Hotel Club Lounges: Why I Value Them So Much

Hotel Club Lounges: Why I Value Them So Much

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I wanted to dedicate a post to talking about one of my favorite hotel amenities — club lounges. What are they, why do I love them so much, and what does their future look like?

What are hotel club lounges?

Hotel club lounge (also often referred to as executive lounges, concierge lounges, etc.), are lounges within a hotel that offer drinks & snacks throughout the day:

  • Hotel club lounges are generally available to those who specifically pay for a club room (the cost for club access can range from $50 to $500+ per night), and/or hotel loyalty program elite members (though policies vary by hotel)
  • Lounges generally offer complimentary breakfast, and an evening cocktail hour; many club lounges also have snacks throughout the day, ranging from lunch to afternoon tea
  • Many hotels have dedicated club floors, and rooms on these floors may offer additional amenities, ranging from better toiletries, to butler service
  • As you’d expect, the quality and pricing of club lounges can vary greatly
  • Not all hotel brands have club lounges; actually, a majority don’t, though you’ll most commonly find them at properties belonging to the major global hotel chains (especially Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hilton, InterContinental, etc.)
Hyatt Regency Zurich Airport club lounge

There’s huge variance of hotel club lounge quality

Before I share why I like hotel club lounges so much, I wanted to talk a bit about the huge variance in the quality of club lounges, as they’re not all created equal. As a general rule of thumb, here are some considerations that determine how good a club lounge is:

  • The further from the United States (and the closer to Asia) you are, the better the quality of the club lounges
  • The fewer elite members that receive complimentary access to club lounges, the better the quality
  • The more luxurious the hotel brand, the better the quality of the club lounges

On one end of the spectrum, you have your run of the mill Marriott club lounge in the United States, which is generally going to be a pretty unremarkable room, with TVs broadcasting stuff at a high volume (this drives me nuts — is it just me?).

Marriott Newton club lounge seating

In the evening there might be a limited selection of food, plus some pretty not-so-exciting alcohol available for purchase.

Marriott Newton club lounge food
Marriott Newton club lounge drinks

On the other end of the spectrum, you have Ritz-Carlton club lounges in Asia, which are gorgeous rooms with amazing views. The lounges have five food presentations per day, each of which could pass as a full meal. The ambiance is also great, and in some cases you might even have live music in the lounge.

Ritz-Carlton Tokyo club lounge seating
Ritz-Carlton Tokyo club lounge harpist

In terms of food & drinks, you can expect everything from an extensive breakfast buffet, to a lunch buffet, to afternoon tea, to an evening spread with complimentary champagne, cocktails made by bartenders, etc., to a dedicated dessert selection.

Ritz-Carlton Tokyo club lounge afternoon tea
Ritz-Carlton Tokyo club lounge bar

So yeah, all club lounges aren’t created equal. It’s no different than the variance in business class quality when flying — Lufthansa’s intra-Europe business class is a far cry from Qatar Airways’ Qsuites.

Where I see the value in hotel club lounges

Frequent hotel guests have varying takes on hotel club lounges. The most common argument against hotel club lounges is that people want to go out to eat & drink in a city, rather than being in a hotel. That’s totally fair, especially for city hotels (though it’s a different story at resorts).

I have a different take on club lounges. For me, the value isn’t in the food as such. After all, I usually get breakfast included (either on account of my hotel elite status, or by booking through a program like Virtuoso).

Nonetheless I greatly value good club lounges, and will go out of my way to stay at hotels with them. Why? Well, I’m fortunate in that I can work from anywhere, but I also don’t really take full vacations where I disconnect.

To me, a good hotel club lounge can add a lot of value. First and foremost, a club lounge is an ideal place to get some work done, in my opinion. Often hotels don’t have great desk setups in rooms, and for that matter when I’m jetlagged, I try to stay outside of my room as much as possible, so that I’m not tempted to sleep.

Mainly hotels simply aren’t set up with a lot of public spaces where you can work in a comfortable and relatively quiet environment. They might either have loud lobbies full of people sitting there waiting for their room to be ready, or they have food & beverage outlets, where you feel a bit uncomfortable sitting for hours while just ordering a coffee.

It’s nice to have a quiet place from which to work

Beyond that, though I enjoy club lounges for a variety of reasons:

  • They’re generally located on the top floors of a hotel, so more often than not boast good views
  • It’s a great place to grab a coffee or soft drink any hour of the day, so you can’t beat the convenience and cost savings of that
  • Even in a city, there’s something really nice about enjoying a pre-dinner drink in a familiar surrounding and with a great view
  • At resorts I do get significant value out of the food & drinks, since this can help save you money you’d otherwise spend on-property

The challenging economics of hotel club lounges

During the pandemic we saw many hotels close their club lounges, initially due to lack of demand, then due to lack of staffing, and then because they decided that the economics of reopening them didn’t make sense. As we emerge from the pandemic, we’re seeing many hotel owners try to increase margins and reduce costs. There are many fully operational, consistently full hotels, that still haven’t opened their club lounges. Many of us can’t help but wonder whether that’s permanent.

