The best room in a five-star hotel isn't always the corner suite with separate bedroom, Bose sound system and Nespresso machine.
In my book, it's often the hotel's executive lounge or club lounge. Perched on one of the top floors, the lounge is an exclusive social space reserved for guests in the most expensive rooms and, in some cases, top-tier members of the hotel's loyalty program.
A good club lounge can literally be a business traveller's home away from home – or an office away from their office, for that matter.
For that reason, when planning your next business trip you'll want to factor in the quality or even availability of a hotel executive lounge.
But what factors make or break a club lounge? Here's what I look for.
1. Lounge check in
The best hotels allow guests who've booked onto one of the lounge floors to check in at the lounge itself instead of the lobby.
And that makes perfect sense. Why join the snaking queue of guests on the ground floor when you can step into the lift, be whisked up to the lounge, take a seat and complete your check-in in a more relaxed environment?
The sign of a hotel which really understands its guests: they'll borrow your passport, business card and credit card to do all the paperwork for you, while you enjoy a complimentary cocktail.
2. All-day refreshments
All hotel club lounges include a free breakfast.
While the spread is typically a subset of the main buffet downstairs, the club's quieter environs make it a more relaxing place to start your day.
But what happens after 10am? A good lounge will be stocked with a variety of lighter plates and snacks all day, and the best lounges let you graze through lunch and dinner with an evening cocktail hour.
I'm not suggesting you plant yourself in the lounge all day. But the lounge is a welcome escape from your room when you need to work or take some time out, and it should cater for guests around the clock.
The cocktail hour is especially useful for entertaining some local friends or contacts who may not ever have been inside this five-star hotel's executive lounge. A pre-dinner drink or two, with a view over the city, is a great way to start the evening.
3. Different spaces for different needs
It's also important that a hotel's club lounge offers a variety of spaces.
Sometimes you'll want to spend a few hours in the lounge to work on a presentation, write up some post-meeting notes or just take a scythe to your overflowing inbox.
Other times it's to relax on your own, or sharing a drink with colleagues or friends.
Many business travellers use the hotel lounge to catch up with clients.
Each of those scenarios requires a different type of space. That calls for a large lounge specifically designed to create several 'zones' instead of just a sea of chairs.
If client meetings are particularly important to you, look for a hotel whose lounge boasts a private meeting room or boardroom. These can often be booked free of charge.
A hotel's club lounge is my office on the road, so I've got a simple checklist to ensure I can work comfortably, efficiently and hassle-free from the lounge.
Is there a dedicated working zone, or at least a quiet zone away from the TV and bar?
Are there plenty of power outlets within reach of desks? Is the wifi faster than what is typically available in your room?
That last one can be a deal-breaker. As hotels move towards free internet for everyone, the speed of that connection can be slow as a wet week in Wagga – with a much faster connection offered for a fee.
You'd expect that faster pipe to be on tap at the club lounge, with the faster service also free if you're a top-tier member of the hotel's rewards scheme.
Something else to look out for is wireless printing, either by putting a printer onto the WiFi network or letting you send a document to the printer's own email address and have it churned out while you wait.
5. Free pressing
A side perk of booking a room on one of the club floors is that you'll often have free pressing thrown in, especially in Asian hotels. It might be a handful of items for the duration of your stay or it could be two pieces per day. Either way, it'll save you time and help you look sharp for meetings.
David Flynn is a business travel expert and editor of Australian Business Traveller.