Hotels within airports – terminal decline?

The US leads the world in most metrics in the hospitality field be it number of hotel rooms, brands, concepts (boutiques), technology and a host of other areas. But when it comes to hotels within airport terminal buildings, the US is near or at the bottom of worldwide rankings. There are instances such as the Hyatt at DFW airport but even those are outside the actual terminal building and, thus far, there is no hotel for international travelers in transit at any US airport.

The Washington Times has an article entitled "Hotels just steps away from airport gates". The article notes that ''it's puzzling why in the United States, one of the most lucrative travel
markets in the world, the concept of airport transit hotels is so
foreign. There are signs that may be changing, but current plans seem
more like baby steps than bold decision-making." The "baby steps" the writer refers to is a concept launched in Atlanta's Hartsfield International airport called "Minute Suites".

Not quite a hotel but each "suite" comes with "equipped with a comfortable daybed sofa, pillows
and fresh blankets. A sound masking system within each suite helps
neutralize noise and a unique “napware” audio program is available to
help deliver a refreshing powernap." Other hotel-like features include an alarm clock (or request a wake-up call) and a
HDTV that"converts to a computer with access to the Internet and the airport's flight tracking system. besides a desk, phone, and office chair." There is also access to the airport's WiFi or a direct connection port.

Nevertheless, as a founder of Minute Suites notes in the article, they "are not a hotel." But there is a threshold reason for the US being such a laggard in the field; which is that the US's Department of Homeland Security suspended (indefinitely) in 2003 two programs " Transit Without Visa program (TWOV) and the International-to-International transit program
(ITI)" due to which it is unviable if not impossible to develop hotels within airport terminal buildings of the kind seen in Hong Kong's Regal hotel at Chek Lap Kok or Singapore's Ambassador at Changi airport, both more likely to overwhelm guests for convenience  rather than hospitality. Until (and it may well be years) the US permits transit travel without clearing customs and immigration hotels within terminal buildings likely never will be built.

Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.