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Breakfast is a very important meal for the business traveller. Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)
Breakfast is a very important meal for the business traveller. Photo: Getty Images
(Getty Images)

The Business Of Travel

The two things that differentiate a good business hotel from a not-so-good one are connectivity and food

The easiest way of getting through life is to have rules of thumb for just about everything.

Take travel, for instance. Countless holidays in India have been spoilt because the holidayers forgot to ask their hotel two simple questions. One, do you give your hotel out for dealer conferences and company offsites, and two, do you give your hotel out for weddings? If the answer to either question is yes, the holidayers should simply pick another hotel. And ask the same questions again.

This is a rule I refined nearly a decade after an unfortunate encounter with some PepsiCo marketing executives whom I ran into while I was holidaying in the forests of Uttarakhand. They were nice guys, not very different from some of the marketing executives at the media company for which I work now (heck, some of them may be the same guys), but they were on an offsite training programme, and one of their team-building exercises prominently featured dancers from Rae Bareli (I kid you not).

Travelling on work doesn’t need rules because the office usually has enough of them. When one is a prole, it is all about eligibility. When one is a senior exec, it is about entitlements. Unfortunately, by the time a person makes the transition, travelling on work loses its sheen and becomes what it really is—a chore.

Still, there are a few things that differentiate a good business hotel from a not-so-good one, and here is what travellers at the entitlement end of the spectrum should look for. (What? You’re not? Then you are reading the wrong magazine.)

The first, of course, is connectivity. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that anyone travelling on work needs free (good business hotels don’t charge for Wi-Fi) high-speed Internet—for mails, presentations, and, of course, YouTube (and other videos of an educative nature).

The second is food. Breakfast is important. Most business travellers who travel regularly on work are either very fit (2% of travellers) or have managed to convince themselves (38" waist and all) that they have a good fitness regimen and diet and are on their way to get fit (the other 98%). The latter also believe they need to eat well (because they need more energy) on business trips, which means a good breakfast buffet is one that features bacon, pork sausages, and, if one is travelling within India, appams and egg curry. Dinner is also important, and good business hotels recognize that unless one is a popular writer (like Indulge’s London-based editor) or the editor of a business paper (actually, scratch that), there is a high probability that the traveller will be dining alone, maybe in his room. The ideal dinner room service needs to derive spiritually from the Japanese bento or the Indian thali, offering small portions of several dishes in a non-messy construct. Finally, good business hotels also recognize the fact that there’s nothing that warms the heart of guests checking out early in the morning to catch a flight as much as a small packed breakfast.

The third is a meeting space that you don’t have to pay for. You can’t meet people in hotel lobbies (not unless the meeting is an accident and not unless the person you are meeting is a travel agent). And you definitely can’t meet people in your room. The trend among good business hotels seems to be to have a small lobby-ish lobby (where you can meet travel agents) and a bigger beverages (tea, coffee, drinks) lobby. And further down the entitlement end of the spectrum, good business hotels have executive lounges where frequent business travellers can sit for hours looking busy and important.

There are several other small things—pressing suits for free and in a few minutes, for instance—that good business hotels do, but there are two things that characterize the best business hotels. Interestingly, the first isn’t something a hotel can set out to achieve, but happens almost serendipitously, especially if the establishment has made a name for itself as a business hotel. This is to ensure that most guests in the hotel are business travellers. People who travel on business do not particularly like to stay in a hotel where most of the other guests are families on holiday. The second is to make the guests feel as if they are on holiday—even if it is for a fleeting moment.

R. Sukumar is the Editor of Mint. Respond to this column at sukumar.r@livemint.com

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