Business-oriented luxury resorts tempt executives to squeeze a little fun into trips
With few lamps to light the winding 3-mile stretch off the main road, driving up to the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines at night evokes the opening scene from Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining. The path is slow going, with deer and armadillos threatening to dart out from behind tall trees. Yet just 15 miles east of Austin, the hotel is anything but cut off from civilization. Lost Pines is actually one of the latest in a new breed of resorts catering to business travelers who shun the idea of all work and no play.
Busy American workers have dispensed with the standard two-week vacation. Instead, many are tacking on extra days to work trips, blurring the line between business and pleasure travel, says Jan Freitag, vice president at Smith Travel Research. Families with two working spouses find it complex to schedule long trips, while workers are traveling more than ever for their jobs. An increasing number of road warriors are using those trips as a way to squeeze family time and personal relaxation into otherwise hectic schedules. Last year, 68 percent of business travelers mixed work and play. Twenty-four percent of those multitaskers brought kids along, according to Travel & Leisure magazine.
And resort developers are making sure these trips no longer mean drab, windowless meeting rooms and mysterymeat dinners. Today's business travelers include more women and are younger than their baby boom counterparts. Accustomed to luxury and drained from work pressures, they are demanding-and getting-indulgence from hotels more than happy to oblige.
"It's just becoming so competitive in the hotel environment," says Owen Wild, director of marketing at Amadeus North America. To stand out, more hotels are tailoring resorts to business travelers who want a luxury spa getaway without having to stray far from laptops or big cities. After all, "you can't just put a meeting in a tiki bar," says Wild. The number of new resorts will jump from 45 in 2004 to 101 in 2008, according to Patrick Ford, president of Lodging Econometrics in Portsmouth, N.H.
LXR Luxury Resorts & Hotels has holiday havens from Hawaii to Jamaica. But when it bought the 23-year-old Rihga Royal in midtown Manhattan earlier this year, it set about transforming it into a glamorous oasis for business travelers. The London NYC, which opened in November, caters to "captains of industry" looking to be pampered while perusing proposals, says manager Dominique Piquemal. About 65 percent of bookings at this $599-a-room hostelry will come from business travelers, he says.
Meeting rooms open next year to lure high-level gatherings such as corporate board meetings. Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsey will be in charge of catering those affairs as well as the hotel's restaurants. About 90 percent of the London NYC's 562 rooms are suites with french doors leading to a separate living room where execs can entertain clients or hash out deals. Suites not only have limed oak parquet flooring and Egyptian cotton sheets but iPod docking stations and flat-screen televisions, into which visitors can plug their laptops for in-room presentations.