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Sleeping well.

... and also computing, faxing, exercising, ironing and barbecuing. Hotels strive to keep up with business travelers' needs.

What's hot and what's not in hotel amenities?

That's a question hoteliers continually study as they court business travelers. They are marketing various new products and services, seeking business-traveler comments and regularly upgrading to provide practical and value-added amenities and services. As a result of completion, what used to be considered luxuries in many cases are becoming expectations.

Change is, indeed, the name of the game in the hotel industry. In the last decade, for example, there has been a travel-industry trend toward market segmentation in hotel concepts. Choices have resulted as America's lodging companies have segmented their properties as all-suite, residential-style, luxury-budget, economy or some other distinction.

Since travel is difficult, the idea is to find hotel amenities that are custom-made for your specific trip and needs. Hoteliers are working to factilitate this goal. You'll find all kinds of hotels with a wide range of products and services--computer hookups, fax machines, expanded exercise rooms, hair dryers and in-room ironing boards, among others--to help take some of the hassle out of travel.

More and more, your hotel room is, in essence, your home and your office away from home. Therefore, the most popular hotel amenities help you both to relax and to be productive.

Study the choices--The keys to finding the hotel with the right amenities for your particular needs are to do a little research and draw upon the experiences of your travel colleagues. A good place to start is with two booklets from the Marriott Business Travel Institute, "Business Travelers: The Choice Is Yours" and "Getting Down to Business Travel." They are available by calling toll-free 800/MBTI-876.

These guides cover the gamut with suggestions for business travelers. Also, you'll find a traveler's glossary of hotel/lodging terms, a hotel amenities checklist and hotel category definitions.

If you have questions, ask. In view of the economy, competition and corporate travel policies, hoteliers are well aware that business travelers these days are a lot more savvy and demand more in terms of what they want and expect for their tightly budgeted lodging dollar. Therefore, hotel operations are more than happy to assist you in finding the right amenities for your needs.

Find the right services--What's hot in services may or may not be business-related. Many services for which certain chains are known may vary depending on location--room-service hours and business centers are examples. Finding the right ones may be a matter of consulting your travel manager.

Services found at hotels affiliated with North Vernon-based Lees Inns of America include free HBO movies, a free continental breakfast or coffee, a free local paper and USA Today, and varying room types designed to accommodate a business traveler's spouse. At least half of the rooms are non-smoking.

While these services may seem pretty standard, others at the chain's properties are not as common. For example, all Lees Inn guest rooms are specially cleaned with air purification equipment. And five of its properties now have computers which offer travel directions, according to Wayne Meredith, vice president of operations. While coffee in the lobby is common, one of the chain's locations is testing in-room one-cup coffeepots.

An extended-stay policy provides discounts to guests who stay more than 14 days at the properties affiliated with Indianapolis-based Signature Inns. For entertaining or for meetings, travelers may book a studio room, complete with a Murphy bed.

Signature Inns also sell postage stamps, give special food discounts for nearby restaurants and have video games available at a nominal charge. The Lafayette property at Interstate and Indiana 26 provides guests passes to the nearby Newtone Fitness Center.

A very important amenity for weary business travelers is room service. The Marriott Business Travel Institute advises travelers to take advantage of this, requesting combinations or selected items they want for in-room dining.

But depending on the hotel category, availability may vary from 16 to 24 hours. At University Place, it operates from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., which are typical hours for most hotels. But many luxury hotels provide around-the-clock service.

Travelers may opt for complimentary coffee or tea 24 hours a day in the lobby at Fairfield Inn by Marriott in Merrillville. Though considered an economy chain, Fairfield has this and a complimentary breakfast. Merrillville-based White Lodging Services operates this property, which also provides another nice feature--a separate vanity in the bath.

The Merrillville company also operates South Bend's Residence Inn by Marriott, which features complimentary grocery shopping. Homewood Suites in Lafayette and Guest Quarters Suite Hotel in Indianapolis have similar shopping services.

While hotel representatives agree that amenities are factored into the decision-making process when business travelers select a home and an office away from home, they don't overlook the fact that guests are looking for all-around good service, too. "When travelers get upset, it's because service isn't there. When they pay money, they want to be taken care of," notes Cynthia Stone, general manager at Radisson Inn Evansville.

The Evansville facility attemts to stay with services taht travelers are accustomed to, Stone continues. Two things--complimentary coffee and travel partner agreements offering airline-related perks such as frequent-fliers miles--are the most frequently requested. Radisson is currently partners with Continental "OnePass," Northwest "WorldPerks" and USAir "Frequent Traveler."

Guests look for and get an exercise facility, an economical fax service, in-room papers (USA Today and The Wall Street Journal), in-room coffee service and express check-out (express check-in is in the works) at the Courtyard by Marriott in dowtown Indianapolis. White Lodging Services, which operates this property, concluded after extensive research that exercise rooms are the most popular amenity and a reason for choosing a hotel.

