When was the last time you set foot in a hotel business center? If you are like most meeting planners, it was probably ages ago. While a well-equipped business center used to be a hallmark of a fine hotel, personal laptops, tablets and mobile devices have basically rendered them obsolete.

The Good Ole Days

Hotel business centers came into popularity in the 1980s, when properties rushed to install banks of stationary PCs, printers and fax machines that could be rented on an hourly basis. At the more upscale hotels, they were complimentary.

Usually located in a far-off back room, they served a purpose for business travelers who needed to check their email, make quick changes to a presentation or transmit some documents. Yet oftentimes computers were glitchy, printers were low on ink and fax machines were out of paper. Despite their shortcomings, these centers were a mainstay in hotels that serviced a business clientele.

Reimagining the Business Center

Today, traditional business centers sit deserted as on-the-go workers use their own devices in their guest rooms, or more commonly in a communal space such as the hotel lobby. Larry Mogelonsky, founder of LMA Communications Inc. in Toronto, believes that moribund business centers present an opportunity for hoteliers, who can put the space formerly devoted to them to better use.

Blogging on hotelsmag.com, Mogelonsky offers the following suggestions for transforming and reimagining the hotel business center.

  • Open a grab-and-go cafe serving coffee, snacks and other food items that are rotated based on the time of day.
  • Use the space as a wedding or catering sales center where you can display linen and table settings.
  • Showcase local artists by developing an art gallery or pop-up store with rotating exhibits.
  • Open a mini-spa outlet where professionals proffer short massages or manicures.
  • If the center is large, turn it into a venue for small- to mid-sized events.
  • If you don’t want to completely abandon the notion of a business center, make it a portable amenity. Purchase two loaner laptops (one Mac and one PC) that guests can check out and borrow. A standalone printer can be stationed at the front desk with Bluetooth or wireless connection to the laptops.