Why do Hotel Executive Lounges suck in the USA?

Any visitor with elite status at a full service hotel like a Marriott or Hilton has undoubtedly visited the Executive Lounge. Supposedly an escape from the monotony that most full service hotels exhibit, the lounges have been slowly reduced over time to nothing more than a repurposed suite with the bedroom furniture removed.

Executive lounges outside of the USA tend to provide a high level of service. The food is plentiful, drinks flow freely, and service is top notch. But go to an executive lounge in the USA and you’ll find nothing more than packaged snacks, dirty tables, and employees who rarely feel empowered to do anything special for you.

Radisson Executive Lounge

Radisson Executive Lounge

Our first foray into the world of crappy executive lounges was at the Sheraton Airport in Cleveland, OH. The hotel promised “homemade desserts” prepared from our executive chef. What we got in return was prepackaged cookies with a shelf life of over a year.

We asked the chef what was going on and the orders were from management to stop providing the higher-cost service because the guests didn’t ask for it nor demand it. It just wasn’t needed to be competitive.

Cookies and Merengues (Not the cookies we were given)

We’ve been to dozens of executive lounges in the USA and all seem to be a carbon copy of the next. 

Not enough competition

See, here’s the thing about hotels in the USA. Especially business hotels in the USA. They know they’ve got your business. Chances are that you’re traveling for work and the boss is picking up the tab. The executive lounge is there as a perk for being Gold, Platinum, Diamond, or whatever level your hotel chain requires to you be at for access.

But, they’ve got you. You’re a captive audience. You aren’t going to head to another hotel because you value that loyalty so much. It gets worse if that hotel is the only game in town. If there isn’t any competition then why bother.

Nines Hotel Portland Club Lounge

Club Lounge

International Shining Stars

Overseas the clientele is more demanding. There are dozens of options in every major city. Just think of how many 5 star hotels there are in Paris vying for your business. London, Vienna, Rome, Stockholm all fall into the same category. If that hotel doesn’t step up their game, you’re going to bounce to the one next to it. Also, business travelers that conduct business overseas typically pay a much higher per-night rate. Having those ancillary benefits is crucial to winning over customers.

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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  1. Ritz club lounges in the US still do a good job. I get they’re different and can’t be accessed via status.

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    • That exclusivity might be the saving grace for Ritz

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  2. Most Intercontinental US Lounges are good. I’ve had good experiences at Renaissance hotel lounges and some others. They do vary a lot but so do non-USA lounges. I think over the longest run (30+ years I’ve had the best consistent experiences at Sheraton lounges in the USA but they may be changes since the Bonvoy effect.

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  3. Absolutely agree! The Asian markets tend to have great lounge experiences, particularly the customer service.

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