approach with business guests being welcomed into the Langham Club Lounge, where all-day tea, coffee and pastries are served by prestige butlers, as well as pre-dinner drinks and hors d'oeuvres. There is also access to the health club and wellness centre, while rooms are equipped with high-speed internet access and complimentary iPads.
Among the features of the Intercontinental at The Rialto, in the heart of Melbourne's business-focused Collins Street, are express check-in and departure services plus access to its Insider Collection – a list of interactive off-site activities plus presentations by a range of renowned local speakers.
The Intercontinental Adelaide's features include private limousine and courier services, while business guests at the Westin Sydney can gain access to the 28th-floor executive lounge and may book a slot in the guest boardroom.
Flynn says the key feature that defines a good hotel for most business travellers is internet access. “They're always looking for a fair shake on internet. It doesn't necessarily have to be free, but it has to be fast and without insane limitations on speed or data,” he says.
An increasing number of establishments are pursuing a “fee versus free” model: “Free connection fast enough for average web browsing and email, whereas if you want something higher you pay for it.
“It's one of those annoying add-on charges which does nark you when you're paying top dollar for a good business hotel and then they ask you to fork out $20 to $30 a night for internet access. If you're staying a couple of nights, that's not a good way to make friends with your company accountant.”
Flynn says many business travellers have experienced great service overseas, especially in Asia “where they treat you as a guest and not like in the US where they treat you as a cost recovery centre”, and are demanding the same service domestically.
Items that can add value to a business stay include an efficient and helpful concierge, a complimentary clothes pressing service, attention to detail, personalised service and a well-run club lounge. “A club lounge that supplies meeting rooms is especially important to women travellers who don't want to take business meetings in their room,” Flynn says.
Many hotels still fail to supply the most basic requirement of the business traveller – a usable in-room work space.
“You need a proper work table with an ergonomic chair, task lighting, and accessible powerpoints at the table. Having to crawl around behind the table looking for a plug doesn't make for a fun experience,” he says.