The Death of the Hotel Business Center, RIP

By Robert McGarvey


I come not to praise the hotel business center but to bury it.

I don’t even come to eulogize it.

Whenever I see one – and I still see way too many – I wince. Does this hotel think it is 1990?

But business centers aren’t just anachronistic, they are hazardous.

Understand this: business centers, many of them, are radically dangerous to your data security.  They can be every bit as bad as public WiFi.

They also radiate the cluelessness of whoever thinks they are necessary to keep. That’s especially so when the business center is tucked away in a forgotten space – I have seen them in the basement – and often the computing equipment honestly is so old it is valueless.  

When Travo, an event based planning tool, surveyed some 32,000 hotels, it found that 71% claimed business centers as an amenity.

But is anybody using them?

First, tho, here is why a hotel business center is bad for your data security. When it is tucked in a forgotten part of the hotel, a crook can easily gain access and install keylogging software or other malware.  Exactly that is known to have happened and on a scale large enough to trigger a warning from the federal government.  

Could it happen again? You bet. Many hotels are known to have slim to no security precautions in their business centers so you must use them at your own risk.  

Business centers ask customers to assume the best – that they can use these resources with confidence.  But that objective undermines a proper security education position where you try to tell users to be skeptical,” said Scott Petry, co-founder and CEO of Authentic8, developer of a secure browser.

Petry’s strong advice: just don’t use a hotel business center.

It’s not just a matter of keylogging.  There’s also the possibility that a criminal can go in as you leave, sit at the machine, and – with a little bit of computing skill – retrieve much of what you worked on.  Trace images stay on computers and can be retrieved and criminals know the how to.

Petry acknowledged that at many hotels – especially ones with newer computers – they have installed software that automatically resets the device and wipes out trace info at the end of a session.

But how will you know that software is installed and operating? You won’t.

Said Petry: “When I’m done and ready to walk away, how long before the machine re-images?  Should I wait for it or should I try to restart the device.  When the machine is re-imaged, is that document that I needed to download in order to print really deleted?  Or just moved from the trash when the session ends?”

There is no end to the security worries raised by hotel business centers. They may even be more dangerous than public WiFi.

The good news: really, we do not need a business center.  I always travel with a computing device – an iPad at the least – and a cellphone or two.  Pretty much everybody else I know does likewise.

What about printing? Uh…I don’t do much of that anymore. Email a file instead.

Some hotels get this – they are pulling out business centers, said hotel technology consultant Adam Gillespie, because they want to monetize the space.  

Gillespie added that a trend at some hotels is closing the business center, then installing a sleek kiosk – or two – usually a flat screen monitor and keyboard – off the lobby, where traffic is high.

A plus is that configuration – in a high traffic, public space – is inherently more secure than a computer in a forgotten basement room is. Those kiosks, said Gillespie, usually also are good at reimaging when a user finishes and that is comforting news.

Some users sing praises of new set-ups.  Business travel expert Carol Margolis, who blogs at SmartWomenTravelers, said in an email: “As a very frequent traveler, I love hotels that have the shared workspace vs a business center. When a hotel has a working space, whether it be off of the lobby or restaurant, I always bring my laptop and get work done. It feels so much less lonely than sitting at a often not-very-comfortable desk in my room. As a solo female, this feels safe to me as well as there are often many of us solo-travelers working in this type of space.”

She continued: “Hotel business centers, usually a small room with two computers and printers are great for printing documents but that is about all — at least to me. They’re even lonelier than my hotel room!”

The list of obsolete hotel design/technology thinking keeps growing.  Yank the in-room phone, sure. Ditto the TV. And definitely shutter the oldfashioned business center.    

Said travel researcher Craig “Buzz” Conroy, “Traditional hotel business centers are not a growth industry and much as the traditional payphone was a mainstay of every hotel lobby from the 5 star to the no tell hotel they are approaching extinction.”



When Was Your Last Real Vacation?

When Was Your Last Real Vacation?


By Robert McGarvey




Research from Funding Circle tells us what we already know: entrepreneurs don’t take much time off. The specific number in their poll is that 17% of entrepreneurs don’t plan any time off this year.  33% plan five days off.

That’s 50% with minimal vacations.

It’s not just entrepreneurs either. Polls say 56% of Americans have not taken a real vacation in the past year.

Many, many employees confess they do not take all the days off we are owed.

We are a vacation deprived people.

Even when we are off duty we are not. Said Funding Circle: “almost 40 percent confess to checking their email multiple times a day when they’re supposed to be checked out.”

I am glad to have Funding Circle’s numbers – even though I loudly disagree with their suggestions about how to deal with this. More on that later.

First, before I throw stones at anyone else I have to confess I have not been on a real vacation since a week in Rome in late 2013. I had a few days at a college reunion in April 2015.  A night in Prescott AZ last winter. A day at a college reunion this year.

That’s about it and that is sad.

I know many others in the same boat.

Partly it’s just that most of us are still struggling to get our finances up to where they were before the Great Recession visited devastation on us.

Partly also it’s that how we work has fundamentally changed and there is no going back,  

I don’t know about you but I am glad to be able to check email anywhere, and also to receive calls just about anywhere.  Twenty years ago when I traveled there always was an unease  that stuff was going on and I did not know what.  There was always an element of dread involved in the return home – what horrors would I discover?

I cannot say I ever found any real horrors – oh, a few unhappy clients and a few opportunities lost because by the time I responded they were gone.

But I much prefer the control – and knowledge – that today’s technology gives me and, if anything, I’d say I now feel much more able to vacation, anywhere, than I did before the Internet and cell phones and WiFi.

That’s why I shiver as I read Funding Circle’s advice to the vacation deprived.  The first suggestion: “Leave your smartphone at home” when you go on vacation.

Absolutely not. I want to be able to see who is calling and to answer those I wish.  In Rome I believe I answered one call and ignored the others. But I was glad for the control the phone gave me (and in fact I carry two phones).

I am on record, by the way, as saying I would not stay at a hotel that had no cellular service.  Yes, there are still some, even in the US. Shiver. If you check into a hotel and find out it has no cellular, check out and refuse to pay any cancellation fees. No cellular is tantamount to no running water or no electricity and, sadly, there remain hotels (resorts mainly) that refuse to spend on signal boosting and leave their guests in a dead zone.

Funding Circle’s second prescription: Travel somewhere without WiFi.

That is just as silly an idea as leaving the smartphone home.  WiFi lets me read news at no real cost, ditto for email, and it is invaluable for mapping, especially in new to me locations. A reason I am a T-Mobile customer is the great deal on data abroad.  

The third piece of advice is: Reserve designated work times.

That is, know how much and when you will work when on vacation. I am behind this completely. And my other advice is: only do what urgently needs doing. If something can be deferred when you are on vacation do so.

Bottomline: technology now will let me comfortably and confidently vacation, more often and to more remote places than ever before. It’s up to me to embrace that opportunity.

So now I’m off to see if there are good Brexit deals on holidays in Belfast, Northern Ireland.