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Goodbye desks: has a major hotel chain misjudged its guests?

Part of what makes a hotel operator great is that managers strive to know exactly what their customers want, and to provide it better than anyone else. But late last year, a number of guests at a major hotel chain were surprised and concerned to see that someone had seen fit to remove something from their rooms that they consider no less than essential: the desk.

Their fears were confirmed by an official announcement from Marriott, stating that guests at the chain’s hotels would no longer be provided with a desk in their rooms.

To many in the business traveller community this is a tone-deaf move that doesn’t take account of how they and others have worked on the move for decades.

The statement from the hotel chain states that the removal of the desks is a way of appealing to the younger generation of guests who prefer to get work done on their phones and tablets.

Of course, this isn’t much use to all those travellers, whether for work or leisure, whether young or old, who much prefer to have a surface that they can sit and work at. Even those who don’t work in their rooms may like having a space to eat at or to place personal possessions on.

The hotel also seems to expect those who really need space for a laptop or for papers to work instead in the lobby or hotel lounge – again, hardly a good solution for many people who work best in a peaceful, private setting.

A Yahoo Sports journalist was one of the first to blog about the change. He wrote, ‘I think [young people] want higher-grade wi-fi, better coffee and a smart television. I doubt they really want to hang out in their room so much there can’t be a desk.’

Marriot’s position has been criticised by many and it’s hard to know if there are many people who really approve of the change.

While hotels, like all businesses, should be open to trying new things, it’s hard not to think this chain has taken a massive misstep in assuming something about a segment of their customers that isn’t necessarily true, and then acting on it to the detriment of their guests – both those who are and are not in that group. Perhaps Marriott’s guests will think again in future and choose to stay with hotels that give them more rather than less!

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