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San Diego’s laid back, country club-like atmosphere, near perfect climate and wide range of outdoor activities make this Southern California city a huge draw for visitors.

A modern convention centre, an abundance of new hotels and an easy and accessible airport make it an even larger draw for business travellers. If a company or organisation wants to bump up attendance for a meeting or event, holding it in San Diego is sure to attract a crowd.

This alluring combination of business and pleasure is working – the San Diego Tourism Authority reports that visitors spent a record $8 billion in the city in 2012.Like most California cities, San Diego sprawls, making a rental car necessary if your business takes you beyond the central core. Most of the region’s top restaurants, upscale boutiques and best-known luxury lodging (such as The Grand Del Mar or The Lodge at Torrey Pines) lie about 16 miles northwest of downtown in the seaside suburbs of La Jolla and Del Mar.

With the city’s temperate climate and obsession with sunsets, nearly every high-rise hotel in the downtown business district sports a rooftop bar or pool deck. Most of these accommodations are sprinkled around the rowdy Gaslamp Quarter; the new East Village district which is anchored by the Petco Park baseball stadium; and the city’s expansive harbour-side convention centre near the Gaslamp Quarter. Little Italy on the western edge of downtown offers a quieter, more residential feel, packed with some of the city’s most popular cafes and restaurants.  

Situated  just three miles northwest from downtown, San Diego International Airport’s location (referred to locally as “Lindberg Field”) makes transfers easy, but its 1960s architecture feels dark and dated. However, a glassy, $900 million addition to the west side of Terminal 2 – completed in August 2013 and used by Delta, JetBlue, United and US Airways – provides a glimpse of how the entire airport will eventually look.

Hotels

Elegant
Among the giant hotels lining the harbour near the convention centre, the newest is the bright white, ultra-modern 1,190-room Hilton San Diego Bayfront, which opened in December 2008. Nearby, the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego’s two soaring pitched-roof towers make up the second largest hotel in California, with 1,628 rooms. A large-scale room renovation was completed in June 2013, and  there is a new Executive Club Lounge on the 33rd floor with complimentary food and beverages, private workstations and breathtaking views across the Pacific Ocean. 

The strikingly modern, 511-room Omni San Diego has been a business travel favourite since it opened in 2004. The hotel’s 32-storey steel-and-glass tower is located on the edge of the Gaslamp Quarter, across the trolley line tracks from the convention centre and adjacent to Petco Park.

The 270-room US Grant hotel, located in the heart of downtown, is San Diego’s most gracious grand dame, featuring rooms and suites with heavy moulding, Italian linens, marble showers, original art and Empire-style furnishings. The iconic hotel has been open since 1910 and is part of the Starwood Luxury Collection.

Edgy
Despite the East Village neighbourhood noise, Hotel Solamar and Hotel Indigo remain relatively calm, peaceful and businesslike because neither has the thumping nightclub scene that is found in several other “edgy” downtown hotels. (Tip:  inquire about room noise when making your San Diego hotel booking.)

The 235-room Hotel Solamar is part of the popular Kimpton chain, offering free wi-fi to members of its InTouch loyalty program (sign up at check in if you are not a member), a complimentary wine hour each evening to mingle with hotel staff and guests, and of course, the requisite rooftop Solamar Terrace, with a heated swimming pool and bar.

The 210-room Hotel Indigo, part of the IHG chain, is the first LEED-certified hotel in downtown San Diego and offers guests free wi-fi, hypo-allergenic hardwood floors and windows that open to the great outdoors in all rooms. The hotel also has sustainable roof garden chock full of native plant species as well as herbs used to flavour the hotel restaurant’s small plate menu.

Expense account
Dining out in San Diego is a mostly casual affair, and with its moderate climate, most restaurants offer al fresco seating.

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