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.
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.
…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…