Business trip: Vancouver
Catch a seaplane to Victoria from the new Vancouver Harbour Flight Center near downtown. (Chris McGinnis)
Contemporary, sophisticated and casual Vancouver is one of those cities where business travellers are likely to hear a little voice inside their head repeating, “You know, you could live here.”
In September, Vancouver was named the “World’s Most Reputable City” by the Copenhagen-based Reputation Institute, based on a survey of nearly 18,000 people from eight of the world's largest industrialized nations. They scored it highest for effective administration, adequate transportation infrastructure, adherence to progressive social, economic and environmental policies, and the best overall city in which to live and work.
Even though it clings to the wild, watery, western edge of Canada, Vancouver is a cosmopolitan, compact and walkable city, with breathtaking views in nearly every direction. Residents (who frequently refer to their hometown as simply “Van”) are happy, healthy, hardworking and eager to please.
The city’s upscale hotel stock and convention facilities got a big upgrade with the 2010 Winter Olympics, and Vancouver has a modern, convenient airport with nonstop flights to major cities across the globe. A burgeoning local food and wine scene and quick, easy access to nature means there is an endless supply of entertainment options — for visitors as well as locals.
Most business travellers arrive via the modern, easily navigated Vancouver International Airport, located about 15km south of city centre. Get to the airport early and enjoy plane spotting and a drink or snack at the cosy Jetside Bar at the 392-room Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel, located inside the airport terminal. Those departing on international flights can partake in daily Scotch tastings at the airport’s massive, easily distinguishable duty-free store.
Since there are no freeways connecting the airport to the city, traffic can have a major impact on travel time, so plan on the drive taking about 30 minutes without traffic, or an hour during rush hours. Those not burdened with heavy luggage should opt for the Canada Line, a 25-minute rapid rail link that connects the airport and city centre.
The dramatic 377-room Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel (opened in 2010) is a big draw for business travellers due to its spectacular location on the water and across the street from the Vancouver Convention Centre. Ask for a harbour mountain-view room and you can watch seaplanes take off from Coal Harbour or see the first streaks of light hit the snow-capped North Shore mountains as you sip your morning coffee. Schedule a casual power breakfast at the hotel’s popular Giovane café, loved by locals for its custom roasted coffee, savoury breakfast bruschetta and decadent, cream-filled sugar buns.
A few blocks uphill and nestled in Vancouver’s glassy core of high-rise buildings soars the elegant 119-room Shangri-La Hotel, favoured by high-level executives and celebrities for its luxurious service… and its discretion. Guests arriving by car or cab check in at a lower motor lobby, where elevators can whisk them to their upper-floor rooms, bypassing its glitzy glass and marble main lobby fronting West Georgia Street, a major downtown thoroughfare. Rooms with outdoor balconies also make inhaling bellyfuls of fresh ocean- and mountain-cleansed air a morning ritual. This year, the Shangri-La received the coveted Five Diamond Award designation from the Canadian and American Automobile Associations — the only hotel in Vancouver to receive the honour.
After a down-to-the-bones, four-year facelift, the 85-year-old Rosewood Hotel Georgia quickly reclaimed its title as belle of the ball among Vancouver’s most elegant hotels when it re-opened in July 2011. Popular perches like the 1927 Lobby Lounge or Reflections (on the rooftop during the summer) keep its opulent dark-wood-panelled lobby abuzz with a see-and-be-seen mix of locals and hotel guests — many waiting for tables at its uber-hot Hawksworth Restaurant. The hotel’s plush 156 rooms and suites have some of the largest bathrooms in town.
The cosy, historic 65-room St Regis hotel underwent a major, 12-million Canadian dollar renovation in 2008 and re-emerged as a business traveller favourite, with marble bathroom finishes and walls sheathed in rich, pale blue leather. International calling from guest rooms, full breakfast and wi-fi are included in the hotel’s surprisingly reasonable rates.