First look: Crowne Plaza renews focus on business travellers

28 Sep 2013 by Tom Otley

Crowne Plaza has unveiled plans to help business travellers increase their productivity when staying at its hotels.

The innovations, which are being trialled at three Crowne Plaza Hotels in London, Rome and Brussels are the result of a wide-ranging survey of business travellers across nine countries, and are part of the development of the Crowne Plaza brand aiming to make it "the number one destination for business travellers".

I went along to the London City property to have a look at the trial, with a walk around of the hotel with general manager Anthony Worrall.

Crowne Plaza London City

The Crowne Plaza here has always been an impressive property since it opened in 2003, and it has certainly been a test bed for new ideas – it has three restaurants / bars and several of these have gone through many name changes and different concepts in the past decade.

The great challenge for city centre hotels is to encourage guests to use the food and beverage outlets within the hotel, and listening to the frequent travellers has encouraged the brand to come up with a "breakfast on the go" concept, allowing business travellers too busy to go to the restaurant for a sit-down Continental breakfast (£15.95 at this hotel) or full English breakfast (£22.95) to choose from a Box option which can be pre-ordered to the room or picked up from reception (£11.95), and has lots of healthy options along with drinks.

There's obviously been a lot of thought put into this – especially how if a business traveller orders the box for the morning, instead of knocking on the door a note is slipped under the door informing the guest that the box is ready. There is a station on wheels downstairs in the lobby which is wheeled out in the morning for those wanting to make a quick getaway so they can just choose what they want and then leave.

The breakfast option is only one element in what the brand is calling "Energy Essentials" (well, that's what brands do, come up with these sub-brands or labels). Other parts include an excellent run station by the lobby lifts with towels and route maps for those wanting to go for an early morning run.

I first saw this idea a decade ago in the hotels round Central Park in Manhattan, and since then in some of the Park Lane, London properties, but it would work well in many hotels in other locations, and for this property close to London’s Embankment, it is perfect for runs along the Thames – there are several suggested routes, and they can be combined for longer runs.

In addition, the hotel has also provided complimentary water and fruit around the hotel, and has put in what it calls a Fast and Fresh menu, meaning freshly prepared menu items. An example of this is one of the new restaurant concepts – an Italian, a little like Carluccios, which as well as offering simple Italian food also has a deli-counter from which you can order food to go (or just to eat in your room if you want to work).

Crowne Plaza London City deluxe room

Redesign: A deluxe room in the hotel

The work element has also been catered for. All the rooms (and meeting rooms) now have new “charging boxes” allowing the charging of various smartphones without the need for travellers to bring their own chargers (or if they forget to bring them). All guests also now have access to secure WIFI printing in three locations: business centre, club lounge (if you have a club room) or the reception.

At the moment there is no charge for the printing, though since it’s a pilot I suppose if people start printing out 20 or 30 page documents, it will bring in some kid of fair use policy. Note that internet is charged for at the hotel (£15 for 24 hours, including an entertainment package through the in-room entertainment system), but internet access is free for the top tiers of IHG’s Reward programme, and this will be further extended in coming months to all members of IHG Rewards (for the new story on that, click here

The Crowne Plaza pilots have been developed in response to research undertaken by Crowne Plaza owner IHG which revealed that business guests would like a more personalised service, geared towards their priorities, values and work schedules.

This has become the defining philosophy of the brand, at least in these hotels, since a flat screen TV behind reception shows each element of the trial, and has the new phrase “Focussed on your success”, providing a reason for your expense department to approve a stay at the Crowne Plaza over sister brands such as Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express. As the promotional literature has it,

“These guests [i.e.: us] are career-focused and look to their hotel to make it easy for them to be at the top of their game professionally…. The pilots have been developed to meet these needs and accommodate guests who increasingly see their hotel experience as an integral factor in the success of their business trip.”

Interestingly this pilot comes after the Holiday Inn brand has done its own “reimagining” of what the new breed  of business travellers (hopefully, us) want from hotels (for a pdf of the research report, click here.

So for instance if you want to see Holiday Inn’s new ‘Open Lobby Concept’ you can go along to the London Brentford Lock. It is based on the idea that there is a new group of business travellers who don’t necessarily require the needs of a traditional 9-5 business men and women but who require more of a coffee-house style environment to work in. 

Crowne Plaza London City

Crowne Plaza has dome a similar thing with its Lobby (now called “The City Lounge”) as have the new generation Mercure properties (I reviewed one of these a few weeks ago, click here for a review.

In the Mercure there were lounging seats in The Library and The Study (formerly what would have been called the lobby), which were fine for a drink, but perhaps less convenient for a business meeting. The Crowne Plaza’s The City Lounge would be better for business, and its booths can be booked, so it is used both by non-guests and guests according to GM Anthony Worrall. For once I think the lack of laptop power in this space is an advantage, since it stops people taking up residence for the day and becoming proprietorial about their space. Again, I’ll post a picture of this when I receive it. In the meantime, this image is from the hotel's website

For a review of the property (from 2008) click here.

IHG currently has 83 Crowne Plaza hotels in Europe with a further 11 in the pipeline. You can read some reviews of very new and impressive Crowne Plazas in Asia, here.

Tom Otley

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