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Home on the road: catering to the needs of business travelers.

BUSINESS TRAVELERS ARE often found checking email or surfing online in the lobby and restaurant at the Holiday Inn Select City Centre in Lafayette, where wireless Internet access is free in public areas. Wired high-speed Internet access comes complimentary in each of the hotel's 142 guest rooms.

It's a sign of the times in the hotel industry, where high-speed and wireless Internet access is becoming as commonplace as a Bible in the nightstand drawer.

Easy Web access seems to be the top request of frequent business travelers, but the list of amenities for the corporate crowd runs long, ranging from ergonomic desk chairs to extra-spacious showers.

Hotels are racing to equip their establishments with everything today's business traveler wants and needs.

More than "mints on the pillow." "When you talk about amenities, in the old days that may have been water in the room, mints on the pillow, and so on," says Glenn Brooks, vice president of sales and marketing for General Hotels Corp., which ovals and manages 10 Indiana hotels. "These days we're talking about a much bigger amenities package, with larger initiatives that cover the guests' needs of today."

Like many hotels, the Fort Wayne Hilton at the Grand Wayne Center provides guests the convenience of a dally newspaper and an ATM in the lobby. Hilton Hhonors members also get free breakfast in the morning and a free drink at night.

For upcoming renovations at University Place Conference Center and Hotel in Indianapolis, executives are discussing enhancing everything from the shower curtain rods to the soap and shampoo.

At the Residence Inn Northwest in Indianapolis, an extended-stay facility, guests are invited to an outdoor barbecue once a week, and an evening social hour every night. All guests also enjoy pillow-top mattresses and complimentary hot and cold breakfast selections.

"As competition has gotten tougher, you keep adding on and improving" your amenities, says Jeffrey Brown, vice president of Schahet Hotels, which runs the Residence inn Northwest and five other Indianapolis hotels.

Eric Murphy, vice president of sales and marketing for Murphy/Reader Associates, which owns and operates two Indiana hotels, says his company develops hotels with the business traveler in mind. One of them, Lafayette's newly constructed Holiday Inn Select, opened in December 2002

"Because we're a brandnew hotel, we've been able to take the benefit of all the emerging trends and put them into action," says Murphy, whose company also operates the University Inn Conference Center and Suites in West Lafayette.

The biggest trends of today include enhanced bedding, healthier menu options, and bustling business centers equipped with everything a busy corporate traveler needs, from fax machines to shipping supplies.

"I see a lot of people down (in the business center) late at night or early in the morning," says Murphy.

A well-equipped room Hard-working travelers are finding extra-wide desks featuring surface-level outlets for convenient plug-ins.

Ergonomic chairs, enhanced lighting and extra data ports are also becoming the norm in business-oriented hotel rooms statewide.

At the tour Indianapolis Hampton hotels operated by Schahet Hotels, guests are provided with a lap desk that enables them to work comfortably from bed.

At Lafayette's Holiday Inn Select, the extra-large executive level rooms come equipped with a number of upgraded amenities--from a back-friendly, ergonomic chair to a spacious 60-inchwide desk, which can accommodate a number of electronic devices and a mountain of paperwork.

Last year's renovations at the Fort Wayne Hilton ushered in similar oversized, desks and ergonomic chairs, as well as non-office-related comfort amenities like bigger TVs and curved shower rods, "so you have a lot more room in the shower. People seem to really like that," says Sonja van Buskirk, director of sales and marketing at the hotel.

Executives at University Place are now considering similar changes, with hopes of finalizing plans by the end of the year. "We'll be discussing the size of the desk, the desk chair, bathroom fixtures and bedding," says general manager Tom Cappucci.

A better bed. Superior bedding is the new focal point, according to Brooks of General Hotels Corp., which owns and manages the Crowne Plaza at Union Station in downtown Indianapolis. "The enhanced bedding package in the new Sleep Advantage program includes seven pillows, a plush duvet, luxurious sheets and a pillow-top mattress," says Brooks. The program also includes a guaranteed wake-up call, "Quiet Zone" floors, sleep CD and sleep amenities such as eye masks, ear plugs and lavender spray, as well as relaxation tips for a combined holistic approach to ensure a better night's sleep.

Brown of Schahet Hotels says that Hampton hotels worldwide have launched an initiative--Make it Hampton--that has introduced a number of new perks, including some hot items on the complimentary breakfast buffet and a turn-down service for frequent guests.

Hampton's premium bedding replaces standard 12-inch-thick mattresses with models that are six inches thicker. Brown says all of his hotels are in the process of revamping all bedding, like adding pillow-top mattresses and more luxurious bedding and bed skirts.

"We're putting in the best bed set we can, because the best thing we have to offer our guests is a good night's sleep," says Brown. "That's what people have at home, and we have to emulate the comforts of home."

Keeping fit. Hotel enhancements are focusing on more than just the way business travelers sleep, shower and work. Hoteliers are also paying close attention to the way they eat and exercise, too.

Many hoteliers say they're adding low-carb fare to on-site restaurant and room-service menus, and most are enhancing on-site fitness equipment, as well. It's a matter of staying on top of the latest trends, they say.

"There's no question that the business traveler is always looking for what's healthy and new and exciting," says Brooks of General Hotels Corp. "Business travelers are always in tune with the latest health-food craze, because they're on the road and trying to stay fit."

To help them stay fit, hotels are expanding their fitness centers and bringing in new types of equipment based on business travelers' demands.

"We've concentrated on larger exercise rooms with more vaned equipment," says Murphy of Lafayette's Holiday Inn Select, where guests can also take advantage of the trail system that runs alongside the Wabash River.

Running- or walking-minded guests at the Fort Wayne Hilton are directed to a nearby path.

Staying connected. While some hotel guests enjoy getting their exercise, what matters most to the majority of business travelers is how fast their Internet connection runs.

Hoteliers throughout the state say the demand for high-speed and wireless Internet access has risen sharply over the past two years. "In any new construction, it's really a necessity," says Murphy

All 10 Indiana hotels owned and operated by General Hotels Corp. offer free high-speed Internet access in all guest rooms. The corporation also makes free high-speed Internet stations available to non-hotel guests, who might visit the hotel for meetings.

Brown of Schahet Hotels says free high-speed Internet service is available in all guest rooms and common areas within the six Indianapolis hotels the company runs.

It seems that now more than ever, adding the highly popular forms of Internet access is crucial to staying competitive.

"I think wireless is something that's definitely going to have to happen, and guests will probably be looking to get it for free," says Jerry Mahshie, director of operations at the Adam's Mark Hotel near the Indianapolis International Airport, which has found that high-speed Internet access is the top-requested amenity by business travelers.

Such access is now available in 96 of his hotel's 407 guest rooms, but "we'd like to get all the rooms to that vantage point," Mahshie says.

The Fort Wayne Hilton introduced wireless Internet service at the end of its most recent renovation in December 2003, providing the service in all 246 guest rooms as well as common areas like the lobby and restaurant.
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Title Annotation:Business Travel
Comment:Home on the road: catering to the needs of business travelers.(Business Travel)
Author:Swift, Shelley
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2004
Previous Article:Benefits survey: what are Indiana employers offering?
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