Easing the business of travel

How hotels are making life easier for the business traveller

Like most business travellers, I spend a lot of my time in hotel rooms and hotels in general. And after clocking up enough nights in enough hotels, you become attuned to – sometimes accustomed to – those little touches that make your stay so much better.

Some are just a matter of getting the basics right, while others are new technologies that can make a big difference to your comfort and efficiency on the road.

Having last year highlighted many ways in which hotels fail to meet the needs of business travellers [http://www.smh.com.au/executive-style/business-travel/blogs/high-flyer/taking-care-of-business-20120621-20par.html], here are some of the top indicators that show a hotel really 'gets' the business traveller.

Ample and accessible power points

I'm continually baffled by how many hotels – even newly built, top-end business hotels – fail at the simple design requirement of accessible power points to charge up your laptop, tablet and so on.

That means putting spare AC power points at a decent height above the desk rather than having to unplug the desk lamp to free up a socket or ferret around behind the desk to plug in your kit.

And it's not just at the desk. Most business travellers use their smartphone as an alarm clock, so there should be a power point on either side side of the bed.

In both cases, bonus points are awarded for fitting an international 'universal' socket which accepts the four common types of AC plugs (US, UK, Euro and Australian) so there's no need to use your travel adaptor – and risk leaving it in the hotel room instead of packing it into your day bag.

And USB ports, too

On a related note: with so many travellers now toting smartphones, tablets and associated bits of kit such as pocket Wi-Fi routers, hotels need to be fitting USB jacks alongside AC sockets.

Accor gets a nod here for the "connectivity panel" in its new and refurbished Sofitel, Pullman and Novotel hotels, which combines a USB socket along with various other connectors.

Wi-fi hotspots in hotel cars

An increasing number of hotel and hire car services come equipped with their own wi-fi hotspot, which uses a 3G or 4G mobile broadband connection to provide a free wireless Internet feed for any smartphone, tablet or laptop.

For example, Brunel Chauffeured Limousines – which holds the chauffeur contract for both Qantas and Emirates – has outfitted all its cars with such a hotspot.

I recently used a similar service offered by The Peninsula Beijing between the airport and the hotel.

I tend to spend a fair chunk of each flight writing emails and working on other documents, and having a mobile hotspot means I can send off all those emails as well as download and deal with newer emails during the drive.

By the time I arrived at the hotel all that "work" was done, so I could spend more time relaxing in the room instead of playing email catch-up.

Club lounges

I truly love a good club or executive lounge. It's a welcome place to escape from the room, for meetings or just a change of scenery while working, as well as somewhere to take a break or enjoy a pre-dinner drink before heading out for the evening.

What are the hallmarks of a great lounge? Plenty of space so you can get away from noisier guests, and ample work-friendly desks as well as lounge chairs.

Attentive staff, 24-hour access and a decent range of food available almost around the clock seal the deal.

Hong Kong's Ritz-Carlton ticks all those boxes and then some – I could easily spend an entire stay there, and retire to my room only to shower and sleep.

Bedside iPhone speaker dock

Decades ago I used to carry a pocket-sized Sony "world radio" as part of my travel kit so I could tune into the local FM stations.

These days, of course, we all carry our music with us on an iPod, iPhone or other smartphone.

So the natural fit is a bedside dock that can pump those tunes out through a decent pair of speakers while also charging up your device.

Many upmarket hotels opt for a Bose Wave music system rather than a dedicated iPhone or iPod dock, which is a win if you enjoy high-quality music, but it lacks any iDevice socket.

The solution is to pack a short cable fitted with a standard 3.5mm audio jack. Plug one end into your music player's headphone socket and the other into the audio input jack on the rear of the bedside dock.

This also lets you enjoy the better quality of sound available from a bedside dock if you use an Android smartphone or if you've upgraded to Apple's iPhone 5 family, which is equipped with a different connector to the original Apple 30-pin connector that's found on most hotel iDevice docks.

What are some of the most traveller-friendly features you've encountered at a hotel? What else should hotels be doing to earn your loyalty?

David Flynn is a business travel expert and editor of Australian Business Traveller.

Twitter: @AusBT