ATLANTA—It seems every major hotel brand is talking about it: the “guestroom of the future.” While advances in technology can conceivably make travel more seamless and enjoyable, it’s truly about recognizing how people live in these spaces—and providing what’s needed to help facilitate these activities.
Crowne Plaza saw how business travelers were mixing business and leisure—often called “bleisure”—and responded to this need for an evolving space with the launch of its WorkLife Room, which was developed as part of its Crowne Plaza Accelerate program in 2017. It was an idea so revolutionary, the brand put a patent on it and, in late August, Crowne Plaza’s patent application was approved.
Bleisure is, indeed, a thing. A significant majority of bleisure travelers will stay at the same hotel for the business and leisure portions of their trip. More than one-third (37%) of North American business travelers extended a work trip for leisure, according to the GBTA Foundation, the research and education arm of the Global Business Travel Association. Millennials (48%) did at a much higher rate than Gen-X travelers (33%) and baby boomers (23%).
Crowne Plaza is capturing that audience with its next-gen concept. “Since WorkLife Rooms began rolling out in early 2017, Crowne Plaza properties have generated up to a $20 premium for WorkLife Rooms, compared to the best flexible rate,” said Meredith Latham, regional VP, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Americas. “Additionally, the Crowne Plaza brand’s guest satisfaction scores track five to 10 points higher for a WorkLife Room, compared to a standard room.”
The recent patent approval is significant for the brand as it marks a major step forward in its journey of guest-experience innovation.
“For our guests, it signals the depth of thought and care put into the room’s design,” said Latham. “Earning a patent for this global room design signals the distinctiveness of the WorkLife Room experience and it showcases that when you lead the design process with the guest in mind, the solutions are worth owning.”
So, what is it about the modern business traveler that needs a WorkLife Room? Latham says it’s about maximizing efficiency, while having the flexibility to transition from work to play.
“Modern business travelers no longer have a balance between work and life. Instead, they are blending these lifestyles—working while they relax and relaxing while they work because they’re always on the clock, thanks to technology,” said Angela Esposito, director of brand design, InterContinental Hotels Group.
“The flexible environments in the WorkLife Rooms enable business travelers to be productive while on the road. They can sit in the nook watching TV while going through emails on their laptop; they can review a document sitting side by side with a colleague, or enjoy a glass a wine in that same space without feeling cramped or uncomfortable,” she said. “With the ability to charge 14 devices without ever having to rearrange furniture, guests are always connected, whether that’s for business or pleasure. And, my favorite part of these guestrooms is they give travelers choices and control, which leads to guests feeling more at home.”
“Guests told us there is a ‘sea of sameness’ in business travel and no one is meeting their needs for both relaxation and productivity. With efficiencies woven throughout the room, the WorkLife Room aims to make business travel work for our guests,” said Latham.
The brand is meeting guests right where they are—in the guestroom—providing enhancements that will help facilitate a flexible environment. The result is modern, bright and uncluttered.
“We focused on three key elements: delivering a great night’s sleep, a flexible environment and a sense of order,” said Esposito. “In addition, we wanted to give the brand a fresh, new look, which was achieved through our new modern design, including contemporary and purposeful furniture and new signature colors that are warm, soft and neutral.”
In addition to extensive behavior studies, Crowne Plaza conducted user research programs to inform the brand on the behavioral patterns and needs of modern business travelers.
“The findings were clear: When left on their own, modern business travelers created separate areas in the guestroom to meet their personal and work needs, thus, leading to the five distinct zones of the WorkLife Room,” said Esposito.
These five key components address the emotional and functional needs of the brand’s guests:
• Modern design expresses energy, restoration and work while conveying comfort, warmth and relaxation.
• The angled bed delivers a good night’s sleep, restoring the guest while driving differentiation. Angling the bed lessens noise transfer between rooms and increases usable space.
• A multi-use area provides guests flexibility for working, meeting, eating and relaxing.
• There is a dedicated space for focused work.
• There is plenty of power for easy connectivity throughout the room.
One of the many key differentiators in the execution of the guestroom is the brand’s decision to angle the bed, a move not seen in hotels—and it’s the first to do it.
“We’re the first hospitality brand to design guestrooms with angled beds. People often think that the angle leads to wasted space in the room, when, in fact, it helps to create more usable space, maximizing the room’s square footage,” said Esposito. “With the bed not directly up against the wall, guests no longer have to hear every noise their neighbors make. Guests tell us that the angled beds are always the first thing they notice when walking into a WorkLife Room, and it leaves a lasting, positive impression.”
Latham added, “Every room is equipped with fast and free WiFi, so guests can be just as productive as they would be in the office or at home. Additionally, the furniture can be arranged in different ways, whether you are finishing a report or relaxing at the end of a long day.”
To further bring the concept to life, Crowne Plaza also tapped into the minds of its owners association, involving them in the process from the very beginning, to capture valuable feedback that would make sure the WorkLife room was a fit for guests and owners alike.
“The WorkLife Room was carefully conceptualized, tested around the world in prototype format and in fully built hotels,” said Latham. “We fine-tuned until we had a product that was the best version of a hotel guestroom for the modern business traveler. Our guests have voted, and this room delivers improved satisfaction, our teams love it and now the U.S. Patent office sees the uniqueness.”
The WorkLife Room is currently available in Crowne Plaza properties nationwide, including Crowne Plaza Atlanta Midtown; Crowne Plaza Downtown Denver; Crowne Plaza Farmington Hills – Novi in Michigan; Crowne Plaza Cleveland at Playhouse Square; Crowne Plaza Suites Arlington – Ballpark – Stadium in Texas; and Crowne Plaza Springfield in Illinois.
Three thousand WorkLife Rooms are expected to be installed by early 2019, including the brand’s first-ever flagship property in the Americas, Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia. HB