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Room For Manoeuvre

03.06.21

With tourism and business travel only now being released from restrictions that caused an all-time low, some of London’s finest hotels adapted, changing rooms into remote offices for discerning guests looking for luxury. Grace Arzon reports 

When Globetrender first reported on hotel rooms tapping into the World Health Assembly (WHA) remote working trend earlier this year, it seemed like a sensible and creative stopgap to plug revenue deficit in the wake of the pandemic. After all, hotels need to continue to be innovative in their approach to launch packages and services that people need and no time more so, than in the current easing of lockdown. 

Last summer, year-on-year hotel occupancy in Europe fell by 73%, according to global benchmarking company STR, and with a third national lockdown coming to an end across the UK, hotels are having to find ingenious ways to ease the financial pain. 

Grand, five-star properties are not immune to the ‘new norm’ challenges that lie ahead. In fact, the latest trend in central London, is luxury hotels hoping to add a touch of glamour to the “work from anywhere” experience. 

The Dorchester and 45 Park Lane offered guests private workspaces with the “Working Away” package. At both addresses, expect a spacious working area (from 7am-7pm), with stationery and unlimited tea and coffee included. Plus, an “on call” IT concierge to solve any technical conundrums. 

For working lunches and downtime, the package also included credit to spend at the hotels’ bars, and restaurants. Meanwhile, the Bvlgari Hotel London launched B.Business, an offering that includes the use of a large suite, the 25-metre pool and gym, and refreshments throughout the day – including lunch and post-work drinks.  

The Rosewood London, meanwhile, transformed guest suites into offices for its “Work from Hotel” package, complete with a giant desk and the usual office paraphernalia. 

A Business Butler is on-call to handle printing and scanning, shoe-shining, suit and shirt ironing, as well as unlimited tea and coffee runs from the Holborn Dining Room. Discounted after-work cocktails at Scarfes Bar are included too. 

Aside from presenting an alternative to working from home, the concept of spending the day working from the comfort of a hotel room certainly has appeal in terms of presenting both a functional and aspirational experience. 

Says hotel consultant Jeremy Harwood: “For people who lack privacy and space at home, hotels are able to provide a quiet, conducive setting for work and access to business facilities with relative ease. Of course, some guests are simply looking for a change of environment, and the amenities at hotels are an attractive benefit. Different guests present different sets of requirements – everything from getting printing done to meeting specific dietary requirements. This is where the true art of hospitality comes into its own.” 

Beyond providing a clean and comfortable room to work in and a strong, stable internet connection, hotels can also offer additional resources to meet guests’ business needs. These include stationery kits, ergonomic furniture and private meeting spaces, or the rental of AV equipment for video conferencing and filming. 

Adds Harwood: “Business upsell support is not entirely new to the hotel industry - we’ve seen several variations in the past, such as day-use rooms for guests attending meetings and events to rest in between sessions, or for guests in transit. Indeed, hoteliers have always been creative in driving revenue – whether it’s through the sale of fixed-time use rooms, even themed hotel rooms.”  

As for whether work from hotel packages will persist in the future as tourism gradually returns to normal; this will likely be dependent on governmental regulations and corporate remodelling of remote working trends. Harwood comments: “What’s vitally important, is for the hotel industry to continue to be innovative in its approach, to launch packages and services for guests in this new era – both to drive customer loyalty and to ensure that their businesses remain sustainable.” 

Harwood concludes: “Hotels implicitly are in the business of space; they’re extraordinarily efficient at providing space on demand. The next logical step is to broaden their appeal and functionality, to become places to work, not just places to sleep.”  

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