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Hotels offering more perks to federal travelers

Jun. 8, 2012 - 12:47PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments

The Hilton Hotel in San Francisco’s financial district offers a variety of amenities for federal travelers, including a fitness room, wireless Internet and meeting spaces.

But in late 2010, the hotel began offering a more unusual service for feds: an electric vehicle charging station, which is the first commercially available charging station in the city and is available for the price of parking in the garage, according to Jason Beckham, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.

Across the country, hotels are reaching out to travelers and attracting new business by offering a wide range of amenities, according to government travel experts.

One of the most reliably popular freebies for feds is free breakfast, said Ted Lawson, president of Charleston, W. Va.-based National Travel, which helps manage travel for federal agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“That’s the amenity that always stands out for most government travelers,” Lawson said. “People will ask about them.”

Lawson said hotels are increasingly offering more perks to feds who used to be more limited in their hotel selection but can now stay at three- or four-star hotels.

“Hotels are always very creative, and they are always looking for new items,” he said.

Travelers also increasingly demand wireless Internet access, according to a January survey released by hotels.com. For more than 38 percent of travelers, the availability of free Wi-Fi affected their choice of hotel.

“Many guests never travel without their tablets, smartphones and laptops,” said Taylor Cole, a spokesman for hotels.com. “It’s as intuitive as packing a toothbrush.”

Survey respondents also said their favorite new amenities are free food and drink events at hotels, including receptions, breakfasts and happy hours.

Goran Gligorovic, executive vice president at Omega World Travel Inc., whose customers include the Justice and Treasury departments, said hotels are offering a wider range of amenities as a way to market themselves to federal travelers — including pet services.

Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, which owns about 50 hotels across the country, allows federal employees traveling on per diem to bring a pet of any size, shape or breed for no extra cost.

Gligorovic said pet services are becoming more common at hotels as a way to build loyalty and repeat business.

But he said the big winner among federal employees is free food — and lots of it.

“We see a lot of hotels offering amenities such as free breakfast, afternoon receptions and free parking,” Gligorovic said.

He said federal travelers will search out and take advantage of free breakfasts, afternoon snacks and complimentary dinners in order to save on per diems.

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