2013 Business Travel Awards
You're on the road, getting it done. And it's our goal to keep you in comfort and style as you do it. Here, our picks for the most enjoyable, efficient and tasty new ways to go forth and conquer.
Best New Airport Restaurant
Cowboy Ciao, Phoenix
For years, Phoenix's S ky Harbor Airport ranked among the worst places in America to get a decent meal, even by airport standards. But a makeover of the international concourse, completed in late 2012, has changed that.
The best addition is a satellite version of Cowboy Ciao, Peter Kasperski's semi-Southwestern restaurant in downtown Scottsdale, Ariz. HMSHost's contract with the airport promises that its restaurants will use the same menus as the originals (with the addition of a full breakfast), and to a great extent that's what Cowboy Ciao has offered since opening last November, modified only by a lack of gas for the stoves and limited prep space.
That means the availability of singular dishes such as Southwest-rubbed pork shank osso buco, truffle mac 'n' cheese, Korean-style short ribs and the Testosterone Salad, featuring charred beef, blue cheese and bourbon-soaked cherries. Add 60 wines by the bottle, an extensive cocktail menu and food service until half an hour after the last passengers land, and there's finally somewhere to eat that makes routing through Phoenix worthwhile.
Best New Hotel Concept
A hit in Amsterdam, London and Glasgow, the Dutch chain citizenM will make its U.S. debut this year in New York City, first in Midtown and then down in the Bowery, offering light-filled, spacious rooms loaded with free amenities for a below-market price.
All rooms in citizenM properties have wall-to-wall windows, free international calling and free movies on demand. An electronic mood pad lets you dim lights, close shades and even switch ambient music channels from your bed.
Further, the lobbies look like living rooms, iMacs are provided for in-hotel use, and the 24-hour bar/restaurant sells everything from sandwiches to sushi.
That citizenM does all this while remaining within the budget of the typical independent businessperson (room rates in New York are expected to start at $199) is remarkable, especially given that all three existing properties have received glowing service reviews.
"We've started from scratch, looked at the behavior of this new generation of travelers and built our company accordingly," says co-founder Robin Chadha. "We're an online company with no reservations team--everything on the internet--and we use technology to offset staff costs. All the savings, we pass on to our guests."
Best New Airport Bar
The original Beaudevin, in Brussels, has been called the world's best wine bar. The U.S. outposts--in Miami International Airport's North Terminal D; Chicago O'Hare's Terminal 1, C Concourse; and the main terminal at Charlotte Douglas (N.C.) International Airport--offer charcuterie, cheese plates and robust open-face sandwiches in a refined setting that almost lets you forget you're in an airport. The biggest draws are wines such as Meeker Winemaker's Handprint Merlot, Catena Zapata Malbec and Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, all served by the bottle, the glass, in 3-ounce pours or arranged in themed flights. Next on the horizon is Beaudevin San Diego, with others on the way.
Best New Trend
Social seating on airlines
Want to ensure that your seatmates on your six-hour flight don't talk to you? Or, perhaps, the opposite is true: You'd like to network with someone headed to the same convention, watch a movie beside someone with similar interests, play cards or increase the odds of sitting next to someone you might want to date. Social seating is the answer.
KLM, Malaysia Airlines and other international carriers have initiated voluntary programs that let travelers swap LinkedIn and Facebook profiles and even photographs in order to pick their seatmates before they fly. Each airline works its program somewhat differently; airBaltic asks travelers for their "mood," while KLM allows them to post social network information three months before flying and survey the market.
The idea is to maximize consumer satisfaction--or at least minimize dissatisfaction--by putting you next to someone you might actually want to talk to if you were to meet them elsewhere.
Best New Product
From solar-powered phone chargers to travel irons, ear buds to the latest iteration of the Rollaboard carry-on, we've trolled the marketplace for something new that significantly raises the bar in its category. What we found instead were incremental gains--higher-resolution screens and longer-lasting batteries that raise capacity, extend range and increase functionality of existing devices. Or new casings and color schemes that add an aesthetic touch. Worthy achievements, to be sure, but nothing that makes the business traveler's life on the road substantially better or easier.
For true innovation, we have our eye on 2014. "Call me back later this year," said the marketing manager of an electronics firm in upstate New York when we inquired. "I think, like everyone else, we have a lot of R&D that's just about ready to pay off."
Best New Travel App
A free smartphone app that automatically pulls dial-in information off your calendar, MobileDay lets you make conference calls by touching a single icon.
"Our mantra is, 'Never dial again,' says co-founder and vice president of business development Brad Dupee. "We're eliminating dialing for any call you need to make on your cell phone, providing it's on your calendar."
Automated conferencing--which typically relies on dialing an 11-digit number, then punching in a code to identify you as a participant and route you to the right call--just wasn't designed for cell phones. In most systems, the access number and code are on a different screen than the dial pad. "So people toggle back and forth putting in a few numbers at a time," Dupee says. "Or else they try to scribble it down while driving or whatever they're doing. It's a mess."
An elegant solution to this problem seemed like a far bigger business than simply letting executives' schedules talk to each other, which was the original aim of Dupee's startup. So the company took a left turn--relaunching as MobileDay in early 2012 with a focus on streamlining the conference-call-dialing process for business travelers--and has been growing since. Punching in your mobile number on the website will send the app to your phone, where it can be launched from there. For now, services are free. Premium options will follow later this year.