Club lounges perfect for business and unwinding
Hoteliers like to think that they provide homes away from home for their guests, but the reality is that no matter how luxurious the room, between meetings it can be a lonely place for the solitary business traveller.
It is also true that public areas of hotels, such as bars and restaurants, do not necessarily offer a relaxed informal environment conducive to unwinding with a book or newspaper, or to finishing off the day's paperwork with a coffee or a cocktail.
For many, the solution is to check into a room or suite on one of the hotel's executive floors. These will generally offer a lounge with a limited complimentary food and beverage service and often other facilities such as broadband internet access, small meeting rooms and photocopying facilities, as well as a selection of international newspapers and magazines.
The lounge gives the executive a home base for informal meetings with business contacts, and an opportunity to interact with fellow guests. For the hotels they provide an opportunity to showcase the finer points of their hospitality.
InterContinental Hotels & Resorts makes a feature of its executive-floor lounges, aiming to capitalise on the unique characteristics of each location. The Club InterContinental lounge in Sydney commands spectacular views of the harbour and Royal Botanic Gardens, while the lounge at the InterContinental Hanoi Westlake is just metres above the waters of the lake. The Club lounge of the InterContinental Bangkok is the highest in town, and commands spectacular cityscape views, particularly at dusk during the evening cocktail hour. All are geared equally to business or to just unwinding.
Equally fine views are to be had from the Mandarin Oriental Club Lounge in Kuala Lumpur - a hotel in the heart of the business district and next to the spectacular Petronas Towers - and at the Oriental Club in Singapore, both of which could have been designed to impress business contacts.
Peninsula hotels also recognise the importance of club lounges to business guests and as part of the Peninsula Hotel Beijing's recent US$35million renovation the Club Lounge doubled in size. It too commands fine views of the city.
Thirty-eight Shangri-La hotels provide guests with Horizon Club facilities and services. Club guestrooms and lounges are typically located on the top floors of the hotel. The lounges double as 'private clubs', providing executives with a place to relax and entertain.
The Horizon Club's butlers and concierges act as a team of personal assistants, handling everything from booking limousines to restaurant reservations to confirming business appointments.
A private club is one thing. A private home is another, but that is the model for a new concept for business meetings, conferences, events and exhibitions launched recently by Hyatt Hotels & Resorts.
The Residence is a home concept within a hotel - a series of interconnecting rooms catering to anything from two to 600 people. 'We've worked really hard in creating the true spirit of a home,' said Andreas Stalder, senior vice-president - product and brand development, Asia-Pacific, who developed the concept.
'We wanted to create an ambience where people felt completely relaxed. Meetings are usually such dry, staid events, with everyone looking stiff and uncomfortable in their suits. At The Residence they can loosen their ties, perhaps kick off their shoes and develop a closer relationship with their colleagues or clients.'
The Residence concept was originally tested in the Grand Hyatt Taipei, but was successful enough to be rolled out shortly afterwards at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok, the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou, the Grand Hyatt Beijing and the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong. Companies that have held events at Hyatt Residences include Microsoft, Intel, HSBC, Citibank, MasterCard, Merrill Lynch, LVMH, Chanel, Celine, Bulgari, Christian Dior and Chivas.
'We're really excited about our new baby,' Mr Stalder said. 'It's very satisfying to do something completely new in the industry and we truly believe it's going to change the face of meetings. Where would you rather do business? In a boring meeting room with a cup of lukewarm coffee, or kicking back on a comfy sofa, with a glass of good wine, feeling as comfortable as you would do at home?'
Creating a special comfort zone within a hotel for women is another idea some hotel groups have experimented with, although it has proven controversial in certain markets. Last year JW Marriott opened a new hotel in the US in Grand Rapids Michigan, setting aside its 19th floor for women only.