We launched an occasional series of features in& Incentives called "Readers Recommend," because we noticed that every time we brought our readers together in a room, they began to swap stories about their experiences with different destinations or properties. So we decided to contact a sampling of our readers for their top picks in various categories. This month, we conducted an informal telephone survey asking which downtown hotels in cities worldwide readers have used in the recent past that they would recommend to others who plan corporate meetings and incentives--and why.
Westin Hotel Seattle "The staff at the Westin anticipated our needs better than any property I've experienced in a long time. They were very creative with food and beverage--you don't have to stick with the standard banquet menu. And when you sign an agreement with them, they stick with it."
--James Goebel, president, D & J Enterprises, Greendale, Wis.
Four Seasons Hotel New York "The Four Seasons in New York has a high level of service, especially with banquets. The hotel comes up with innovative solutions and their people work with us as a team. Our corporate management loves it there. Everything seems to go flawlessly."
--Joanne Folz, director of sales conferences, Estee Lauder Inc., New York
Westin Hotel Cincinnati "Our company has been to this hotel four times. Every time we go back it's a little bit different, because the staff has responded to our complaints and made changes. The staff just goes out of their way to be nice. The meeting rooms are nothing special, but it's that responsiveness--that little extra--that's important."
--Richard Kraus, president, MGK Investments, Annandale, Va.
The Pan Pacific Hotel Vancouver Vancouver, B.C. "The Pan Pacific has good service, very picturesque views, and good meeting facilities. It is connected to the Vancouver convention center, so we never needed to leave the hotel to go to meetings at the center. You don't get much better than that."
--Janice Benfield, executive vice president, The Benfield Group, Marrietta, Ga.
Chicago Marriott Downtown Chicago "The meeting rooms, which have recently been renovated, are isolated in the middle of the hotel so there's not a lot of noise. The hotel assigns you a meeting planner, and if you have any questions, you go right to that person during the time your group is there. It's a great city location if attendees have time for activities outside of the facility. The only negative is that the parking is outrageous."
--Rich Garber, vice president-general manager, Green Bay Packing, Green Bay, Wis.
Palace Hotel Madrid, Spain "We visited the site in late January. All the sleeping rooms have been completely redone and are very attractive. The guest rooms are now a perfect complement to the dramatic and beautiful public spaces. The location is ideal for exploring the sites of the city of Madrid. It's just an excellent property for high-end incentive groups."
--Peggy Domber, senior vice president, Summit Bank, Cranford, N.J.
New York Marriott Marquis and Marriott World Trade Center New York "Both New York Marriotts have excellent service and professional facilities. Marriott is a company that understands meetings. Its staffers know how to service them and work with meeting organizers. We have never had a major problem with any Marriott property because the staff has an attitude of, 'We're going to try to make everything right.' "
--Hal Fremer, vice president of sales administration, R.G. Barry Corp., San Antonio, Tex.
Millennium Gloucester London London "The hotel is located in a great neighborhood, within walking distance to Harrods department store and all the museums. It has an excellent conference center as well as additional meeting space within the hotel."
--Brian Martenis, sales incentives manager, Bayard Sales Corp., Philadelphia
J.W. Marriott Lenox Atlanta "This is Marriott's signature hotel, and the meeting facilities were excellent. Also important: It was really convenient for travel from the airport. Attendees only had a short ride directly to the hotel."
--Cheryl Moritz, manager of client services, Motorola Semiconductors, Phoenix
Ritz-Carlton Atlanta "I liked the exclusivity of this hotel right in the heart of a big city. It has a very intimate lobby that is warm and inviting. It's really a customer service-oriented property."
--Joan Malone, retail meetings and recognition manager, BMW of North American, Woodcliff Lake, N.J.
The Phoenician Scottsdale, Ariz. "Service at the Phoenician was excellent, and I got a terrific response to the hotel from attendees on an incentive program. This was important, because ensuring that the qualifiers have a really good time is critical."
--Nancy Schmitt, central area sales program manager, Sun Microsystems Computer Co., Chicago
Ritz-Carlton San Juan, Puerto Rico "I liked the convenience of the hotel's location close to the airport. It was a reasonably sized property so our attendees didn't feel overwhelmed. I can't say enough about the service."
--Melinda Rynasko, corporate director of events and incentives, Knoll Inc., New York
The Embassy Suites Chicago Chicago "We've been to the Embassy Suites four or five times. The facilities are great, and the service is excellent. The hotel is relatively new, about six years old, and it looks as good as when it opened. They have a fitness area and indoor pool, and it's a five-minute walk to Michigan Avenue. If we didn't go back to this hotel, I think our people would throw me in the Chicago River!"
--Jerry Todd, advertising manager, Lantech Inc., Louisville, KY.
Copley Plaza Boston "The Copley Plaza is a step back into the grandeur of yesterday. The group liked the combination of old-world charm with modern amenities. It's just different from most hotels. There is very nice meeting space and food service space. The service is excellent, from the sales office to the waitstaff."
--David Buck, director of corporate meetings and special events, Fleet Bank, Providence, R.I.
Chicago Hilton and Towers Chicago "The Chicago Hilton has very good service and plenty of flexibility with guest rooms. We do a lot of doubling up, and the two separate bathrooms in the towers rooms are a big plus."
--Judy Abelman, manager of field communications and events, Picker International, Cleveland.
Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia "The Four Seasons is always my first choice. They have full business centers and competent service managers that get the big picture of your program. You don't have to worry, because you know you'll be taken care of. For a planner, that's half the battle."
--Teri Ann Telkington, incentive/meeting planner, SEI Investments, Oaks, Pa.
Salt Lake City Marriott Salt Lake City "The Salt Lake City Marriott is very customer-service oriented. The staff goes out of its way to help. The catering staff is absolutely wonderful. Across the board, I feel that way about most Marriotts."
--Nancy Holman, corporate meeting planner, Nature Sunshine Products, Inc., Provo, Utah
Cincinnatian Hotel Cincinnati "Our meeting at the Cincinnatian Hotel was a class act all the way. Service is the first thing I look for, and the hotel was willing to accommodate last-minute changes in setting up meetings. It's really upscale and in a great location within a block of a major shopping area."
--Mike Peacock, president, Peacock Productions Inc., Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
The Drake Hotel Chicago "The Drake is a very service-oriented hotel. Even at the eleventh hour, they will make any changes you request. The staff does an outstanding job. There's also quite a bit of meeting space."
--Val Ringo, program manager, Total Travel Management, Troy, Mich.