Has the Hotel Business Center Become Obsolete?

N ot too long ago, you had to pay for access to the Internet virtually everywhere you traveled — in hotels, aboard airplanes, at airports, or at some coffee shop in Europe — and during those days, laptop computers were larger and heavier; and portable electronic devices such as “smartphones” and tablets were not as prevalent.

I was one of those people who traveled without a laptop computer for years. I initially did not have much use for them whenever I traveled. If the main storage component of the laptop computer was a hard disk drive instead of a solid state drive, then the computer seemed to take forever to start up when requested by personnel who manned security checkpoints at airports…

…so in those days, I used the business centers of hotels — provided that I had complimentary access to those business centers, which I usually did as a guest no matter where in the world I traveled. They were usually located on the ground floor of the hotel near the lobby, typically equipped with one to three computers; a printer with a fax machine and scanner; a wired connection via Ethernet to the Internet; and the typical assortment of office supplies — such as pens, paper, paper clips, a stapler and other items. The door to the business center was typically locked; and the only way to open the door was to use the plastic key card to your hotel room.

There was often a problem associated with these business centers: there were often more people who wanted to use them than there were computers — causing management at some hotel and resort properties to impose a time limit occupying a computer in the business center. There were times I could not use one because the maximum occupancy had been reached; and I had to wait until later in the evening to use one…

…but those days are primarily over.

Has the Hotel Business Center Become Obsolete?

Every time I see a business center in a hotel or resort property these days, they are always empty. I have been carrying a laptop computer with me whenever I travel so that I may write articles for The Gate; and with more and more accessibility to the Internet via complimentary Wi-Fi — which keeps getting faster and more powerful — posting those articles to The Gate is usually no longer a problem.

I also carry one or two portable electronic devices with me; so I have other means to access the Internet — or, at least, listen to music whenever I travel.

Opening and powering up a laptop computer to personnel manning security checkpoints at airports is no longer required, either: just take it out of your bag and place it into a bin to be scanned — and it comes out the other side with no problem.

As laptop computers and portable electronic devices have become smaller, lighter, faster and more powerful — combined with more complimentary access to the Internet and the ease of passing them through airport security checkpoints — virtually all travelers carry some sort of device to keep them connected to the rest of the world as well as entertained.

Boarding passes and itineraries no longer need to be printed — although I would advise having a physical boarding pass just in case your frequent flier loyalty program account was not properly credited with the correct number of miles — so the requirement to print documents while traveling has become less frequent…

…and with less printing, there is less of a need for paper, paper clips or staplers — and you can always get a pen from your hotel room or from the front desk.

Summary

The last time I used a “business center” was actually in an executive lounge of a hotel at which I stayed last year — and although what I needed to be done was accomplished, the computer was rather slow. While I was wondering to myself why the computer software — or the computer itself — was not upgraded, I then realized: why should management of the hotel invest capital in something which is being used less and less? At best, they will probably do so occasionally instead of consistently or constantly.

I used to use the business centers in hotel and resort properties constantly — except when I was on vacation, of course; and that was only when I needed to be on for a few minutes to check up and be updated as to what was going on in terms of business or e-mail messages.

Now that I have been carrying my laptop computer with me whenever I travel, I basically do not use business centers in hotels — even the ones in executive lounges — anymore…

…and if many other people feel similarly, I would not be surprised if hotel and resort properties converted these business centers to some other purpose, as they take up a small portion of valuable real estate…

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

11 thoughts on “Has the Hotel Business Center Become Obsolete?”

  1. timestride says:

    The only time in recent memory that I have wanted to use a hotel business center a few months back in Brussels. We had just checked into our flight back to the US and my wife happened to read the fine print. It stated that you must have a printed boarding pass to enter the airport and it explicitly stated that electronic boarding passes would not be accepted. I went down to the business center to print the tickets and couldn’t believe it when another person was already using their only computer. He had maps and papers strewn all over the desk, so I didn’t have much hope of getting in there anytime soon. Stopped by the front desk and asked if they had any other computers and the attendant immediately asked if I needed my boarding pass printed. Apparently I wasn’t alone in my conundrum. Quickly forwarded PDFs of my boarding pass to her hotel e-mail address and she had them printed within minutes. Outside of that situation, I can’t see myself requiring a hotel business center– and I didn’t even end up using it anyway.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I remember when hotel and resort properties charged insanely high prices for what you wanted, timestride — five dollars per page comes to mind — but it is nice to know that members of the hotel staff were there to help you in what is more and more considered an unusual situation…

      …and the irony is that you did not use the business center anyway.

  2. Nico says:

    On the other hand, I find myself needing to print something at least every other time I stay at a hotel – so I am very hopeful that this area doesn’t go away. Admittedly, I’m almost never there for lack of Internet access or a computer, but to print something. Many places I end up for business would have no other option for printing other than the hotel and other times I’m well beyond the hours of a Staples or FedEx Office. While I have feared the demise of the business center for quite a while, I’m hopeful it sticks around!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Here is an idea, Nico:

      Hotel and resort properties might want to consider simply purchasing an additional printer for customer use and placing it behind the front desk for people like you…

      …and with Wi-Fi access, what members of the hotel staff can do is give you an access code to the printer upon request — with the access code for Wi-Fi — along with the plastic key card to your room. That would eliminate the need for a business center and still offer a needed service for guests. All the members of the front desk staff would need to do is hand to you the copies which you printed.

      Would that suffice as a good compromise?

  3. Nathan says:

    Yes, use of the printers is still needed occasionally. Maybe we could turn it into a mini-lounge. You could fix up a liquor drink on the way up to the room.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      You know, Nathan — that is actually not a bad idea at all…

  4. taficke says:

    Count me in the group that frequently uses the hotel printers too. A pretty inexpensive perk for a hotel to offer and a priceless benefit for me. I couldn’t imagine having to go find a kinkos in the middle of nowhere or wherever I’m traveling really.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That is an excellent point, taficke.

      Please scroll up here in the Comments section and see if the idea I presented to Nico would work for you…

  5. gobluetwo says:

    Agree with the others. The primary reason I’ve had to use a business center or the workstation in a hotel lounge is to print things, whether that be a boarding pass (i.e., mobile BP doesn’t work for that airline/country/whatever) or work documents. I can’t really recall printing anything else. I have stayed in hotels where I’ve had to forward a document to the hotel concierge and have them print it, with assurances that the document will be immediately deleted once printed. A little sketchy when it comes to work documents, though.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That was the one biggest flaw with business centers, gobluetwo: working with sensitive documents for work, as you really had to ensure that you were logged out of whatever you had to log into to get what you needed done; and you had to also check the computer to ensure that you did not leave any valuable or sensitive information behind for the next person to accidentally stumble upon.

  6. David Morris says:

    All true if we are referring to the business centers of past days. TTI Technologies has modernized what business centers do to enhance guest experiences. If one was to take a look at a business center from TTI, it would be realized that this is no longer your basement business center What you would find is exclusive terminals for boarding passes…. flight status boards…. open centers as a lobby feature…use of decorative tablets and kiosks…. engaging the guest to enhance their stay…control of access…..Through these offerings some have added or moved their business centers to guest lounges, as the modern equipment is nice to look at.

    Yes it is time for the hotels to modernize their offerings.

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