I think that gets at the economics of club lounges. For club lounges belonging to properties of major hotel groups, where select elite members receive complimentary access, there’s an obvious challenge:

  • For lots of hotels, club lounges are cost centers, since they’re offered to elite members as a way to reward them for their loyalty and to get them to stay at that brand
  • Hotels have had the challenge of dealing with an ever-increasing number of elite members, given that hotel elite status has become so much easier to earn over time thanks to credit cards
  • This causes a lot of hotels to offer watered down food & drink choices compared to lounges that are only accessible on a paid basis
  • The fact that these lounges don’t have great quality also means that non-elite members are less likely to pay for access, further exacerbating the issue of these lounges being cost centers

Generally speaking, I think Ritz-Carlton club lounges are the gold standard when it comes to a major hotel group with consistent club lounges. The catch? Marriott Bonvoy elite members don’t receive free access to these lounges, and as a result, they’re much higher quality than what you’d find at other brands.

Cocktails at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island club lounge

It’s interesting that most other luxury hotel groups, from Four Seasons, to Mandarin Oriental, to Rosewood, don’t offer club lounges at most properties (though there are some exceptions).

As much as I hate to say it, I think the best days of club lounges might just be behind us, as we increasingly see hotel owners try to get out of reopening these lounges, as a way to save on costs.

Bottom line

Personally I’m a huge fan of hotel club lounges. Admittedly the quality varies significantly around the globe, though there are some common themes depending on the part of the world you’re in, and how many people have access to it.

For me a club lounge isn’t about having a place to pig out (though that can be fun at times!), but rather about having a pleasant space from which to work, which is something that many hotels otherwise lack. Access to everything from coffee to soft drinks throughout the day is pretty great as well, and I don’t mind the food presentations either. 😉

I’m curious to see how club lounges evolve over time — I fear they might not have a bright feature on the whole, given how many hotel owners are trying to cut costs, combined with the increasing number of hotel elite members.

Where do you stand on hotel club lounges? What do you think the future holds for them? And to fellow hotel club lounge enthusiasts, what’s your favorite lounge you’ve visited?

Conversations (32)
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  1. Steven Guest

    I've been Accor Platinum for four (admittedly pandemic-afflicted) years, and think I've used a club lounge about twice. I'm glad to see that other people get good value out of them, but I'm someone who packs in 15-hour days (work hard, play hard) and simply don't have time to lounge around. I guess I'm the ideal elite customer for hotels because I never ask for upgrades, don't go near the lounge, usually have breakfast meetings...

    I've been Accor Platinum for four (admittedly pandemic-afflicted) years, and think I've used a club lounge about twice. I'm glad to see that other people get good value out of them, but I'm someone who packs in 15-hour days (work hard, play hard) and simply don't have time to lounge around. I guess I'm the ideal elite customer for hotels because I never ask for upgrades, don't go near the lounge, usually have breakfast meetings elsewhere, charge everything to my company, and am easily placated with points.

  2. Fred Guest

    The Fairmont Gold Lounges are nicely laid out, and have a good selection of food and beverages.

  3. ClubLoungeEnthusiast Guest

    I've been waiting for someone to do a post ranking the best Ritz Club Lounges around the world. Might as well do posts for each brand's club lounges, actually. Ben - looks like a job for you!

  4. Bruno Guest

    One of the greatest non-status “club” lounges is the Shangri-La Valley Wing in Singapore, where they serve unlimited Veuve Clicquot champagne and cocktails from noon till 10pm, and also afternoon tea, evening cocktails and one of the best breakfasts in Singapore.

    During the pandemic it was sometimes possible to book a night for about 250 USD via OTA’s, which was amazing value. Especially given the Singapore alcohol prices ;)
    Now rates have increased but...

    One of the greatest non-status “club” lounges is the Shangri-La Valley Wing in Singapore, where they serve unlimited Veuve Clicquot champagne and cocktails from noon till 10pm, and also afternoon tea, evening cocktails and one of the best breakfasts in Singapore.

    During the pandemic it was sometimes possible to book a night for about 250 USD via OTA’s, which was amazing value. Especially given the Singapore alcohol prices ;)
    Now rates have increased but it can still be a good deal. Guess the value will only get worse once the mainland China borders fully re-open.

  5. hmmmm Guest

    I also find lounges to be a great place to just hangout with friends, especially during off peak times. Nice to be able to have a place at the hotel to have some coffee/juice/whatever to chat about what we want to do later. Usually bring my laptop to get some stuff done. Usually quiet when it's not happyhour/breakfast as well, which is really nice.

