The line separating resorts and business hotels was once as dark and definitive as Ritz-Carlton's panelling. Resorts put their dollars into spas, manicured grounds and luxurious furnishings, and business properties weren't homes-away-from-home so much as branches of the home office.
These days, everyone carries a branch office in their laptop, if not their breast pocket. Executives are far more likely to write a memo poolside than in a business centre. If your business hotel now resembles a vacation hideaway, it's because pampering is the new business amenity. Still, some hotels give the travelling executive even more. It might be instant translation services, or round-the-clock dinner menus for jet-lagged guests or in-room massages and sport-specific trainers.
But the best combine an impeccable location and state-of-the-art facilities with a commitment to service that shifts just about anything into the realm of the possible. A helicopter to the airport? Football tickets for a key client? A live iguana for a business pitch? The best business hotels will make it happen.
Here are the best business hotels in the U.S.
The Best Business Hotel: Mandarin Oriental
New York, 80 Columbus Circle, New York; (212) 805-8800. Expensive.
There may not be anywhere in New York, indoors or outdoors, that feels quite as serene as the 6-year-old Mandarin Oriental, which floats above Central Park in the TimeWarner Center. The 248 rooms and suites start on the 35th floor, rendering traffic noise and other hubbub non-existent, and the layout and subtle Asian decor are designed to maximize tranquillity.
Yet what truly sets the Mandarin apart is its business service. The up-to-the-moment gadgetry - including computer-accessible flat-screen TVs that permit PowerPoint presentations en suite and room phones that provide stock quotes, weather and airline schedules - is backed by an innate understanding of a busy executive's needs. Consider the 24-hour Thomas Pink service offering shirts or blouses, ties and cuff links for the late-arriving CEO with lost bags and an early meeting. Or Polycom speakerphones that provide stereo-system sound on conference calls. Rent two rooms and one can be transformed within minutes into an office: beds and night tables out; desks, fax machine and other equipment in. Personal touches such as current-release books on the night table (custom-selected if a guest's interests are known) and a complimentary running coach to guide the torpid, timid or easily disoriented around Central Park speak to the Mandarin's eagerness to create experiences, not merely play host. And with four floors of shopping and two of the world's great restaurants, Per Se and Masa, an elevator ride away, there's really no reason to leave the building. But if you must, complimentary Town Cars will take you anywhere within 20 blocks, from Lincoln Center to Rockefeller Center.
The Best of the Rest
The Eliot, 370 Commonwealth Ave., Boston; (617) 267-1607. Mid-range.
This 1925 landmark has the feel of a posh townhouse, a superior staff and a nearly perfect location: one block from Newbury Street, two blocks from the Charles River and walking distance to Fenway Park and MIT. Rooms are spacious (79 of the 95 are suites) and full of flat-panel, wireless and cordless amenities. But the bathrooms can be small and some rooms have a dowdy, Yankee Magazine look. A private dining room and the adjacent Harvard Club serve meeting needs, while Ken Oringer's Uni and Clio restaurants just might provide the best in-hotel dining in America.
Four Seasons Las Vegas, 3960 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, Nev.; (702) 632-5000. Mid-range.
Sometimes we appreciate a business hotel because of the constraints under which it operates. In the case of the Four Seasons Las Vegas, it's The Strip, which handcuffs hotels to casinos because they subsidize everything from floor shows to meals. Alone among the big-name properties, the Four Seasons doesn't have one. Instead of blackjack and slot machines, guests get a quiet, uncluttered lobby, fresh flowers at every turn and functional amenities such as a check-in kiosk for major airlines, access to translation and transcription services and a business centre manned around the clock. If you do want to celebrate that new contract with a splurge, the bustling Mandalay Bay and its casino occupy the same building.
The Gansevoort, 18 Ninth Ave., New York; (212) 206-6700. Expensive.