USAToday.com: Lower Manhattan’s boom draws business travelers
Lower Manhattan’s boom draws business travelers
“It’s only natural that Lower Manhattan is becoming a destination of choice for business travelers,’’ Jessica Lappin, president of the Downtown Alliance, lower Manhattan’s business improvement district, said in an emailed statement. “We have an array of great new hotel options, a hot dining scene emerging, a retail revolution underway and many of New York City’s most iconic sights.”
12.3 million business travelers visited New York City last year, a number that is expected to see a moderate uptick in 2016, according to NYC & Company, the city’s tourism organization.
And many chose to stay south of Chambers Street. Booking.com says that in both 2015 and 2016 more than one in five of the business travel reservations made through their site were for a room in lower Manhattan.
The ability to stay downtown has greatly increased thanks to a hotel building boom over the last several years. Of the 27 hotels currently in lower Manhattan, only five existed prior to 2001, according to the Downtown Alliance. Visitors can now choose from among 5,688 rooms, and another 3,105 rooms are currently in the pipeline.
“There were relatively few hotel options downtown so they didn’t have much choice,’’ Fred Dixon, President and CEO of NYC & Company says of business travelers. “The majority of hotel inventory was in Midtown and still is today. But there are more options downtown than ever. . .. And the nightlife options, restaurants and bars were much more scarce.’’
Now, upscale shopping and restaurants abound. A new eatery from celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck will be featured at the new Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown, which is set to open later this year. One World Trade Center was unveiled in 2014, heralding the area’s rebirth after the devastating blow of the 9/11 terror attacks. The ability to get to the outer boroughs as well as throughout Manhattan has been enhanced since the November 2014 opening of the Fulton Center, where most of the city’s subway lines converge. And New Jersey’s commuter PATH trains got a new station in March with the World Trade Center Transportation Hub.
The corporate heartbeat of the area has also moved beyond Wall Street to embrace technology and media, with companies like Conde Nast and Time Inc., making lower Manhattan their new base.
Robert Rechtermann, general manager of the Conrad New York, which opened downtown in March 2012, has seen a significant uptick in both individual business travel guests and group meetings each of the last four years. And the hotel’s sales team actively pursues corporate trekkers.
“The moment we hear of a company moving their offices or headquarters into the area . . .we’re encouraging them to try lower Manhattan,” he says.
Christopher Kelly, co-founder and president of the meetings space provider Convene, opened a venue in lower Manhattan in April 2013.
“Downtown went from being a 9 to 5 business district to being a place that had tons of arts and culture and things to do in the night and on weekends,” Kelly says “That created the draw for business travelers because now there’s character and culture downtown that never existed before.’’
Extended stay hotels, often favored by business travelers, are also becoming more of a downtown presence. AKA Wall Street, for instance, is opening in June, and the bookings reflect “corporate business more so than our other . . . locations in Manhattan,” AKA president Larry Korman says. “I would say in the first quarter, we had more people seeking information about that property than the other ten” in the AKA chain.
Meanwhile, Q&A, an extended stay hotel where guests can stay for just under 30 days, opened in November.
“We have a large corporate client base,’’ says chief sales officer Craig Partin, who noted that the hotel’s occupancy levels have ranged from the high 80s to the mid-90s. In addition to the financial sector, lower Manhattan is “becoming a tech corridor. We have entertainment folks who stay with us, so there’s definitely demand in the areas that we call downtown.’’
Downtown hotels are attractive to travelers like Dan Braunm, a member of USA TODAY’s Road Warriors panel who works in the software industry and is based in Key West, Fla. He stays in the Tribeca area even though his office is in Midtown.
“The subway takes me from TriBeCa to the street my office is on in Midtown so the commute is easy,” he says. “What I like about staying downtown is being able to walk around the neighborhoods and experience the amazing restaurants without the crush of the tourists in Midtown.”
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