Move Over, Starbucks: Marriott Offers Workspace On Demand

renaissance dupont circle flexible workspaceAttempting to pierce the burgeoning flexible work and meeting space market, Marriott has launched a new program called Workspace on Demand, currently at more than 30 hotels, primarily in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco but also at select locations in Atlanta, Houston and St. Louis.

Here, workers can reserve meeting spaces, lobby seating areas and communal tables to enjoy an afternoon of meetings or a quick catch-up between colleagues.

This may be an untapped opportunity for the hotel market – Marriott is the first we’ve seen to both publicly advertise lobby space to non-guests and to charge for its use. According to research firm IDC, the number of mobile workers – those without a fixed office space – will increase to nearly 1.2 billion globally this year.

“Younger workers are changing the work dynamic. They are mobile and global, living lives untethered to the traditional work environment, and we are evolving with them,” said Paul Cahill, senior vice president, Brand Management, Marriott Hotels & Resorts in a release.

Workers can book these spaces through an app/website collaboration with LiquidSpace, which already offers flexible work spaces on a limited term basis.

We tried to book a meeting space for Washington, D.C., and found the system simple to use, if the work spaces themselves a bit sparse in selection. We could reserve a communal table for eight at the Renaissance in Dupont Circle for $38.50 per hour or $150 for a half-day. The venue was closed for today, but available for Monday, Jan. 14.

It seems like it’s worth a shot if you need a set amount of space for an important meeting, but we might just consider a flexible office space’s conference room where we’re guaranteed peace and quiet, or the option of taking our chances in the hotel lobby.

What do you think? Will you try out the service?

[Image Credit: Renaissance Dupont Circle]

Tips For Gaming Hotel Websites To Get The Best Room Rates

hotel corridorMajor hotel chains have sophisticated software that dictates room rates based upon expected occupancy, but with a little knowledge and a bit of effort you can ensure that you get the best deal. The key to getting the best possible price is understanding hotel demand and trying different search terms to see which combination of dates yield the lowest prices.

Depending on location and time of year, some hotels have dramatically higher occupancy on the weekend, while others that cater to business travelers are busier during the week. If you want to save money, schedule your trip accordingly.

For example, let’s say you’d like to spend a week dividing time between San Francisco and the nearby Sonoma County wine region. If you want to save a bundle on hotels, hit Sonoma during the week, when it’s nice and quiet and the room rates are low, and then on the weekend stay in a business class hotel in the suburbs of San Francisco or in Silicon Valley.In many destinations, you can find a good deal on hotels any night of the week, save Saturday nights and sometimes Fridays. You can either work around this, as outlined above, or manipulate your search terms to make sure you’re not paying the higher Saturday night rate for more than one night.

If you plan to stay more than one night at a chain hotel, particularly if part but not all of your stay includes a weekend night, definitely split apart your travel dates into one-night increments to see how the price changes. For example, if you search for a room on the website of the Hilton Inn at Penn in Philadelphia for a two-night stay, checking in this Saturday night, you’ll find a AAA rate of $260 per night. But if you split your search term to see the price for Saturday night and Sunday night, you’ll notice that while the Saturday rate is $260, the AAA rate for Sunday night plummets to just $134. The Hilton is quite content to charge you the higher rate for both nights but you’d be a fool to pay it.

This is not an isolated example. I did a quick search for other hotels this weekend and almost every hotel I checked out had a different rate for Saturday night versus Sunday night, but none offered the Sunday discount to the customer booking both nights together in one reservation on their sites. The Renaissance Marriott in Philadelphia offers a AAA rate of $279.95 for a two-night, Saturday, Sunday stay this weekend, but if you search just for Sunday night, you’ll notice the rate plummets to $180.45 – though you don’t get that rate unless you make two reservations.

The Hyatt Regency on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago has a Saturday night rate of $170 versus $116 on Sunday, but again their site doesn’t give you the lower Sunday rate unless you make two reservations. And the same goes for Chicago’s Westin River North, which has a $233 versus $118 split for this weekend.

The split can work the other way as well, especially in the suburbs. For example, the Hyatt House in Plymouth Meeting, outside Philadelphia is $18 more expensive on Sunday night compared to Saturday this weekend. And there are also occasions when the hotel offers a better rate for multiple night stays compared to a single night stay. Again, it all depends on expected occupancy.

This summer, Orbitz got a lot of bad press after admitting that it shows higher priced hotel options to those searching for rooms on a Mac, so many advocate double checking searches on a PC, if you can, but I tested various searches on my PC and my MAC and they all appeared to yield the same results.

The bottom line is that you always need to check and split apart your travel dates when searching for a multiple-night stay. If you can save money by making multiple reservations, go for it, and add a note in the comments section asking them to combine the reservations so you don’t have to move rooms.

Then remind them again when you check in. Or, to simplify matters, call the hotel directly, tell them what you discovered online and ask them to extend the lower rate for your entire stay. They might not do it, but it’s worth a try. Whatever you do, don’t throw away money by failing to explore all your options online before booking.

[Photo credit:Uggboy Ugggirl on Flickr]

Hotel News We Noted: November 2, 2012

biltmore arizona exteriorarizona biltmoreWe’d like to begin this week’s column by sending out our thoughts to all of those who have been without power or homes since Sandy tore through the East Coast earlier this week. While we escaped the worst of the storm in D.C., we know that many of our friends and colleagues in the Northeast were not so lucky. We’ll be reporting on ways travelers can help throughout the coming weeks.

