Public spaces for work and socializing are a great way to open up properties to the community, especially those non-guests in need of some respite from the weather.
In the U.S., we can have a bit of ownership tunnel vision when it comes to physical property, particularly land. It’s part of our country’s history, which is why it’s so deeply ingrained in us.
We consider it a transgression when someone steps foot onto property that doesn’t belong to them without an invitation. There’s a word for it: trespassing.
As children, we’re taught to not take something that doesn’t belong to us, and to not go where we’re not welcome. Those are definitely good lessons to learn as a child and to pass on to future generations, but sometimes it’s not as simple as that.
A few months ago, I was in Washington, D.C., for a day trip to cover the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s news conference on the Five Star Promise. I flew in that morning and flew out that night, meaning I had no hotel room to act as a home base during the day before the conference started.
I’m not incredibly familiar with the D.C. area as I haven’t been there since high school, so I wasn’t sure once I got there where I could sit and work for the day. Also, it was early September in D.C., so naturally it was in the 90s with unbearably high humidity, and finding an outdoor spot was out of the question.
After trying out a couple of locations, I ended up setting up shop in a hotel lobby within walking distance of the conference. As I said, I wasn’t staying there overnight or sitting at the bar, so it felt strange using this refuge from the heat and humidity when I wasn’t a paying customer. After all, I wouldn’t sit down at a table in a restaurant and not order something. I wouldn’t pull a book off a shelf at a bookstore to read and then put back. But this was a hotel with a lobby with spaces for people to sit, work and mingle, so I wasn’t going to get in anyone’s way.
That’s why I’m pleased to hear that more hotels are encouraging people to do what I did. The New York Times recently reported on the trend of hotels embracing turning public areas into communal workspaces for guests and non-guests alike. I wrote a similar story about these workspaces.
Creating a welcoming space like this for non-guests makes perfect sense. It’s not necessarily taking space away from paying guests, and providing space for non-guests to work opens up so many revenue opportunities for the hotel.
Becoming a hub for locals could mean return business in any number of forms. Those who come back multiple times a week to work may spend their money at the hotel’s restaurant, bar or coffee shop. They may even bring with them new paying non-guests. When family, friends or work colleagues from out of town visit, the hotel would be a likely recommendation.
I realize that to many of you, hanging out in a hotel lobby in D.C. without a reservation might seem like a no-brainer, a non-thing. I was probably (definitely) overthinking things. Regardless, there’s something refreshing about knowing there are places people can go to spend some time working, socializing, escaping the weather, etc., without having to worry they don’t belong there just because they aren’t a paying guest.
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