A while back Lonely Planet posed the question on their Facebook page: “What sort of shop or service would you like to see more of in airports?” Having been to a lot of airports in my years (and having recently worked for a chain of duty free shops), my mind immediately started racing. Movie theaters, libraries, lounges for the non-elite… Then it struck me. Someone else had suggested arcades. “Eh,” I thought, “I’m not much of an arcade person. I much prefer board games…” Oh, a place to rent board games! No… wait…
My brain tossed and turned, combining ideas until the most amazing solution came to my mind: a Traveler’s Club. It’s a lounge, like all those elite airline lounges, except nothing like them. Perhaps there is a small membership fee, $15 or $20 a year, or a one-time visit fee of maybe $5-10. It’s nothing fancy, no big leather couches and fancy workstations. Maybe there’s free/cheap wifi, maybe there isn’t. That’s not the point of this lounge. The point of this lounge is similar to the underlying point of hostels (besides price): to meet people. It’s really more of a social club.
When you’re traveling solo (or even with the same person or people you always travel with) it can get a bit boring. There are plenty of people in the airport in the same predicament, but it would be a bit weird to walk around looking for them and trying to strike up a conversation. So just head to the Traveler’s Club lounge. Inside you can chill at a (probably a bit tattered) table or group of chairs. You can borrow a board game or deck of cards from the front desk and play a mind-bending game of Scrabble, a manipulative match of Monopoly, or a laughter-inducing round of Cranium. This isn’t like those other lounges, silent and cold, this is a place to be a bit loud and talkative and have fun. Maybe they even sell beer and soda (at a slightly cheaper price than everyone else in the over-priced airport).
The Traveler’s Club is about making connections and having fun. Why do layovers and early check-ins have to be so boring, quiet and miserable? Now I know it’s not cheap to get a space in the airport, which of course presents a problem for this sort of idea. But really, does that have to be a problem? If enough people join, if enough people buy drinks and snacks, even if they charge small amounts for wifi and borrowing board games/cards/books/etc., could they possibly make money? I think so. If all the major airports had them (and especially some of the medium-sized ones too), this could be big. Why not?
Hostels do pretty well down the street from big fancy hotels, why can’t a “hostel-lounge” do well right down the terminal from Elite Airlines’ Gold Room? Imagine, if it got big enough they could really go all out: a TV room with movie screenings (or even just so you can watch something besides hours of CNN), a small cafe serving those cheap, beloved “backpacker” meals (or bread and jam breakfasts – haha!), maybe even an actual adjoining hostel with beds for those nights you’d otherwise be stuck sleeping on the airport floor.
Though it probably shouldn’t become too hostel-ish; it should attract a variety of people. Nobody should be doing tequila shots or anything. But wouldn’t it be cool to just go sit and have a chat, chill out with some cool fellow travelers? Whether it’s a 35-year-old guy on a business trip who wants to just relax for a bit, a 19-year-old girl on her first trip abroad, or someone in between, the Traveler’s Club could have mass appeal.
What do you think? Would you pay a bit to join or enter this kind of “lounge” on your next extended stay at an airport?