The secret to a better hotel? Faster hotel internet — and this

The Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia may have just discovered the secret to running a better hotel. After a nine-month renovation that saw the property adopt a patented new room design and multi-use lobby spaces, it added two amenities that are practically invisible but critically important: faster hotel internet and more power outlets. Lots of power outlets.

The hotel’s WorkLife Rooms — billed as the “guestroom of the future” — are the centerpiece of a transformation of the brand in the Americas called Crowne Plaza Accelerate. Basically, it’s a re-imagination of how guests interact with technology and each other. The new Crowne Plaza features patented angled beds in the guestrooms, technology-forward meeting rooms and work pods.

In addition to Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia, the brand is about to add five more flagship hotels by early 2020. They including three hotels in Europe — the Crowne Plaza Paris Republique, Crowne Plaza Hamburg, and City Alster and Crowne Plaza London-Heathrow — and two in China (the Crowne Plaza Shenzhen WECC and Crowne Plaza Wuzhen).

Hotel internet and power outlets will “change the guest experience”

But one of the best parts of the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia’s redesign is largely unseen. It includes ample power outlets almost everywhere you want and fast hotel internet connections in its 495 guestrooms and in common areas.

“We’re changing the guest experience,” says Meredith Latham, a regional vice president for Crowne Plaza.

Is it really a better hotel? Here’s what is in an Accelerate property

I’ve visited several new hotels that have undergone an Accelerate transformation. Here’s what I’ve seen:

WorkLife rooms

The patented new rooms, created to support both business and leisure travelers, are designed to maximize comfort and productivity. Among other things, they feature special beds, a sofa nook, and a multipurpose space for reading, watching TV, or working. The WorkLife rooms also eliminate some of the most frequent guest complaints about bathrooms with inadequate lighting.

Plaza Workspace

These “third” spaces include new public meeting areas, private meeting spaces and special work nooks. They’ve transformed Crowne Plaza’s lobbies, which are sometimes unused areas, into busy collaborative workspaces. I’ve let my kids use these workspaces while I have meetings elsewhere on property. They tell me the hotel internet connections are excellent.

A total redesign

Everything from the decor to the restaurant menus has been redesigned to appeal to the hotel’s business travelers. For example, at the Atlanta hotel, the old rainforest theme has been replaced with a more contemporary transportation motif, with bicycle art on the walls. “Everything feels more intimate,” says Sharon Kilmartin, the general manager for the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia.

What you won’t see at this new hotel

What you won’t notice at a new Crowne Plaza — at least until you need it — are the power outlets. They’re everywhere. There are so many of them that even the hotel has lost count. But conservatively, there are probably twice as many opportunities to plug in compared to a competing hotel. Every meeting space, every seat, every lamp, has one or more power outlets. In fact, if there’s a space where your computer or tablet can be used, chances are you’ll find an outlet.

When a hotel adopts the Crowne Plaza Accelerate program, power supply is a top priority, according to Latham. And it makes for a better hotel experience.

“The power outlets are critical for us,” she explains. “If you want to stay connected, you need power. So if you’re installing a new workspace, you have to make sure you have enough power.”

And, of course, there’s the hotel internet connection — something totally unseen. Yet every hotel guest knows when there’s enough bandwidth. And when there isn’t.

Ali Saeb, the director of in-hotel strategy for Crowne Plaza’s parent company, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), says the company wanted hotel internet connections to be effortless — and fast.

“We didn’t want guests to have to think about it,” he says.

In the guest rooms, connection speeds are also lightning-fast. You can get a 5 gigabits per second download speed with your room, or you can pay extra and double the speed (costs vary by property).

Why hotel internet and power outlets are so important to guests

The importance of a reliable hotel internet connection can’t be overstated, at least according to the guest surveys. A recent study by Research + Data Insights found that wireless hotel internet connections were the second most important hotel feature behind the room rate. Guests rated reliable connections as more important than a hotel’s location, parking, and “free” breakfast. Another survey by Netgear found most younger guests wouldn’t return to a hotel with bad Wi-Fi.

Same thing goes for power outlets. A recent Harris Poll on behalf of Legrand Hospitality suggested a lack of convenient charging is a primary concern for 74% of hotel guests. It also concluded that 83% of hotel guests find it frustrating when there isn’t an outlet available directly by their bed or nightstand to easily charge their devices.

Because both the outlets and the internet connection are practically unseen, it’s difficult to sell these expensive changes to hotel owners. They want something they can add to their website — a shiny new lobby or a remodeled guest room. And yet, guests say they want outlets, and they have an insatiable appetite for bandwidth.

Latham, who offered me a tour of the remodeled Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia, said both the seen and unseen things matter. “When you change the guest experience, you have to think of everything,” she told me.

Even the hotel had to rethink the purpose of a space. For example, the area between its meeting rooms primarily used by delegates to move between meeting rooms. With Accelerate, Crowne Plaza installed seating nooks and charging alcoves, which transformed the area into a its own informal meeting space.

“During a meeting, this area can be busier than a conference room,” says Latham. Indeed, adding the power outlets and tables — which you hardly notice when you walk into the cavernous hall — has changed its very purpose.

How Accelerate is changing the guest experience

Latham says Crowne Plaza hotels that have undergone the WorkLife guestroom upgrade can command room rates that are $20 a day higher than before the change. So, from the company’s point of view, these upgrades don’t just make for a better hotel. They also make financial sense.

But what about hotel guests? To find the answer, you have to spend a little time in a WorkLife room or in a collaborative workspace. When guests reach for a light switch, it’s there. When they try to plug in their iPad, there’s a plug discreetly waiting for them. You don’t have to ask for directions to log on to the wireless signal or to use the meeting areas. These changes add up to a 10-point boost on guest satisfaction scores, out of a possible 100 points.

The Crowne Plaza isn’t the only hotel chain to improve its hotel internet and to add power outlets. For example:

  • Wyndham has been adding outlets in new and renovated guest rooms. You can find them in nightstands, mirrors and even entryways.
  • Hilton’s new Canopy by Hilton brand has more than 20 outlets and USB ports in each guestroom. Look for them above both the nightstands and on top of the desk.
  • At Holiday Inn, another IHG brand, there are now recharging stations in the entryway of its room. It’s part of Holiday Inn’s “H4 guestroom” concept.

The design principles behind Accelerate are simple. Form follows function in its new hotels. The ornate, early 80s designs of the old property have given way to clean, minimalistic lines and streamlined decor. In many ways, Accelerate says more about the early 21st-century guest than it does about any new hotel. Modern travelers want a no-nonsense experience when they’re on the road: a practical room where everything works with a fast hotel internet experience. Nothing fancy.

It’s remarkable that many hotels have given their guests everything but that — until now.

Posted in Smart Consumer Tagged ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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