Holiday or work? Hotels introduce co-working office-like spaces


Hotels have already turned their lobbies into spaces where guests can socialize or work. Now, some properties are going one step further to cater to business travelers and professionals in general: They’ve set up WeWork-style coworking areas.

Traditional hotel business centers these aren’t. Yes, they offer practical amenities like office supplies, printers and, of course, coffee. But they also have a laid-back ambience and convivial feel of the shared working spaces popping up around the globe under the banner of startup WeWork.

The new hotel business centers seem to have struck a chord among business travelers who find that they’re probably getting less work done in busy hotel lobbies, said Lorraine Sileo, senior vice president of research for travel research company Phocuswright. “Lobbies are distracting because there is so much going on, with people coming in and out and also socializing,” she said. “These new workspaces are meant for productivity.”

They’re also especially attractive to younger business travelers, said Jessica Collison, research director for the Global Business Travel Association. “Millennials tend be more nomadic than the older generation of travelers and spend more time outside of their room,” she said. “Hotels have picked up on this, and more of them are offering a coworking option.”

The AC Hotel Phoenix Biltmore, for example, which opened in October, offers the indoor and outdoor AC Lounge, on the side of its lobby. The more than 5,000-square-foot light-gray space has several couches, a large communal table with electrical outlets at every seat and a 20-seat high table that’s a working area by day and a bar after 4 p.m. Guests and non-guests are welcome to use the lounge without charge, said David Belk, the hotel’s general manager, and can get free coffee and biscotti. The lounge’s small library has computers, printers and office supplies like paper clips and folders.

“We want the lounge to be a go-to and convenient for anyone who’s working,” Belk said.

Alex Griffiths, who lives in San Luis Obispo, California, and travels to Phoenix frequently for his job in renewable energy, has stayed at the AC several times since it opened and said that he used the lounge both for team meetings and computer work. “It’s like a fully functioning office but cooler, and I like the synergy with the other people who are also working,” he said. “I also love the biscotti.

The coworking area at the Charlotte Marriott City Center in North Carolina, called Coco and the Director, is more compact than the AC Lounge. It has two tables with eight seats each and a whiteboard with markers that guests can use during meetings for notes, said Seamus Gallagher, the property’s director of guest experience. It also offers a for-purchase menu of coffee and sandwiches.

Although access is free for anyone, seats must be reserved by signing up on the chalkboard near the coworking area entrance. “You can stay for as long as you want,” Gallagher said, “and our staff will give you any office supplies you need and help with printing documents.”

Hotels see the coworking spaces as a way to build loyalty with both hotel guests and the general public, said Adam Weissenberg, head of travel, hospitality and leisure at Deloitte. “These spaces are often sleek looking and help raise a hotel’s profile,” he said. “They’re not going to lose money from them because anyone who uses them is likely to hang out at the hotel when they’re done working and order drinks or food.”

Weissenberg noted that several recently opened hotels that have coworking spaces charge non-guests for access. “The fees aren’t high, but the amenities they have generally warrant a charge,” he said.

The Revolution Hotel, for one, which opened Dec. 5 in Boston’s South End neighborhood, charges non-guests $20 a day for access to its coworking space, Conspire. The space offers communal tables, bar-style seating, couches and an eight-person conference room.

Eaton DC’s new coworking space, Eaton House, is spread over three levels and has desks, communal areas, conference rooms and private offices. It charges non-guests three tiers of monthly membership: a $400 entry level, called the Nomad, gets members a drop-in desk; the $800 level, the Pioneer, comes with a dedicated desk; and the top tier, the Collective, which starts at $1,800 a month, comes with a private office. (WeWork’s charges vary by location but start at $190 a month for a desk and $450 a month for an office.)

Guests at the Eaton hotel get the drop-in desk and other Nomad benefits, said Eaton’s founder, Katherine Lo.

Amanda Wiles, from Asheville, North Carolina, and Pat Clifford, of Cincinnati, base themselves at Eaton House when they’re in Washington for their work related to Fundred, the organization they co-run that uses art to raise awareness about lead poisoning.

“We travel a lot together, and it’s not usually easy to find a convenient space where we can park ourselves and work,” Wiles said. “On our last trip, we spent two days straight at Eaton House, and it became a center of gravity for us.”