Speakers at the Independent Lodging Congress discussed the ins and outs of what makes a great hotel lobby, from strong Wi-Fi to engaged guests.
LOS ANGELES—Hotel lobbies have become more than a place to check in, as hoteliers work to transform the spaces into social hubs for guests and locals alike.
During the “Hotel lobbies as a destination” breakout session at the Independent Lodging Congress, Javier Egipciaco, SVP and managing director at Arlo Hotels, said his biggest lobby pet peeve is bad Wi-Fi.
Hotels in top markets should have reliable speedy Wi-Fi, but some don’t because of the old concrete structure the hotel was built in. To attract guests and locals, investing in Wi-Fi upgrades is important, he said.
“I travel … and it’s certainly something that hinders not only my experience … (it has) for every guest,” he said.
Making the lobby everything
To bring in guests and locals, hotel lobby spaces have to be a little bit of everything, Egipciaco said, noting that “programming and activation is the answer.”
“Everybody wants to program and create these discovery moments for our guests, and I feel like we have a very targeted effort to do that for the brand. How we differentiate ourselves is really a passion for the individual, the people we’ve brought onto our team and how integrated are they into the lifestyle,” he said. “Are they someone that just puts events together, or are they really passionate about what they do? (That) has been beneficial for us.”
Lobbies should be cool spaces, but also must be welcoming to everyone, he said. Too much programming can have the opposite effect, “offsetting or displacing guests,” he added.
“For us, it’s accessibility,” he said. “It’s the ability for people to connect with what we’re putting out there.”
The industry focuses on creating experiences, and for hotel lobbies, the people make the experiences, Egipciaco said, which is something some hoteliers might overlook.
“It’s a porous environment. You’re sitting next to somebody from Berlin or somebody from Chicago or a local that just comes into the bar. That’s what makes the experience, and a lot of places forget that,” he said.
“When you walk out of a hotel, you’re somebody new. A hotel lobby experience is so unique because you’ll never be in that room in that particular place with those same people ever again.”
Where traditional lobbies work
What works with lobby design and programming depends on the hotel, Makeready COO Christine Magrann said, noting a more traditional lobby with little more than a front desk can still work in some cases.
Magrann’s company operates The Adolphus hotel in Dallas, Texas, which was built in 1912 by Anheuser-Busch cofounder Adolphus Busch. Guests know the hotel’s history and appreciate it, so reflecting some of that history in the lobby space makes sense, she said.
Have hotel lobbies gone too far?
There’s been a resurgence in lobby space functionality, speakers said.
But Magrann said hotel lobbies haven’t strayed too far from what guests expect, by going too far with design or F&B, for example.
“Guests want to come out of their rooms. They do want to have those little intimate moments together or where they can tuck in and be alone together,” she said. “A lot of brands are doing it well, and a lot of independent restaurants and hoteliers are doing it really well right now, incorporating coffee shop experiences where (guests) can stay and have different meals throughout the day and use it in a very flexible, versatile way. It’s going to continue.”
Arlo Hotels has found the lobby works well as meeting space, which helps in hotels that don’t have a lot of meeting space or in situations where all of the meetings spaces are booked, Egipciaco said.