Business trip: Mexico City
Thanks to recent improvements in air quality, residents can now see the mountains that ring Mexico City. (Mexico City Tourism)
Despite headlines about drug-related violence along its northern border, Mexico’s capital is quietly evolving into a modern, cosmopolitan and convenient city that will surprise visitors who arrive with pre-conceived notions.
For business travellers with adventurous palates, Mexico City’s vibrant dining scene recently had the Wall Street Journal wondering if it could be “the world’s greatest food city”. Its dynamic and diverse stock of hotels also provides something for every business travel budget, from sparkling five-star skyscrapers to minimalist or historical luxury boutiques. Due to its geographically convenient north-meets-south location, Mexico City now ranks as one of the top 10 destinations in the world for large international congresses and conventions.
Over the last two decades, Mexico City (known locally as “the DF”, short for Distrito Federal) has instituted tough controls on both industrial and automobile pollution. It built one of the largest, most frequently used (and least expensive) Metro systems in the world. There is even a popular bicycle-sharing program in the city centre. As a result, pollution has been cut in half since the early 1990s, and on most days you can once again see the volcanic peaks that ring the city, situated in a valley about 2,200m above sea level. At that altitude, summer temperatures rarely exceed a temperate 27C, and winters are cold but not freezing.
Aeromexico dominates the scene at Benito Juarez International Airport’s bright and modern Terminal 2, which handles all international flights. The national carrier now offers nonstop flights to cities as distant as Shanghai or Paris, and teams up well with SkyTeam partner Delta Air Lines for service to or from the US. Aeromexico also offers business class passengers an airy airport lounge with a spa, free wi-fi and a generous selection of tequilas from across the country. Rumours continue to swirl that Mexicana, the country’s former second major airline, could soon return from bankruptcy, but for now, they remain just rumours.
The classiest (and cosiest) address for business travellers in the DF is currently Las Alcobas, a small seven-storey, 35-room hotel nestled among the chic boutiques and leafy European-style outdoor cafes along Avenida Masaryk in the upscale colonia (neighbourhood) of Polanco. In a nice touch, Las Alcobas also offers complimentary wi-fi and minibars.
In Mexico City, it is common practice for business travellers to meet with clients and colleagues at the city’s big hotels instead of their offices, and that is exactly what you will find at the Four Seasons on the Paseo de la Reforma, the city’s most famous boulevard. This long-time business traveller favourite is known for its peaceful Spanish-colonial style courtyard, where executives dine among fountains, palms and bougainvillea as the district bustles outside. Nearby, the brand new 189-room St Regis hotel has a modern and commanding presence in a new 31-storey glass and steel tower.
The imposing 42-storey Presidente InterContinental Mexico City (named Mexico’s leading hotel in 2010 and 2011 by the World Travel Awards) offers some of the biggest rooms with the best views in the city. Its massive, buzzy, recently renovated lobby is frequently packed with a mix of business travellers and locals that are there to see and be seen.
The trendy 25-storey W hotel in Polanco dominates the edgier side of the DF hotel scene. Although it opened almost 10 years ago (with cherry red and white rooms with floor-to-ceiling bathroom windows), the hip lobby bar and restaurant still packs ‘em in with DJ-hosted parties and sponsored events.