The new luxury perk: your own cell phone
Remember when cell phones were considered status symbols?Nowadays, business has become so wired (or, more to the point, unwired) that they're being given away.
If you fly first-class on Singapore Airlines, or rent a car with Auto Europe (through the end of this year), or check into Trump International Hotel & Tower in Manhattan, you'll be offered the use of a cell phone. Trump International says that some 40 percent of its guests take one of the Motorola StarTACs. The guest then fills out a contract with the cellular service provider, and all calls are billed to the guest's credit card, at a tongue-tying $1.95-a-minute fixed domestic rate.
Two L.A. hotels have taken connectability one step further. Upon checking in at L'Ermitage, you're assigned a private phone and fax number (along with personalized business cards). Each room has four phones, as well as a cell phone that can be used as an extension-when the room phone rings, so does the cell phone. If you stay there three times, the number becomes yours forever. The rates-local, domestic, international-range from $1 to $4 a minute.
At the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, rooms are outfitted with the hotel's new Wireless Room Connect system. It's similar to the one at L'Ermitage, except that you can use your own cell phone or one borrowed from the hotel. And when someone calls, a voice prompt tells you whether the call came through the hotel switchboard, and gives you the option to let it be answered by voice mail or the hotel operator. You can even use the cell phone to dial internal hotel extensions while driving around Santa Monica. Rates are the same as for using the room phone, plus 95 cents a minute for accessing the local wireless network.
For old time's sake, of course, you can still use the courtesy phone in the lobby.
so you have meetings in...MILAN
Best business hotels: Hotel Principe di Savoia (17 Piazza della Repubblica; 39-02/62301, fax 39-02/659-5838; doubles from $550); Four Seasons Milan (8 Via Gesù; 800/819-5053 or 39-02/77088, fax 39-02/7708-5000; doubles from $390). Expense-account restaurant: For fashionistas, it's La Banque (6 Via Bossone Perrone; 39-02/8699-6565; dinner for two $95); for the banking crowd, Da Giacomo (6 Via Pasquale Sottogorno; 39-02/7602-3313; dinner for two $110). Car service of choice: Pini Autonoleggio (39-02/2940-0555). If you have a free afternoon: Visit the Brera Gallery, home of Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin, Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus, and Mantegna's The Dead Christ. If you forgot to pack a scarf or tie: Cravatteria Nazionali (5 Via Pietro Verri; 39-02/7600-4208). Web resource: www.italytour.com/Destinations/Cities/Milano.
going my way
Name: Stephen Gordon
Occupation: Founder and CEO, Restoration Hardware
Home base: Corte Madera, California
Arriving in a new city: I unpack first thing. I'm a nester, and I feel more ordered when I make my room my home. Then I go right out and take a two-hour bus tour. Nothing gives me a faster, more thorough overview of where I am.
Best places to look for inspiration: The International Hardware Fair in Cologne, Germany; factory showrooms in Hong Kong; the ever-changing display of collectibles in the San Francisco airport's United Airlines concourse.
Travel secrets: Odd as it sounds, I pack enough underwear for the trip and toss it out, from hotel to hotel, rather than carry a suitcase full of less-than-crisp stuff. It's a hell of a lot less expensive than hotel laundry services. Also, I always fax or E-mail my hotel ahead of time when I need restaurant reservations, theater tickets, or day-trip ideas. I'm amazed at how few Americans use concierges—they're the best planners and purveyors, and part and parcel of a good hotel.
Ideal in-room atmosphere: Spare, subdued, sophisticated, like the Tower rooms at the New York Palace.
Staying focused: I'm not one to keep my cell phone on. I travel for a reason, either vacationing (as in vacating), or business, where concentrating on what I'm doing is paramount. When I'm away, I'm never too damn interested in what's going on back at the office.
—Interviewed by Elizabeth Garnsey