Travelers are leaving their hotel rooms and heading for the lobby for a couple of good reasons.
One is that the ever-smaller rooms have no space for tables, chairs, or desks and so are less comfortable than ever before. Another is that the lobby is now a happening place, or at least that’s what hotels are telling us.
Voilá! The riffraff are now fashionable.
Where hotels once discouraged locals from hanging out in the lobby, they now lure them in by providing free Wi-Fi and lots of power outlets. The idea – to draw the locals out of the coffee shops where they hang out now – seems to be working, and why not? The furniture is way more comfortable and there are more and better food and beverage options. Plus, they have bars.
Younger travelers are believed to value authentic experiences.
The notion that “authenticity” can be provided by loiterers who like to hang out where the Wi-Fi is free and the bathrooms are unlocked has yet to be demonstrated.
Crowded lobbies are money-makers.
Hotels know that people eat and drink more when they are in lively social surroundings. Their belief that hotels can manufacture that type of buzz-worthy environment by commingling locals with business and leisure travelers is fervent, and marketers fearful of missing the bandwagon are clawing their way on board.
Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, and others all think crowded lobbies are a great idea. They say travelers want to be alone but not lonely. One chain went so far as to say “even if you’re alone, you want to be alone together.”
Hotels call it “changing customer demands,” but I’m not so sure, because not everyone thinks this is a good idea. Here are some comments from travelers who have stayed at hotels committed to attracting locals to hang out in their lobbies:
- Oh, great, now I have to wrestle with locals for space in the lobby and get in line for food and drink.
- We stayed there four nights and not once could find an open table or barstool.
- The last thing I want is the lobby of my hotel to turn into a Starbucks for loud, messy freeloaders.
One thing hotels are conveniently ignoring is that the authentic bunch already hangs out, and it’s in off-the-beaten-path places, not in the heavily-promoted recently-remodeled lobby of a chain hotel where transient authenticity-seekers go to take selfies and post photos on social sites.
As one on-line commenter said, “A lobby full of twenty-somethings straight out of a frat party is a concept that must have come from the addled brain of a hotel intern.”
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