Business trip: New York City

The city that never sleeps is on a roll, with a record 52 million visitors in 2012 and a total of 100,000 hotel rooms expected by 2014.

When it comes to business travel, New York City is on a roll. In 2012, the city hosted a record 52 million visitors, whose spending produced a whopping $55.3 billion in economic impact.

While most business travellers have likely bedded down at hotels in the popular, central Midtown area, demand has prompted a hotel building boom across all five boroughs, providing a slew of new, upscale options in areas like the Upper West Side (NYLO hotel), Greenwich Village (The Jade Hotel), Brooklyn (Wythe Hotel) and Queens (Z Hotel). Meanwhile, the Herald Square area has seen an influx of mid-priced, brand name hotels such as Best Western Premier, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Marriott Courtyard, among others. Later this month, Marriott will open two new hotels inside the same building: a 378-room Courtyard and a 261-room Residence Inn. The soaring steel and glass tower near the southwest corner of Central Park will be the tallest hotel building in the western hemisphere. More than 5,000 rooms have been built in the last two years, and by the end of 2014 the city will have more than 100,000, reports NYC & Company, the city’s tourism organization.

While New York City is the US’ most frequented point of entry for international travellers, the airport customs and immigration process can be slow and frustrating, in part because the city’s largest airports, John F Kennedy International (JFK), Newark Liberty International and LaGuardia, are a mix of old and new. However, the arrival experience at New York City is improving. In May 2013, Delta Air Lines moved into a brand new $1.4 billion international terminal at JFK’s Terminal 4. In October, the airline rolled out new automated passport control kiosks in its customs and immigration hall, which helped cut the 35-minute average wait time in half.

Taxi fares into Manhattan (not including tip and tolls) are about $50 from JFK, $30 to $40 from La Guardia and $50 to $70 from Newark. During cold winter months, outdoor queues for taxis can be lengthy, which might make a car service a better option. Even though black sedan fares can run 20% to 50% higher than cab fares, they might be worth it if you are on a tight schedule. Train service to Manhattan is available from JFK and Newark, and bus service is available from LaGuardia, but both involve multiple transfers, making a car the preferred mode of transport for most business travellers.


The opulent 909-room New York Palace in Midtown – part Italian Renaissance mansion, part 56-storey skyscraper – has just finished an 18-month, $140-million re-do of all rooms and public spaces. The most sought after rooms in the house are high-floor corner suites in the exclusive 176-room Towers section of the hotel, which are 25% larger than other rooms and offer sparkling Manhattan skyline views. CEOs who are meeting and entertaining clients should consider the hotel’s two spectacular 5,000sqft triplex penthouse suites, both of which include fireplaces, kitchens and unusually large outdoor terraces with hot tubs. Book a power breakfast at Villard Michel Richard (opened in September and already one of the city’s top tables) or meet up with clients and colleagues for a snifter of cognac at the clubby Rarities in the Palace’s busy lobby.

If your business is downtown on Wall Street in the city’s Financial District, check into one of the 463 spacious suites at the cavernous-yet-cosy Conrad New York in Battery Park City. It is located one block west of the new 104-storey One World Trade Center (also known as the Freedom Tower). The 15-storey hotel was originally built as part of the Embassy Suites brand, but its owners (Goldman Sachs, with its global headquarters next door) shut it down for a tip-to-toe re-do and re-brand, which was completed in March 2012. Modern, minimalist-chic rooms are actually two-room suites, with a small living room/office area, oversized bathroom (with big bright walk-in showers), two flat-screen TVs, espresso machines and quiet bedrooms; ask for one that overlooks the Hudson River. After a long day at work, blow off some steam walking, biking or running along the Hudson River Greenway, the largest car-free bicycle and pedestrian path in the city, which starts one block west of the Conrad’s front door.

The 487-room, 54-storey Hyatt Times Square opened this month in the city’s theatre district with big 364sqft rooms brightened with pop art and floor-to-ceiling windows. There is also a 54th-floor  rooftop lounge (the highest in the city) with river-to-river views and cosy outdoor fireplaces. In an unusual twist, arriving guests are greeted in the lobby by hotel staff and checked into rooms via iPad.

The artsy and urbane 208-room Quin hotel opened near Central Park’s southern end in November. Rooms combine classic and contemporary touches such as plush Duxiana beds, original art and Nespresso machines. The building had a prior life as the Buckingham Hotel, famous for hosting artistic cognoscenti like Marc Chagall and Georgia O’Keefe.  

The eclectic 178-room Hyatt Union Square opened in April 2013 one block south of Union Square, a leafy park sandwiched between Midtown and Greenwich Village. The glassy 12-storey hotel sprouts out of a restored historical façade; the former nightclub and a bowling alley space now serves as the hotel’s lobby, bar and restaurant space. Small, but well-designed rooms offer unique touches like black washed oak flooring, colourful headboards that are swapped out by the season, and bright, functional bathrooms sheathed in marble mosaic tile. For an indoor/outdoor feel, ask for a second-storey landscaped terrace room, especially nice during warmer months. For lunch or dinner, do not miss out on the pink salt roasted Amish chicken, served on a small wooden chopping block at The Fourth, the hotel’s Franco-American style brassiere. If you have a chance, check out the local bounty from nearby bakeries, farms and fishing boats at the Union Square Greenmarket, New York’s largest and most popular outdoor market, open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 am to 6 pm.

