Lobby-ists Delight - New Hip Meeting Spots for Hotels Are On The Rise

By Andrew Freeman President, Andrew Freeman & Company | February 16, 2009

For A Good Time - Meet Me In The Lobby

What once served almost solely as a waiting place - a place to kill the time before check-in or after check-out, the hotel lobby is now becoming a destination in and of itself. Many of the greatest moments in film and literature have taken place in hotel lobbies ---| from the lazy summer days at The Plaza in The Great Gatsby, to The Graduate's Benjamin Braddock's realization that Mrs. Robinson was indeed trying to seduce him in the lobby of the Taft Hotel. And now great moments can happen again each and everyday, as lobbies are no longer just quiet waiting spots, they are becoming the "it" spots at the best hotels around the world.

Today's modern lobby has become a social center for the hotel; a place with real functionality that serves as a revenue source rather than existing as non- saleable space. Hotels have undertaken many approaches for the redesign of the lobby from the "living rooms" at the W hotels to "great rooms" being created by Marriott International. Many of these reinvigorated lobbies offer additional amenities to the guest and surrounding local community. A check-in desk and sofa are no longer enough; instead hotels are adding elements like restaurants, cocktail lounges, bars, baristas, retail stores and non-traditional gift shops.

Check In To Check Out

Multi-functional lobbies are particularly appealing to business travelers who may have work to do, but don't want to be alone in their rooms to do it. For this reason WiFi is becoming increasingly popular in all public spaces. For instance, Chicago's W Lakeshore offers an open area overlooking Lake Michigan, aptly named "The Living Room" where one can do everything from checking in for a stay, checking email for business or taking a break and checking out with a nice cocktail. It's also a see-and-be-seen- spot where when the sun goes down, the lights dim and it transforms into a lavish lounge with customized cocktails and a bar menu. It's a sexy spot serving both hotel guests as well as the locals, who find "The Living Room" to be a great place to congregate before a night on the town. Lobby living rooms such as this one, are highly designed with comfortable seating and tables in conversational cluster arrangements. Activities to generate buzz and excitement include evening wine tastings, fashion shows and art exhibits.

Fun or Functional ---| Great Rooms Are Really Great

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.