Taking flight: Airport hotels are stepping things up

INTERNATIONAL REPORT—Airport hotels make sense for travelers—they’re typically close to meeting locations, not too far from attractions, and, of course, in close proximity to airports. Often understood as just a touchpoint for busy business travelers, airport hotels are stepping it up in a big way: think upgraded amenities and tributes to location, giving guests an upscale experience along with convenience.

According to David Marr, SVP/global head, full-service brands, Hilton, the company conducted research, finding that 53% of young professionals (ages 23-35) “love traveling for work” and 39% wouldn’t take a job that didn’t allow them to travel for business.

“While we know this group loves travel, we are continuously learning how they like to travel,” Marr said. “This group is consistently looking for upscale, full-service offerings—whether that’s for an extended stay at a city center location or a quick, one-night stay at an airport hotel.”

The Hilton Nashville Airport incorporated the city’s music scene into the space with The Atrium Bar, designed to resemble a golden banjo. Other hints at culture include the Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport, which features a traditional Japanese bath and sauna.

“Amenities are very important for both business and leisure travelers, whether they want to keep to their regular wellness routine while on the road or soak up some Southern California sun as they lounge by the pool,” said Tom Clearwater, general manager, Hyatt Regency John Wayne Airport Newport Beach in Newport Beach, CA. “Airport hotels will strive to meet these needs if they want to stay in business.”

The Hyatt Regency John Wayne Airport Newport Beach offers organic and locally sourced ingredients for guests, a common request in the coastal area.

Another property taking locale into consideration is the Embassy Suites by Hilton Crystal City National Airport in Arlington, VA, right outside of Washington, DC. The recently renovated hotel introduced 12 Pure Wellness suites, which are nearly 99.9% allergen-free due to an in-room filtration system that removes air particles, reducing allergens for jetlagged guests—common among business travelers.

“This enables us to reposition ourselves as more than an airport hotel, but a hotel with all-encompassing amenities and the convenience of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in our backyard,” said David Kasprzyk, general manager, Embassy Suites by Hilton Crystal City National Airport.

Hyatt Regency John Wayne Airport Newport Beach

It’s not surprising that the convenience factor is an attraction for business travelers, but this group is looking for more and more within the leisure realm, with access to downtown hot spots and on-site amenities like spas and multiple dining venues.

Abroad, the Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the Netherlands is catering to these needs with a 141-ft.-tall atrium with an open lobby concept that houses “islands” of space and offers business travelers places to work, relax or a combination of both, Marr said.

He continued, “This hotel was specifically crafted for the business traveler who wants to grab a drink, catch up on work and unwind all in the same spot.”

Abroad locations, specifically, are drawing travelers in, and major international airports are becoming destinations in their own right with modern architecture, shopping, dining and other business and leisure attractions, Marr said.

Indeed, more and more business travelers are extending their work trips an extra day or two to enjoy hotel amenities. “Whether it’s flying in a day early to explore the city or staying a day later to enjoy rejuvenating wellness offerings or innovative dining options, almost 70% of the next generation of business travelers want to extend their business trips for leisure,” Marr said.

Because trip extensions aren’t always an option, Hilton has had to think outside of the box a bit to still fulfill their needs for an enhanced experience with customizable options.

“This includes upscale dining venues with flexible hours and public spaces that allow guests to work in a social environment while also having the option for semi-private spaces to take phone calls if needed,” Marr said.

For the Hyatt Regency John Wayne Airport Newport Beach, on-site options include grab-and-go offerings, enhanced common areas for working in shared spaces—especially popular with millennials—and intuitive guestroom technology, Clearwater said. Additionally, the hotel has 28,000 sq. ft. of indoor/outdoor venues—a feature that serves the needs of both business and leisure travelers, offering enough room and options for meetings or larger social events.

“I think airport hotels will continue to evolve to meet the needs of both business and leisure travelers, as well as companies and groups looking for high-quality event space at a palatable price,” Clearwater said.

Hotels will need to evolve as the lines between business and leisure travelers become blurred—but still with some distinctions—especially when it comes to airport accommodations.

“Guest feedback and expectations continue to have a direct impact on all of our innovations surrounding the entire guest experience from booking to checkout—regardless of the type of hotel,” Marr said. “But especially with business travel on the rise, guests are no longer looking to airport hotels to only offer a last-minute solution to travel mishaps.” HB

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