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 The Brancatelli File

joe IRRATIONAL EXUBERANCE
ABOUT BUSINESS TRAVEL


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

September 4, 2003 -- Have you noticed that Labor Day weekend has become the emotional firewall of business travel?

We take the weekend off, make believe we're normal and expel all the bad vibes, indignities, rotten service, delays and inconveniences of another lousy summer on the road. Sometime Monday evening, we slip away to perform our back-on-the-road rituals. We clean out the carry-on. (What's the world record for most dried-out highlighters in one bag?) We tidy up the laptop bag. (When was the last time you used your alligator clips?) We refill our toiletries case. (Anyone out there with fewer than four empty mini-bottles of Tylenol rattling around the bottom?) Then we sigh (the business-travel equivalent of a deep, cleansing breath) and go back to the front lines of a life on the road.

As you hit the bricks again, though, allow me to make a few recommendations. This is the good stuff about life on the road. It is also as irrationally exuberant as I allow myself to get about business travel these days.

AN AIRPORT WITH STYLE
I ended up at Greenville-Spartanburg Airport in South Carolina by accident earlier this year, but I've been plotting to get back. It's as stylish an airport as I've seen in a long time. The exterior is nicely landscaped with gardens and fountains and the approach roads are fringed with lovely stands of trees. That may sound inconsequential, but it certainly is pleasant and soothing. Walking distances are short--how many airports have the parking garage and car-rental lot across from the front door anymore?--and the airport itself is blissfully non-commercial. In fact, GSP's strongest point is that it doesn't assault your senses. There's a nice coffee shop, a decent restaurant and free workstations near the departure gates. GSP is extremely well-situated, within a short drive of huge swatches of the important business destinations in the Carolinas. Also notable: GSP boasts regional jet or jet service to more than a dozen airline hubs, as many as any airport in the nation. Meanwhile, the BMW Performance Center and factory is just a few miles away, just in case you're in the mood to pick up a Beamer on a whim.

FORTY TWO COTTAGES BY THE SEA
The long, strange saga of the Turtle Bay Resort on the rustic North Shore of Oahu seems to be taking one of its positive turns. Developed by Las Vegas visionary Del Webb in 1972 when he thought gambling was coming to Hawaii--Webb made a bad bet on that one--the 880-acre property had fallen on hard times in recent years. The cash-strapped Japanese owners let the property go to seed, Hilton pulled out as the management company and this blessed spot just an hour from Honolulu and Waikiki seemed headed for oblivion.

But a new owner and a new management company stepped in several years ago and they have invested about $50 million so far with surprisingly good results. The main hotel, with 375 large rooms, all with ocean views, has been tastefully, if simply, renovated. The meeting space is being upgraded and expanded in an attempt to build Turtle Bay into the mid-Pacific's primary conference facility. A spa and exercise facility are being developed. The two 18-hole golf courses, ten tennis courts and riding facilities are all in good shape, too.

But what sets Turtle Bay apart are the 42 spacious, private beach cottages plopped right on a broad lawn fronting a pristine, white-sand beach. Each cottage has been extraordinarily well renovated with Brazilian walnut floors, poster beds, lavish bathrooms and comfy furnishings. Some cottages have two double beds, others have king beds with wet bars. The service is still a bit shaky, but it's always friendly. And there isn't anything quite like these cottages anywhere in Hawaii. Rack rates start at $550 a night (including breakfast), but are often available for as little as $400. And there are several compelling packages that bundle unlimited golf and tennis with a cottage stay.

One other thing: Turtle Bay has 12 miles of trails and seaside paths. You can--and I have--walk, bicycle or ride for miles along the beach without seeing another soul. It makes you forget all about the travails of a life on the road.

I WANT ONE OF THESE AT HOME
The Laptop Lane chain almost went under when the dot.com boom went bust a couple of years back, but Wayport, the high-speed access company, has been slowly reviving the concept. There are about 16 Laptop Lane locations in nine airports now and I want one of these things in my home. What an outrageously creative idea: Office space that you can rent by the minute while you are waiting out another inevitable flight delay!

Every private, 40-square-foot Laptop Lane cubicle is outfitted with a work desk and a swivel chair, a printer and fax machine, a speakerphone and a fully loaded desktop computer. There are power, modem and high-speed access ports for your laptop. There are lots of other business services available at the front desk. Every cubicle I've used in recent months has been spotless and in tip-top condition. The price (about 65 cents a minute) includes your domestic long-distance calls, faxing, printing and on-line time.

If Laptop Lane had a supply of bottled water, Chinese take-out and one of those British Airways first-class seat/beds, I'd move into a cubicle.

This column originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.