The hotel news, however, must go on. So, without further ado, here is this week’s issue of “Hotel News We Noted.”

If you’re interested in sending us newsy tidbits or comments, please do so via email. We welcome reader mail! We’re also seeking hotels and travel companies offering Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials for an upcoming special edition.

Storm Loss: $700 Million In Business Lost
A new Wall Street Journal article estimates that the one-day loss totals from Hurricane Sandy equaled 600,000 business trips lost and $700 million in associated spending loss. Significant, sure, but not compared to the $50 billion plus expected to clean up the damage as a result of the storm. Still, for the tens of thousands of travelers still stranded in airport hotels waiting to get home and those who are currently staycationing because their buldings lack power, we hope you get home soon.

Hotel Openings: In North Korea?
We all knew those crazy North Koreans were on a power trip. Now the AP is reporting (see the full story over on our friends at HuffPo) that the “world’s tallest hotel,” Pyongyang’s Ryugyong Hotel, will likely open next year. The 105-story hotel will partially open more than two decades after initial construction began, via a management contract with European hotel chain Kempinski.New Hotel Partnership: Gaylord Joins Marriott
Marriott now has a 14th brand. As of early 2013, Gaylord Hotels’ four resorts in the D.C., Orlando, Dallas and Nashville areas will be part of the Marriott Rewards program. Members earn 10 points per dollar spent at Gaylord Hotels on room rate only or two airline miles per dollar spent on room rate only. That’s a good deal for business travelers, many of who find themselves at these massive conference centers for events.

Haute Hotel Package: Holiday Prep at the White Barn Inn
Learn how to be the “Hostess with the Mostess” this holiday season. On November 10, The White Barn Inn, the boutique Relais & Chateaux property in Kennebunkport, ME, is offering guests a Holiday Workshop, complete with a baking class in the new bakery (with champagne, of course), lunch at the famed White Barn Inn restaurant where guests can try their baked creations, and a cocktail class by White Barn Inn expert mixologists to learn to make the hottest holiday cocktails of the season. Rates start at $760 for an overnight plus breakfast for two. Pricey, but if it gets you any closer to Martha Stewart-like fame for your domestic skills, the investment might be worth it.

Hotel Deals of the Week
It seems like even hotels are getting in the holiday spirit early this year. Arizona’s Biltmore is offering an incredible $89 holiday rate for stays booked between Nov. 2 and 9 for stays between Nov. 18 and Dec. 1 or between Dec. 14 and Jan. 1.

[Image Credit: Arizona Biltmore]

$7 Bottles of Water: Refreshing Or In Bad Taste?

expensive bottle of waterHave you ever been desperate enough to pay $7 for a bottle of water in a hotel room? I drink tap water in any country where it’s safe and stockpile store-bought water in countries like Mexico, where it isn’t, so I never really get caught needing to pay extortionate prices for bottled water or anything else from hotel minibars.

Last week, I stayed at the Marriott Fallsview Hotel in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and, although I enjoyed my stay, I couldn’t help but wonder – who pays the $6.95 they charge for the bottles of Aquafina water they place in the room?

It wouldn’t be priced as such if no one were buying it, right?
Someone at Marriott who sits in a nice office with plush furniture must have decided that $6.95 – not $4.95 or $5.95 – was the optimal price for this item at this location.

Clearly people on expense accounts or the ultra rich might not balk at the price. And I’m not a “skip lunch because there are children starving in Africa” kind of guy, but with 40% of the world’s population living on less than $2 per day, I don’t think I could bring myself to engage in this sort of little extravagance – definitely not in a city where millions of gallons of water are literally gushing over Niagara Falls.

An Exclusive Look At The View From America’s Tallest Hotel Building

Last year, Marriott International made waves with the announcement that its latest New York City property would be the tallest stand-alone hotel building in Manhattan. But now, about 17 months into construction, it has become clear that the new Nobutaka Ashihara-designed skyscraper will not just be the city’s tallest hotel, but the tallest stand-alone hotel building in the entire United States.

The new property, located at 1717 Broadway and 54th Street, consists of 68 stories extending nearly 753 feet into the midtown Manhattan skyline. It will house the new Courtyard by Marriott-Central Park on floors six through 32 and the new Residence Inn by Marriott-Central Park on floors 36 through 64. Earlier this week, we were able to get a sneak peek at the construction of the new property, including the jaw-dropping, 360-degree view from the top.

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At elevations that high, the city is quite literally at your feet. To the west, you can see straight across the Hudson River to New Jersey. To the south, you have the heart of midtown Manhattan, including a clear view of Times Square, and to the east, you can look down at iconic structures like Carnegie Hall and the Hearst Tower. Northbound, you can see the whole of Central Park spread straight up through the tip of Manhattan. It’s a sight that will take your breath away (if your breath wasn’t already suffering from the high altitude).On the bottom chunk of the building, the Courtyard will contain 378 rooms, each providing the brand’s trademark “refreshing business” environment to help guests stay connected, productive and balanced. Up top, the 261 Residence Inn suites will provide comfort to guests on longer stays, offering full kitchens and home-style comforts. The 34th floor will house a shared fitness center, while common spaces, restaurants and retail space will take up the five-floor “pillar” of the building.

The building owners, Granite Broadway Development, and building contractor, CNY Builders, will celebrate the completion of the skyscraper’s structure this morning with a commemorative topping out ceremony, followed by the hauling of the final bucket of concrete to the top floor. From here, contractors will work on building out the interior of the hotel to Marriott specifications. An opening is slated for the end of 2013.