Hotel 'executive lounges' or 'club lounges' are literally a business traveller’s home away from home – so when choosing where to stay, the quality or even availability of a hotel’s lounge can be a strong influencer for many clued-in road warriors.
But as frequent travellers can well attest, what you’ll find in a hotel’s lounge can vary wildly from property to property – even if you’re staying with the same global hotel chain.
Here’s what separates the great from the merely 'good' in my book:
1. Different zones for dining, working and relaxing
The very reason that travellers visit a hotel’s lounge varies by the time of day – in the morning it’s normally for an easy breakfast, during business hours it’s to work on the laptop or for a quick refreshment in between meetings, and in the evening it’s for a pre-dinner snack or a nightcap.
Fill the lounge with sofas and there’s nowhere proper to eat breakfast, but line up the dining tables and there’s nowhere to relax… finding the correct ratio with limited space can be tough, but the ANA Crowne Plaza hotel in Kobe, Japan has the mix just right.
There’s a dedicated dining area conveniently adjacent to the buffet, snacks and coffee machines…
… an entirely separate ‘relaxation’ space with comfy sofas, cocktail tables for light refreshments and a TV…
… and also a boardroom with a view, which is closed off from the main lounge space and can be booked for up to two hours each day for guests staying on the Club floors or with access to the Club lounge:
Read our review: Japan's ANA Crowne Plaza hotels
2. Fast Wi-Fi and a place to recharge
In my view, the best hotels provide guests with free Internet access in the lounge, even if they’d otherwise be charged for it in their room.
The Hilton Melbourne South Wharf hotel does just this: waiving its usual $29/day access charge for lounge lizards… but with download speeds throttled to around 1mbps, that’s barely fast enough for anything beyond the most basic of tasks.
Fortunately, Hilton HHonors Gold and Diamond members, along with travellers who have actually paid to use the Internet in their rooms, can sidestep this restriction by connecting to the much faster ‘HHonors’ network with their room number and surname, rather than the free ‘Executive Lounge’ network.
We haven’t forgotten about keeping your gadgets powered up, either, and to its credit, neither did the Hilton South Wharf – you’ll find power outlets near some of the proper dining ‘slash’ working tables, and in-floor units among the more relaxing sofas:
Read our review: Hilton Melbourne South Wharf hotel
3. A room with a view
If you’ve stumped up extra for a Club or Executive room, typically found on the highest floors of the hotel with a view to match, why settle for anything less in the lounge?
That’s especially important if you’ll be heading to the lounge to get some work done, as a great view brings with it that ‘high-rise office’ feeling but in a more laidback environment.
In Shanghai, guests staying at the Jing An Shangri-La hotel in Grand Premier rooms and on the Horizon Club floors hotel can take in a view of the former French Concession from the similarly-named Horizon Lounge…
… where the breakfast dining tables also line the windows for a bird’s eye view of the city’s skyline – when the smog outside permits, of course:
Read our review: Jing An Shangri-La, West Shanghai
4. Dedicated in-lounge 'remote printing' facilities
Many hotel lounges have at least a few desktop computers for guests travelling without their own tech – or as we frequently see in lounges worldwide, children left unsupervised to play games – but printing facilities can sometimes be scarce, or located elsewhere in a separate business centre.
If I’ve already left my room to work in a hotel lounge, it goes without saying I should be able to print without packing up and visiting a third location in the hotel, before trotting back to the lounge to pick up where I left off.
And in this day and age, ‘remote printing’ facilities aren’t hard to setup – even my off-the-shelf printer at home has this feature.
The idea being that you can print your files directly from a laptop or tablet by emailing your documents straight to the printer, which avoids entering sensitive usernames and passwords on the hotel’s public computers or copying files across via USB, which is time-consuming and not without its security flaws.
5. All-day snacks and refreshments
Okay, nobody expects to get a free, a five-course meal on a whim in a hotel lounge, but if the lounge is open all day, the snack counter should be as well.
That’s everything from your basic beverages of water, soft drinks, tea and espresso coffee from one of those nifty push-button machines through to a small selection of fruit, served aside nibbles such as pretzels, crackers and potato chips.
After all, paying significantly more for a high-level room only to be told that the Diet Coke is off-limits until happy hour at 6pm is just silly.
That’s not a problem you’ll face at the Pudong Shangri-La, East Shanghai hotel, which gives its Horizon Lounge guests all-day alcohol service, barista-made espresso coffee that would pass for a great cuppa in the West, and snacks at all hours of the day.
We stopped by just after lunch but before the gazetted afternoon tea period had begun and were still greeted with an assortment of fresh-baked macarons, mini-rolls with cured meats and salads, sliced dragon fruit, watermelon, rockmelon, Greek yoghurts, chocolates, cookies and cakes…
… not to mention the separate, calorie-lite fruit counter:
Read our review: Pudong Shangri-La, East Shanghai
When travelling on business, what do you look for in a hotel lounge, and does a truly knockout lounge influence where you stay? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Chris Chamberlin was a guest of the IHG ANA Hotels Group, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts and the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf hotel.
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