Hotels have already turned their lobbies into spaces where guests can socialize or work. Now, some properties are going one step further to cater to business travelers and professionals in general: They’ve set up WeWork-style co-working areas.
Traditional hotel business centers these aren’t. Yes, they offer practical amenities like office supplies, printers and, of course, coffee. But they also have a laid-back ambience and convivial feel of the shared working spaces popping up around the globe under the banner of the start-up WeWork.
The new hotel business centers seem to have struck a chord among business travelers who find that they’re probably getting less work done in busy hotel lobbies, said Lorraine Sileo, the senior vice president of research for the travel research company Phocuswright. “Lobbies are distracting because there is so much going on, with people coming in and out and also socializing,” she said. “These new work spaces are meant for productivity.”
They’re also especially attractive to younger business travelers, said Jessica Collison, the research director for the Global Business Travel Association. “Millennials tend be more nomadic than the older generation of travelers and spend more time outside of their room,” she said. “Hotels have picked up on this, and more of them are offering a co-working option.”
The AC Hotel Phoenix Biltmore, for example, which opened in October, offers the indoor and outdoor AC Lounge, on the side of its lobby. The more than 5,000-square-foot light gray space has several couches, a large communal table with electrical outlets at every seat and a 20-seat high table that’s a working area by day and a bar after 4 p.m. Guests and non-guests are welcome to use the lounge without charge, said David Belk, the hotel’s general manager, and can get free coffee and biscotti. The lounge’s small library has computers, printers and office supplies like paper clips and folders.
“We want the lounge to be a go-to and convenient for anyone who’s working,” Mr. Belk said.
Alex Griffiths, who lives in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and travels to Phoenix frequently for his job in renewable energy, has stayed at the AC several times since it opened and said that he used the lounge both for team meetings and computer work. “It’s like a fully functioning office but cooler, and I like the synergy with the other people who are also working,” he said. “I also love the biscotti.”
The co-working area at the Charlotte Marriott City Center in North Carolina, called Coco and the Director, is more compact than the AC Lounge. It has two tables with eight seats each and a whiteboard with markers that guests can use during meetings for notes, said Seamus Gallagher, the property’s director of guest experience. It also offers a for-purchase menu of coffee and sandwiches.
Although access is free for anyone, seats must be reserved by signing up on the chalkboard near the co-working area entrance. “You can stay for as long as you want,” Mr. Gallagher said, “and our staff will give you any office supplies you need and help with printing documents.”