  6. iamhere Guest

    You correctly point out the the three main points -
    One is brands that you get the lounge included tend to be overcrowded and the offerings "run of the mill." It is one thing to have normal offerings but it is another to be tacky and charge for drinks!
    Two is location. Generally in Asia the lounges are more luxurious - even some Courtyards in Asia have decent lounges!
    Third that lounges...

    You correctly point out the the three main points -
    One is brands that you get the lounge included tend to be overcrowded and the offerings "run of the mill." It is one thing to have normal offerings but it is another to be tacky and charge for drinks!
    Two is location. Generally in Asia the lounges are more luxurious - even some Courtyards in Asia have decent lounges!
    Third that lounges vary a lot by brand and location. If you find the lounge important reading various reviews beforehand is important.

  7. CasualTravel Guest

    I’d be hard-pressed to spend more than $50-60 per person for club access. It’s nice to have but I could never see myself eating more than 1 meal in there, and even a nice lounge doesn’t typically compare to the on-site restaurants.

  8. Jesper Guest

    All the issues with poor lounges, alcohol at a charge, and lounges not reopening after the pandemic is mainly a US thing. The rest of the world are getting along just fine with reopened lounges and solid offerings. Not just Asia, but really the world minus North America and Mexico are doing just fine when it comes to lounges....

  9. Mantis Guest

    One great benefit of lounges is that you can avoid breakfast with the hordes of families with loud, out of control kids putting their grubby fingers on the buffet food and watching obnoxious videos without headphones at full blast...and in Asia avoiding most of the rude loud pushy mainland Chinese. It's not about race, it's about their culture. HK and Taiwanese are easy to distinguish from mainlanders.

    1. Mantis Guest

      This Don bozo intellectual has obviously never been out of his home state. Glad I triggered your delicate sensibilities.

      Its a simple fact, mainland Chinese are the worst. It is objective truth in case you've never experienced them. And like I said, "Mainland China" is a country, not a race. I pointed out as such that Chinese from other countries behave very differently. I'm sure you'd happily criticize American tourists. But you're showing yourself to...

      This Don bozo intellectual has obviously never been out of his home state. Glad I triggered your delicate sensibilities.

      Its a simple fact, mainland Chinese are the worst. It is objective truth in case you've never experienced them. And like I said, "Mainland China" is a country, not a race. I pointed out as such that Chinese from other countries behave very differently. I'm sure you'd happily criticize American tourists. But you're showing yourself to be obviously what you accuse me of:
      hateful, violent, and helplessly stupid. Seek professional help. Oh, and may you be stuck in a hotel full of mainland Chinese tourists. Enjoy yourself.

    2. Kp Guest

      Wow, you should probably just stay out of China and Asia altogether with a racist attitude like that.

    3. Mantis Guest

      I do stay out of mainland China. And I'm not racist, you buffoon, I'm just not blind and willfully ignorant. Everyone who has experience dealing with mainland Chinese tourists knows what I'm talking about. Like I said, it has nothing to do with race, it's about the ccp driven culture, which is why ppl from Taiwan and HK are totally different. but you little fragile snowflakes just can't wait to take offense on behalf of someone else, can you?

    4. Mantits Guest

      Nah, sounds pretty racist dude. Maybe just say you don't like rude tourists, don't have to point out where they from.

      If you truly travel much, you would see every country has rude or polite people.

    5. Coronado Guest

      From how angrily you responded to being politely called out, you sound like the fragile, pale snowflake here. Even called him a buffoon! It's just part of America-driven culture to be so hateful and violent, I suppose. You're clearly insecure and easily frightened. Maybe see a therapist.

    6. Amerloque Guest

      The worst tourists I have encountered in Asia are the British and Americans. Not only are they arrogant but they are also basically there to abuse the locals and sex tourism...

    7. Asian Century Guest

      FYI, this comment was linked to by a male ethno-hate Internet group, prepare for lively debate.

  10. Joe Murf Guest

    We were at the Short HillS Hilton last Friday at 2 pm. Our room was on the Exec Floor.
    Lounge closed weekends.
    Why?

  11. Rob Guest

    I’ve never understood how club level check-in works. I like it in theory, but when I arrive I’m usually guided to the desk. Should I ask them to transfer me to the club or what’s the best approach?

  12. SSS Guest

    Generally the service (check in, concierge, etc) is superior in the Club Lounge too. Shangri-La is another chain that excels at Lounges.

  13. CMorgan Guest

    I completely agree that the lounges in Asia are of a much higher quality than those in the US. Recently stayed at the Conrad Manila, Sheraton Manila Bay, Sheraton MNL and the Manila Marriott. All had wonderful lounge experiences

  14. pstm91 Diamond

    There are actually more Four Seasons with Club lounges than you think.

