In today’s high-tech world, more and more hotels are offering business travelers sleek and flexible meeting spaces equipped with the latest technologies. That is largely because many business travelers these days don’t leave home without their all-important gadgets. And those laptops, smartphones, and tablets aren’t simply conveniences—they’re necessary in order to get work done.
Technology is so essential to Hotel 1000 in Seattle that the 6-year-old hotel recently upgraded its IT system. “We already had great technology in our main space, but we upgraded everything to be really cutting edge at this point,” says Tawny Paperd, the director of sales and marketing for Hotel 1000.
Hotel 1000 offers complimentary high-speed wireless Internet access throughout the hotel, for guests and in meeting spaces. Meeting room technology includes smart podiums that allow speakers to use their own laptops while controlling lighting. Another high-tech touch is built-in video conferencing in the hotel’s board room, with mobile video conference capabilities in other function rooms.
“If a guest wants to put a slideshow in one banquet room and they have an overflow to another room, they can broadcast that content from one room to the other,” says John Avellar, the hotel’s IT manager. “That’s networked throughout the entire hotel, so if you’re on the fourth floor at the northeast corridor, you can put the same content on the second floor in the southwest corridor.
“And it’s all synced real time, so there is no time lag,” he continues. “Just last year, we had a heck of a party for the Oscars, and we put the Oscars up on every screen. You can stand in the lobby, see every TV, and there was no delay at all. It’s a very robust system, and pretty impressive to watch.”
Other features that can be found in Hotel 1000’s meeting rooms are drop-down projection screens, plasma screens, and digital color LCD reader boards, which allow for personalization of functions and events with photographs, logos, and a PowerPoint welcome message. The rooms are also equipped with multi-touch kiosks to print documents and boarding passes.
The property offers fun meeting break activities for groups, including Wii/Kinect, so people can get their creative juices flowing again or work off excess energy. At Hotel 1000’s Golf Club—a virtual indoor setting—groups can challenge each other to a closest to the pin contest or play nine holes.
WORK AND PLAY
Yotel New York, which opened in 2011, has 20,000 square feet of flexible work and entertainment spaces and features complimentary “super strength” WiFi throughout the hotel. The hotel’s Club Lounge, with individual, glass-enclosed Club Cabins, can be used for meetings and private parties. The cabins are equipped with flat-screen TVs and banquette seating. Doyho, a 110-seat restaurant, replicates the size and scope of a traditional Japanese Sumo wrestling ring and features hydraulic tables that can be lowered to create a chill-out platform or performance stage.
The Studiyo is a venue designed not only for Dohyo spillover, but also as a fully flexible space within the hotel that can be used for anything from film screenings to yoga classes. It even has a combo boardroom table/billiards table to maximize the ways that the space can be used.
“Guests can lounge or conduct business during the day, and then socialize, drink, or dine at night,” says Gerard Greene, CEO of Yotel.
Greene says the goal is to provide spaces that can be used by hotel guests and the general public. “The flexibility of the spaces was important to us. The overall concept of the design was to split the space into a series of fully transformable zones, allowing a variety of different moods and functions at any one time,” he says. “The inspiration for the Club Cabins was to free guests from the burden that usually comes with booking meeting/party space at a hotel—they are rentable by the hour and don’t require crazy minimum spends and tedious contracts.”
The recently opened Revere Hotel in Boston, formerly inhabited by the Radisson and Stuart Street Playhouse, offers a unique setup for meetings and special events. The property now features a live entertainment venue, known as Theatre 1; a multipurpose room, Space 57; a loft-style conference space called the Gallery; and a traditional ballroom, the Carver Ballroom.
Theatre 1 offers a full theatrical stage, movie screens, a high-definition projector and luxury seating at the lower level with leather couches. “The space will be utilized in numerous, different ways,” says Laura Kinsman, director of events for Revere. “We anticipate having corporate meetings there, business travelers from the big financial companies, and the pharmaceutical companies doing their sales meetings and pitches during the day. And at night, we anticipate having film screenings, music series, and a variety of different events that will go into Theatre 1.”
The Gallery on the sixth floor is an “industrial chic” conference space that includes a large function area and four smaller breakout rooms. The design includes exposed brick, reclaimed wood, and rustic metals.
With five rooms, the Revere can offer the entire space to one large group, or rent the different spaces to five smaller groups. “The space is so versatile, so there will be a lot of different, exciting things going on,” says General Manager Simon Mais. “And to the corporate business traveler, options are probably the most important thing. You can come into this hotel and if you held a three-day conference, you could create a different theme every day.”
The Revere team thought the spaces would appeal particularly to people in IT and creative industries, so the rooms feature touches like a pingpong table to help create a playful space designed to encourage creative thinking.
ROBUST TECHNO ENVIRONMENT
In addition to flexible and appealing spaces, it’s crucial for hotels to have dependable technology that is compatible with business travelers’ various types of laptops and mobile devices.
“We’re balancing between the expectation of becoming more and more tech savvy, but at the same time keeping that robust techno environment that performs when guests need to do their presentation,” Avellar says.
“You may be on that cutting or even bleeding edge, but when show time comes, it’s got to work,” he continues. “That’s one of the things that we’ve found that’s important. To meet those guests’ expectations, it’s not just about the hardware, it’s having the right people in place to ensure that the technology works well.”
Reality means accommodating one guest’s brand-new iPad and another’s old laptop. “Every laptop is different, that’s the thing that we really learned,” Kinsman says. “Our team has to understand what to do if somebody brings in, let’s say, a first-generation laptop that’s 10 or 15 years old. We still have to know how to make that work with our system.”