THE bustling executive strides into his hotel room, tips the bell boy, opens his briefcase and is ready to work. The first thing he wants to know is not how to click on the in-house adult movies, but to find a wall socket into which he can plug his computer and a dedicated slot to take his Internet cord. For an increasing number of mobile entrepreneurs and corporate warriors, time zones do not exist. In their shrinking world, a hotel room is instantly converted into a universal office. The great global hotel chains are recognising this need - they had better, or they face economic peril - and the result is a hotel room that is as much boardroom as bedroom. Not surprisingly, it was the solid American-based four-star business hotels that started the trend. When battalions of multi-national corporate wanderers turned the planet into one vast salesroom, there was a clear need for instant communications across time zones. Even the great hotels did not have 24-hour business centres. The solution was to let the executive work in his room. The trend has resulted in a hotel room that typically looks a lot different than a decade ago - and one that operates much more efficiently. Sheraton, Hilton, Holiday Inn and other business-oriented groups spent huge amounts on research to find out precisely what the on-the-road businessman needed. For the super-luxury properties like The Peninsula in Hong Kong and The Savoy in London, hi-tech was also essential, although in their most expensive suites the tailor-made sophisticated systems are often not used by guests; these are the chief executives of vast international companies who probably have an assistant in a room on a lower floor to handle everything except personal phone calls. In the world of the travelling executive, the choice of hotel room increasingly depends on what range of business and communications aids they have in their bedrooms. Here is a partial list, which would seem obvious to anyone but which required much head scratching by international hoteliers and designers. First, to function as an effective office base for a few days, a room needs a desk large enough to accommodate laptop, briefcase, working area, telephone and a cup of coffee. It must have a light that shines down on the desk top where the inevitable laptop is installed, next to the two-line telephone. The desk must also have large drawers into which the impatient workaholic can sweep all the non-essential items. Behind the desk - hopefully not at floor level where a middle-aged businessman with an expansive girth has to roll about on the floor to gain access - there will be at least two electricity sockets. The concierge desk, of course, will instantly and free of charge be able to provide converter plugs to take connections from every nation on earth. (Be optimistic!) There should be an additional phone socket within easy reach of the desk top into which the Internet connection plugs and the phone system - need it be said? - must be compatible with all computer communications packages. Beside the bed, into which he collapses after doing an 18- hour day travelling and working, there has to be yet another telephone (head office is not aware of 12-hour time differences) and a well-designed light and control panel that can be worked by a normal human being and does not require the skills of an electronics scientist. Curtains must be easy to use and ensure total darkness. Even the mini-bar contents have changed. You can still get a beer or a mini-bottle of whisky, but this health-conscious work era also sees high-energy health drinks. The working room trend has had some unexpected side results. A decade ago, hotels prided themselves on their business centres where a wandering merchant could swiftly and efficiently have his office needs accommodated - often at a steep price. Those mahogany-panelled chambers still exist, but handle far less of the flow of business than predicted. Why would an executive put on respectable clothes and catch a lift down 32 floors to send a fax from a business centre when he can plug in his laptop and get instant, private access to his office, or, for that matter, the world? In-room faxes are just one of the many new machines that in the past decade have changed the layout of hotel rooms. Every new guest that checks into a room gets a new, secret number which he can send to his home office or local contacts. Of course, if a fax is sent to the general hotel number, it is merely shunted to his room. Two-line telephones are commonplace. International direct dialling is universal; does anyone remember the agony a decade ago of trying to make a call from interior China? First, you had to explain in halting Putonghua that you wanted to call the outside world, then explain to the operator how to make a connection to the Chinese telephone service. Then you sat and prayed - and waited. Today, hotels in China are on a par with the rest of the world and in the case of many in Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai, are far in advance. In the Plaza International in Guangzhou, for instance, every guest gets a mobile phone with call-forward facility. Anywhere he is in the city, a call to his hotel room automatically reaches him on the mobile. Of course, it helps if you remember to turn it on.