This article, written by Carlo Torrano and Amy Bradac, originally appeared in Hotel Management magazine.
It’s no secret that hotel occupancy rates have plummeted since the coronavirus pandemic hit. Both leisure and out-of-town business travel have nearly ground to a halt. Meanwhile, properties sit idle with high vacancy rates. For some hotels, particularly those located in areas in close proximity to a large pool of labor that has transitioned into a work-from-home environment, there may be an opportunity to pivot some space to cater to those workers who find themselves needing an alternative to the “home” in “work from home.”
Whether driven by a need for a better workspace layout, a quieter environment to avoid home distractions during crunch times or important meetings, or simply a change of scenery to avoid the onset of “cabin fever,” a local hotel offering short-term rentals and day rates might be just the right fit for some workers to increase productivity. Especially for those hotels located in metropolitan areas and suburbs in traditional commuter hubs, a location close to (but not) home could provide an ideal solution.
A Continued Shift to Welcoming Nonovernight Guests
Even before COVID-19, many hotels made a conscious effort to draw nonguest crowds to their properties with upscale drinking and dining outlets, spas and pool facilities. While there are still properties that shy away from welcoming nonguests, the general trend is to at least open up lobbies and ground floor areas as community-focused gathering places that serve as an amenity to both visitors and locals.
Taking it a step further, properties are now finding that transitioning their traditional overnight accommodations to be more transient and workspace focused can increase their viability—and popularity—at a time when travel for business and leisure is seeing a significant drop. These home office alternatives are arriving at a perfect time for the industry, helping to offset low occupancy rates.
Considerations for the Daily Business Traveler
Whereas these types of spaces might have once seemed a luxury for the typical worker, they are quickly gaining traction due to their many advantages. In many cases, these unique workspaces can offer privacy and other conveniences, as well as a cleaner and more controlled environment than a crowded office until an employer is able to safely reopen. In addition to the existing advantages that most hotels offer—online booking and management, rewards and incentive programs, availability of parking, dedicated restroom facilities, and overnight accommodations—properties are now tailoring room rentals and services to the daily worker:
- Rearranging room layouts to better suit business functions with additional desks, lighting, power, etc.
- Offering food-and-beverage options as part of a daily package or a la carte.
- Making available dedicated meeting spaces for video conferencing and in-person meetings where possible.
Above all, these types of converted hotel rooms offer a dedicated space for quiet, heads-down work with amenities that many have lost at home.
So how does a property target its new demographic to attract remote workers? Knowing where to start and what questions to ask before implementing any changes can be made easier by consulting a project manager, who can guide your initial exploration and manage the implementation of changes you wish to make. An experienced project manager has access to industry contacts, as well as budgeting and scheduling expertise, that can prove invaluable when evaluating how best to make use of your vacant or dormant space. With their industry knowledge, they can quickly advise on suitable upgrades that would appeal most to someone looking for a remote workspace solution. Considerations might include:
- New types of furniture or rearranging existing furniture.
- Investigating additional power and data connectivity, as well as video conferencing capabilities.
- Modifications to public spaces (food and beverage, spas, pools, etc.) to allow for distancing.
- Modifications to meeting rooms to enable distancing.
While it may require some work to properly transition a property to appeal to the daily business “traveler,” the advantages for both the hotel and guests are clear. Such spaces are bound to increase in popularity as many look for ways to supplement their home office experiences during the extended work-from-home era.