    1. Motion to Dismiss Member

      I’m curious which you know of. I was shocked when I got upgraded to a suite with club access at the Four Seasons Buenos Aires in April, since I didn’t even know they had a club lounge. It was a small open space with a balcony and complimentary charcuterie/beer/wine/snacks. So nothing fancy but I still appreciated it!

  15. Fred Guest

    I find the lounge a good place to meet up with traveling companions before going out. For instance, I will often get up and shower in the morning and meet-up with traveling companions in the lounge when they are ready as well. I then can have some coffee and review emails and the daily news, usually with a nice view, and my traveling companion can get ready at their leisure. We do the same thing...

    I find the lounge a good place to meet up with traveling companions before going out. For instance, I will often get up and shower in the morning and meet-up with traveling companions in the lounge when they are ready as well. I then can have some coffee and review emails and the daily news, usually with a nice view, and my traveling companion can get ready at their leisure. We do the same thing in the evening, only with wine instead of coffee. I missed not having lounges last year.

  16. PatrickK Guest

    I traveled throughout Asia the summer of 2018. I stayed at only Hiltons and one Ritz Carlton. I could not believe the quality of the Hilton lounges, where I could easily have two full and satisfying meals a day and avoid the torture of trying to, for example, as a westerner order from a Chinese menu in a quality restaurant. I only wish that the same brand had offered me a small fraction of that...

    I traveled throughout Asia the summer of 2018. I stayed at only Hiltons and one Ritz Carlton. I could not believe the quality of the Hilton lounges, where I could easily have two full and satisfying meals a day and avoid the torture of trying to, for example, as a westerner order from a Chinese menu in a quality restaurant. I only wish that the same brand had offered me a small fraction of that experience. And why now are shabby lounges like the JFK Hilton’s still not open to offer elite members their lettuce leaves when all they have done — and continue to do since the start of the Pandemic —is bank money on depriving us housekeeping services and dining benefits?

  17. rdover1 Guest

    I love the ritz lounges, but when looking at the value, typically the rate is +$400/night for Club level which means you need to enjoy a lot of the amenities to cover that.

  18. Lucy Jones Guest

    Agree with you re lounges in Asia.
    I have very fond memories of Icon Hotel in Honk Kong and its delightful food and free flowing champagne

  19. Anthony Diamond

    When the Courtyard next door gets a higher room rate than the Marriott, and the Marriott offers a lounge while the Courtyard does not, it illustrates the issue

  20. Omar Guest

    The one major pitfall of club lounges is that it discourages you from exploring the city's restaurants and bars.

  21. Andy Diamond

    I think there are hotels (in particular those with relatively few elite members, e.g. Melia) who see it as something like a half-board. Yes, you pay for half-board, but probably a bit less than what you would pay for a la carte dining, given that the range of food items and hence the stock they need to maintain is limited. Others, unfortunately, see it more as a cost center ...

  22. Kanaka Member

    One perk of value to me regarding club lounges is having a place to hang out and work or nibble before my room is ready or after I need to check out of my room. There have been times when I arrived early in the morning in Asia or Europe when they gave me a key for the club lounge which I used until my room was ready. There were also times when I checked...

    One perk of value to me regarding club lounges is having a place to hang out and work or nibble before my room is ready or after I need to check out of my room. There have been times when I arrived early in the morning in Asia or Europe when they gave me a key for the club lounge which I used until my room was ready. There were also times when I checked out at 4pm and was allowed to hang out in the club room for hours before heading to the airport for a late night flight.

    I've had somewhat good luck with Ritz Carlton hotels giving me club access, but only when I was upgraded to a club level room/suite. (Bonvoy Titanium)

    1. SB Guest

      Don, buddy, I'm with you...Mantis is a d**k. But trolling every comment on here? Why feed the animals??

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Mantis Guest

One great benefit of lounges is that you can avoid breakfast with the hordes of families with loud, out of control kids putting their grubby fingers on the buffet food and watching obnoxious videos without headphones at full blast...and in Asia avoiding most of the rude loud pushy mainland Chinese. It's not about race, it's about their culture. HK and Taiwanese are easy to distinguish from mainlanders.

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Kanaka Member

One perk of value to me regarding club lounges is having a place to hang out and work or nibble before my room is ready or after I need to check out of my room. There have been times when I arrived early in the morning in Asia or Europe when they gave me a key for the club lounge which I used until my room was ready. There were also times when I checked out at 4pm and was allowed to hang out in the club room for hours before heading to the airport for a late night flight. I've had somewhat good luck with Ritz Carlton hotels giving me club access, but only when I was upgraded to a club level room/suite. (Bonvoy Titanium)

2
Kp Guest

Wow, you should probably just stay out of China and Asia altogether with a racist attitude like that.

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