JW takes another step

February 15, 2009
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Today’s traveling business people utilize personal laptops and wireless technology, and are more apt to work in their rooms than in a hotel’s business center.

“The typical business centers in hotels are slowly being underutilized because of wireless services,” said George Aquino, general manager of the Grand Rapids JW Marriott. “Guests can actually print everything at the front desk. The business center is not being utilized as much as it used to be, because of that changing culture within the hotel and technology.”

So the JW has come up with new ways to use its large business center space, starting with the installation of three Walkstations by Details, a Steelcase company.

The Walkstation looks something like a treadmill connected to a height adjustable desk — and to the average user, that is pretty much what it is. The Walkstation, however, tops out at a speed of 2 miles per hour. In order to maintain such low speeds, the Walkstation uses a special motor, because a typical treadmill would burn out if continually operated at that low speed.

The Grand Rapids JW is the first hotel in the world to install the Walkstations. Aquino said the Walkstation stood out to him at the 2008 NeoCon, a world-wide office furniture trade show.

“We have this beautiful space right in the main lobby with nice furnishings from Steelcase already,” said Aquino. “When we went to NeoCon last summer, we saw the Walkstation and saw the benefits if we added that to our business center.”

Aquino said he hopes the move to add the Walkstations will help raise awareness of the product and of its local connection, and provide a renewed interest in the hotel’s business center.

“What we’re really excited about with this Walkstation, being the first (hotel) in the world to offer it I hope would stimulate some conversations about what’s going on in Grand Rapids and also promote the hotel, as well,” he said.

The JW also rents out the business center space to companies, which sometimes use it to conduct interviews. “A lot of our medical companies, pharmaceutical companies, like to use that for interviewing,” he said, adding that the hotel has found other uses for the space.

“We’ve been utilizing that as an additional banquet space or meeting space where they can (have) their own privacy in that room, and then go outside and get some soft seating in there. Sometimes you don’t need a big meeting room, but you do need the privacy. The business center works very well for that use.”

During the recent Religious Conference Management Association convention, the JW used the business center as a VIP lounge area and stocked it with coffee, water and fresh fruit.

“There’s a thousand square feet in there,” he said. “We’re trying to maximize on this space.”

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