The clubby 240-room Viceroy New York Hotel opened in October 2013 near Central Park’s southern end. Rooms are appointed in warm stained wood and leather with brass trimmings, have big walk-in showers, free wi-fi, Illy espresso makers and huge picture windows (ask for one overlooking 57th Street or for a Park View room on the highest floors of the 29-storey tower). In two surprise touches, there is a basement plunge pool and the closets are lined with wallpaper in patterns dating back to the 1920s.

The new 60-room High Line Hotel, in the west Manhattan neighbourhood of Chelsea, is part of a mixed-use block that is part hotel, part Episcopal seminary and part residential building. All rooms are of varying size (ask for a large one) with unique reproduction antique furnishings, heavy moulding and hardwood floors. All windows open to allow in fresh air, and either look out at the popular elevated High Line Trail or onto a quiet grassy courtyard shared with the seminary and residences.  

Fashionistas may want to check into the new 197-room Refinery Hotel, located in the city’s garment district near Bryant Park. Rooms in this former 12-storey Neo-Gothic hat factory are industrial chic and loft-like with 12ft ceilings, dark brushed oak floors and beds framed in steel, trimmed in leather, and topped with cosy down comforters and smooth Frette linens. Even though the Refinery has only been open since May, it already ranks on TripAdvisor as New York’s second most popular hotel for business.

Expense account
Sirio is an increasingly popular spot on the Upper East Side, attracting a steady stream of fashionable locals and business travellers to its handsome Fellini-esque dining room at the recently renovated Pierre Hotel. It is the perfect spot for an important lunch or celebratory dinner with colleagues or clients. The menu is primarily contemporary Italian, featuring dishes such as porcini mushroom soup, eggplant parmigiana served in puff pastry, and branzino with celery root puree, tomato, capers and fresh oregano. If you do not have time for a meal, step in for a martini or Manhattan at the long bar and watch the parade of high society drop in for dinner.

Down in Soho, the buzz is all about the new David Burke Kitchen. Like its neighbourhood, the atmosphere is cool and casual. Start with savouries such as smoked pastrami salmon sticks or peanut butter maple bacon dates at the upstairs Treehouse Bar, then descend to dine on specialties such as potted duck and foie gras served in a jar, pork chops served with cumin bacon and mango chutney, or dry-aged steaks. If you are in town on Sunday, go for the four-course pre-fixe dinner that includes roasted suckling pig.

For a taste of the Mediterranean in pleasant mid-century modern surroundings, stop by Daniel Boulud’s popular Boulud Sud on the Upper West Side. Dishes, which get their inspiration from southern France, northern Africa, Spain and Greece, include charred octopus (which seems to be on every Manhattan menu these days), lemon-saffron linguini, spiced swordfish kebabs and braised goat served with escarole and pumpkin seeds.

Check out the scene and the seafood at Midtown’s glitzy Harlow. The upscale Art Deco space draws stylish locals to check out the crowd and sample whatever is fresh on the big raw bar. Dive into popular dishes such as the seafood pie, a warm puff pastry shell bubbling with clams, lobster and mussels.

Off the clock
If you want see how New Yorkers really live, take a walk across the historic Brooklyn Bridge and visit Brooklyn, the city’s most populous borough – home to 2.5 million residents. Walk through the upscale neighbourhoods of Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill or Park Slope for a look at some of the city’s most picturesque (and expensive) brownstones. Wander around the trendy boutiques and restaurants in Williamsburg for a few hours. If just wandering around is not your style, take one of many walking or biking tours recommended by the Brooklyn Tourism and Visitors Center.

Go local
Dining alone? No problem! Walk over to the Plaza Hotel near Central Park and descend into its Plaza Food Hall, opened in May 2012. While most New Yorkers do not spend much time in Midtown beyond going to work, the new food hall is an easy way for Midtown-based business travellers to sample many of  New York’s most popular food purveyors. Don’t miss the lobster rolls at Luke’s Lobster; the cookies, brownies and pound cake at William Greenberg Desserts; a juicy, messy submarine sandwich at No 7 Sub; or a walnut cream croissant from Pain d’Avignon.

Don’t do this
Despite their gruff reputation, New Yorkers are generally friendly, outgoing people who are eager to help visitors with directions or recommendations. Just don’t get in their way on congested sidewalks, and follow these unwritten rules of walking in New York.

  • Do not walk three-or-four abreast (which blocks the flow of traffic). Groups should walk in single file on busy sidewalks.
  • Do not stop in the middle of the sidewalk to look up at a skyscraper or to consult your map or smartphone. Move to the side and let the pedestrians pass.
  • When approaching another pedestrian on the sidewalk, always yield to the right.