Mark Jones: The last place you want to be – the hotel business centre

 

The hotel tour is one of the small inconveniences of the travel professional's life. For 30 minutes you trudge in a group from floor to floor, room to room, trying to think of something polite to say. ("And here is the bedside table." "Yes … it is.")

But even those rudimentary manners fail when you get to the business centre. The best your eager guide can hope for from the group is a sulky silence and a few unsubtle looks in the direction of the bar. There are specialist magazines devoted to conferences and incentives. If you don't work for one, you wonder why 15 non-recoverable minutes of your life have been spent inspecting flipcharts and lecterns. And the carpets are always awful.

I'm always mildly surprised that hotels want to show us their business centres. In their shoes, I'd try to hush them up. You're transported from the glam and gloss of the lobby to a subterranean cell where blameless men and women are sentenced to endless days of weak coffee, PowerPoint presentations, doodling, action points and excruciating team-building games. Yet the hotel sales and marketing people seem inordinately proud of them.

But in fact it's not so hard to see why. They love their business centres because they get much-needed revenue from them on a wet winter Tuesday, and because they get to exploit space they can't credibly use for something nice, like a restaurant or a bar. That's why so many of these rooms are underground. The people who design conference facilities all seem to have read the same textbook that says: "To perform effectively, business people need to be denied natural light. They should be seated in two lines facing one another. Avoid paintings, comfortable furniture or anything that might distract them or, even worse, stimulate the imagination."

I work for a company where away days and conferences are an occupational necessity. Despite the bad press these events – known as "boondoggles" in the US – get, I'm a believer: some of the most notable breakthroughs we've had as a business have been on these supposed jollies. (We've also experienced some of our most toe-curling moments, usually at the hands of certain executive coaches.)

So we go to hotels. Some of the more enlightened places have open, creatively designed spaces that actually help you think. Gold stars here to The Grove in Hertfordshire, Coworth Park in Berkshire and almost any property in the Hotel du Vin chain.

But now we've given up on business and conference facilities. Instead, we grab a suite for the day instead. You get natural light, soft furnishings, a view – and you can always import your own flipchart.

Mark Jones is editorial director of British Airways' 'High Life' and Best Western's 'Do Not Disturb' magazines

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?