"When people talk about amenities at Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza at Union Station, downtown Indianapolis, they mean that they want to be upgraded to the Club Level (concierge floor), or to one or the newly renovated train cars," says Bill Townsend, general manager. Other services include complimentary parking and complimentary airport transportation. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this unique four-diamond hotel has earned three prestigious Torchbearer awards (given to the top 25 Holiday Inns in the world) since its grand opening in April 1986.

At Homewood Suites, where the emphasis is on the extended-stay traveler seeking a quality property like home, guests may socialize any time of the day. In keeping with the homelike atmosphere, the hotel has an unusual service--gas barbecue grills that can be pulled up to the suites.

Health-conscious executives need not abandon their routine when staying at Forth Wayne's Carlton Lodge: a quick and healthful breakfast of cereals, juices, fresh fruit and pastries is available each morning. All Carltons, operated by White Lodging, have the healthy breakfast. A 35-second express check-in recently was added at the Fort Wayne hotel to accompany the existing express check-out service. Corporate members are given the lowest rates when they preregister this way.

With its own bakery on the premises, the Indianapolis Marriott offers homemade cookies with milk. And fresh apples are always at the front desk. This four-diamond property honors two other important requests: three-way electrical plugs and built-in ironing boards complete with irons. Triple sheeting, non-smoking room,s express check-in and check-out and guest recognition also are key amenities.

Hotel veteran Bob Durbin, the Marriott's general manager, indicates that soap, shampoos, electric alarm clocks and the like are now standard. "There's no question, the mix of amenities has changed dramatically over the past few years."

Durbin developed a guest-recognition service, providing special gifts such as shoe covers, sticky-note pads and stone coasters for return guests. "I think it is so important that guests be recognized, and we thank them for their business," Durbin adds.

For some travelers, the right room may be as simple as one with a built-in ironing board, standard for the Indianapolis Marriott. Others could opt for a room with a built-in hair dryer. Most hotels have these things available on request, but it's always nice to have them at your fingertips.

A particular concern in recent years has been hotel telephone surcharges. It's wise to ask about the hotel's policy before you place calls, as surcharges can on occasion be hefty. Long-distance charges add up fast. Also, watch for charges on unanswered calls, as some hotels charge guests for a certain number of rings. Often these concerns are moot, because free local calling, and even free carriers, are becoming more common amenities. Some, like Lees Inns, have entered partnerships with long-distance companies. Lees Elite Club members are partners with Sprint; they receive substantial benefits, including discounted rooms and long-distance charges.

Find the right technology--The most requested service these days is a computer hookup in rooms, according to Karen Batterman, Runzheimer International's Travel Management Division head.

University Place Conference Center & Hotel in Indianapolis, for example, was designed first and foremost as a hotel for meeting-goers who need to send reports back to their offices. Each room at this four-diamond property has build-in computer and fax-machine hookups, along with a desk, padded desk chair, good lighting and a dictionary and thesaurus.

"We make a point of saying that these furnishings mee the special needs of conference guests who have homework to do, but they are equally appreciated by business travelers who also have work to do," explains Ann Rein, the hotel's director of public relations.

The emphasis at Guest Quarters Suite Hotel in Carmel is technology: computer hookups and printer access. Guest Quarters is considering an innovative program, offered through Boston's Aegis Systems, that provides in-room desks with computers, faxes, modems, laser-quality printers, laptop connector cables and business software.

Phone jacks for computers with modems are installed in guest rooms at Lees Inns of America. At Fort Wayne's Carlton Lodge, cellular phone rentals are offered. Personal, in-room answering machines also are available.

At Signature Inns, which are located in most larger Indiana cities, video-cassette players and modem ports for laptop computers are available at the front desk for in-room use.

A trademark feature at Signature Inns is the 12-foot work center, complete with track lighting and a 25-foot telephone cord hooked into a phone with call waiting. Plus, there's a recliner with a lamp table. The guest office includes a typewriter, calculator and phone, at no charge.

Find the right space--Additional space in rooms is an amenity in itself. At the Residence Inn by Marriott in South Bend, there is a fully equipped kitchen, plus separate living and sleeping areas, private entrances and fireplaces. All have 50 percent more space than traditional rooms. Homewood Suites offers guest laundry. But the "right" room chosen by some travelers may just be one to sleep in, at less cost.

Appealing to spouses, Lees Inns offer executive rooms that are divided into two sections, one for sleeping and one for business. The bedroom and the living room both have remote-control TVs; the living area contains a desk, sofa and a table.

So, what's next? What kinds of technology and services will be needed for the future?

Hoteliers likely won't hav to guess--their guests will tell them.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Curtis Magazine Group, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Business Travel; hotel amenities update
Author:Faris, Charles
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Words:1851
Previous Article:Rock to talk.
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