Removing desks in guestrooms?

Colleen Isherwood.

Colleen Isherwood.

I love most of the transformations that have taken place in hotels over the past 10 years — more friendly lobbies, grab and go meals, more plug-ins in guestrooms, pops of colour, bigger better televisions and more.

But I’m less than enamoured with the idea of eliminating desks from guestrooms.

Scott Anderson, president of High Country Hospitality, expressed my sentiments exactly. At 75, he acknowledges that he may not quite fit in the millennial category all the hotels seem to be courting these days, but he takes issue with hotels that have taken the work desks out of all their guestrooms.

“I’m 75 years old. I can’t sit on the floor and boot up my laptop. Don’t take all the desks out,” Anderson told the Editors and Experts Panel at the Vantage Hospitality conference late last year.

“Is the hotel industry going overboard?” asked Stephanie Ricca of HotelNewsNow.com, part of the same panel. “The industry overcompensates and over-generalizes. The early adopters take out the desk or get a standing desk.”

David Eisen, editor of Hotel Management and Hotel Design Quarterly, said millennials are not a homogeneous group. “They’re individuals. Anyone who builds with only millennials in mind is short-sighted,” he told the panel. 

And Vikram Singh, hotelier, blogger and consultant, noted, “You can’t just gut the property to one standard.”

To be clear, Marriott is not removing desks from hotel rooms, said Matthew Carroll, vice president of the Marriott brand.“What we are doing is we’re trying to evolve how those work surfaces are implemented in the guestroom,” Carroll said recently on Skift.com. 

“It’s not about eliminating desks. It’s about how you evolve, how that work surface gets implemented. How do you respond to that guest who is much more untethered, much more movable?”

Holiday Inn Express has also introduced its “Formula Blue” design concept, featuring more streamlined rooms, that launched last year. As part of that concept, IHG looked at whether it should move away from the traditional desk, according to Jennifer Gribble, vice-president, Americas, Holiday Inn Express.

Holiday Inn Express’ research included  two model rooms — one of which had a desk, and one that didn’t. Guests walking through the rooms revealed a lot of dissatisfaction with the room that didn’t have a desk. 

So, why not treat the desk versus no desk situation the same way as the shower versus bath situation — keep some rooms for the people who still like baths or desks. 

Here’s my take. Millennials are important, but the baby boomers are still a sizeable group. The United States census  numbers released last June said millennials, those born between 1982 and 2000, number 83.1 million. Their size exceeds that of the baby boomers, which is 75.4 million — not an insignificant number.  And what about Generation X?

I am a boomer. Travel — both business and leisure — is a huge part of my plans over the next 20-30 years. 

I could probably manage without a desk on a leisure trip. And I have become quite good at juggling a laptop (with a mouse and mousepad) on a plane or at one of those hightop desks with plug-ins found in airports or hotel lobbies. I have even learned to write whole stories on my iPhone.

But I’d still like a desk in my room, please.