Oct 9 2008

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Smaller-city hotel options for business travel

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The Four Points by Sheraton San Rafael offers value for business travel and an ideal location near San Francisco and Napa
By Lena Katz

I’m all for cities — the bigger, the better. But the problem with obvious big-city business destinations (Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, etc.) is that they’re pretty much guaranteed the corporate dollar, and the hotels sting business travelers accordingly every time. Smaller cities, on the other hand, are just like the Avis ad campaign: they try harder. The hotels are better value, the service can be nicer, and they just seem happier to have you. They may not be in the heart of the action, but it’s usually just a few minutes away. Here are a few recently opened properties that I’d recommend to meeting planners or solo road warriors.

Instead of a San Francisco hotel, try …

Four Points by Sheraton, San Rafael

The City by the Bay has a permanent reputation for being hip, fun, and ghastly expensive no matter what time of year. In business trip terms, this means $400 a night for a Lombard/downtown/Union Square hotel with excellent views of crazy, sign-wielding Armageddon-preaching homeless people. Awesome! Next time, take yourself and your meeting a half-hour north to this new luxe business hotel in a busy tech-powered mini-city. A reputable brand in all locations, Sheraton has done a particularly good job with this property, even installing a fine dining restaurant. Plus the location has the unspoken but major secondary benefit of being about 15 minutes from Napa, land of 600 wineries.

Instead of a San Jose hotel, try …

Intercontinental Clement Monterey

This hotel is a Zenned-out haven in the middle one of the most chaotic tourist traps in California. Has to be seen to be believed. There you are, in the middle of Cannery Row, with people and cars and shops coming from every direction — walk in the doors of the Clement, and zzzzing! Sophistication. Style. Quiet!  Typically San Jose is the meeting/convention destination, while Carmel/Pebble Beach golf resorts draw the incentive/retreat traffic…but the Clement is something of a switch-hitter, with the spa/lounge features of a Pebble Creek resort, and the meeting/corporate capabilities of a Silicon Valley conventioneer hotel. The fact that it’s within walking distance of the Aquarium and the Taste of Monterey wine attraction and about sixty zillion shops and restaurants doesn’t hurt.

Instead of Manhattan hotels, try …

Nu Hotel Brooklyn

Okay, I must be honest. I loooove Manhattan and want to marry it. However that city is not a cheap date. So I urge all regular NYC travelers to check out this "nu" hotel in a neighboring borough. It’s boutique-style, with chic loft-inspired style and a fun, friendly vibe. You actually might strike up a conversation with the people having cocktails next to you in the bar and end up having dinner together. Probably in Manhattan, having taken the subway in for the evening, but that is not the point! What is, is that when you’ve had your big night out, you can come back to your cozy Nu Friends Suite (the name of the mid-size room, NOT my encouragement to take your night to the next level, what were you thinking?) and get 3 hours of sleep for a fraction of what you’d pay for it in Chelsea.

Instead of Phoenix hotels, try …

Intercontinental Montelucia, Scottsdale

Oh, who are we kidding? Anyone who can go to Scottsdale over Phoenix, does. Here’s a new hotel (rather, re-flagged, was formerly La Posada) to check out next time you’re lucky enough to get a corporate-sponsored Scottsdale retreat. The Montelucia (say it with a lisp; it’s Spanish-inspired, not Mexican). Having been renovated and re-imagined to the tune of a cool $250 million, this property marries Moorish architectural influences and super-luxe self-contained desert resort style. Five pools, seven restaurant/bar offerings, a destination spa spanning nearly 3000 square feet … and it opens later this fall, so you’ll be the first to get a look at it.

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Lena Katz lives on the Left Coast and writes about tropical islands, beach clubs and food, but her heart belongs to NYC.

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