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.
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.