Hotels: Reinventing for a New Breed of Traveler

Hotels: Reinventing for a New Breed of Traveler

The New Look of Business Travel Focuses on a Digital LifestyleFrom high-tech and homey amenities for today's business traveler to "staycation" packages that encourage getting away in style, there's a new breeze blowing through the hospitality industry. New hotels in the Twin Cities are right in step with the times. Major chains as well as "one off" boutique establishments recognize the value of providing singular experiences for today's discerning travelers.

The Trendy Look of European Business Convenience

The big news, however, may be the new wave of airport hotels that boast complimentary shuttle service, futuristic decor, simple sleeping rooms filled with hi-tech amenities, and public spaces offering a sense of community, comfortable work space, socializing options and food and refreshment service 24-7.

Whether these innovative concepts arrive in the United States sooner or later, they are a market phenomenon worth watching. Already, several brands of budget-friendly, super-convenient hotels are in European capitals. The unique concept fills a need for travelers who face long layovers and also offer distinct advantages for anyone booked on early-morning or red-eye flights. They are modern and green, friendly and efficient, sleek and unique. Best of all, they are budget-friendly.

Basically, they cater to the business traveler in Wright County or elsewhere, but chains are widening the focus to serve tourists as well, with locations near well-traveled sightseeing hubs.

Affordable Luxury

At Amsterdam's Schiapol, an airport known for its convenient transport options to the city center, the first CitizenM Hotel opened in 2008 within walking distance of the terminal. If you have a lengthy layover—day or night—you'll find a state-of-the-art guest room and a unique hotel concept that makes it possible to board an ongoing flight well-rested and well-fed without paying a premium.

The hotel keeps it simple. Rooms are, essentially, a wall-to-wall oversize king bed designed to sleep a maximum of two guests. All rooms are the same; each has a rain-head equipped shower, a grooming center, a small desktop and a comfortable chair. There's a picture window and enough soundproofing insulation to assure a respite from the outside world (including air traffic).

Citizen M offers free Wifi, free movies and Smart TV; in short, there are high-tech amenities but no "chocolates on the pillow" or luxury services. It is not a family resort and the basic concept limits its reach. There are no room options; roll-aways and cribs are not available. Room service does not exist; although guests may bring food and drink to the room, there are no coffeemakers, microwaves or fridges. They are spare and utilitarian. There is, however, 24-7 food and drink service in the lobby, as well as meeting rooms, comfortable seating and diverse spaces for socializing. One can be alone but not isolated. Check-in and out procedures are fast, efficient and flexible.

Whether in the midst of downtown or at an airport, the Netherlands-based Citizen M group is expanding its base, and doing so rapidly. New hotels are planned in several American cities, as well as in Asia and Australia. Minneapolis isn't yet on the list, but Chicago, Miami, Boston and San Francisco are!

Customization with a Conscience

Oceania is a 40-year-old Brittany-based firm with 26 three and four-star hotels throughout France. The veteran hospitality firm recently launched a concept brand—Nomad—that is similar in design and concept to Citizen M with an emphasis on eco-friendliness and hyperconnectivity.

Everything in the hotel, from bed linen to hallway carpet to vanity sink to is crafted from recycled and renewable materials. Sustainability and energy-efficiency are non-negotiable principles. Security is also a prime tenet—access to elevators is by digitized room key only, and the lobby is staffed and lively 24 hours a day. Shuttle service to the terminals runs every 15 minutes, beginning at 5:15 a.m.

Rooms are customizable to client preferences—even beds and lamps may be easily moved at will, and all room functions, even a projection television, are controlled by an in-room tablet. Connect your personal device, if desired, to watch a video, or edit documents and photos projected on the wall. The Nomad at Charles de Gaulle Airport offers a nightly multi-course buffet dinner for a set fee, along with full bar service and two breakfast options, either a full buffet or a quick Continental breakfast express.

Less Service and Lower Price

While global mega hospitality chains have always sought to diversify and distribute their brands from luxury to budget, it appears that, at least for some travelers, less service is more appealing than spas, pools, workout rooms and room service. Whether this new direction is spurred by a greater number of solo travelers or a faster-paced, digital lifestyle is uncertain. Whether it will continue to point the way to new innovation in the global hotel industry remains to be seen.

The rise of affordable, chic options in Europe is evident however, and both interesting and sensible.

In addition, renovation of older buildings frequently includes similar environmentally conscious, well-priced, trendy and connected interior updates. That's a bonus for both business travelers and sightseeing families. With more and more travelers hitting the road—both at home and abroad—it makes sense for hotels to keep pace by offering new options.

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