The old saying goes, “There’s no substitute for experience.” At Covington Travel, we put that axiom into practice by personally experiencing many of the travel products and destinations that we sell so that we can give our travelers first-person travel advice. In July, 11 of our staff members took a fast-paced, two-night educational trip to New York City, sponsored by Delta Airlines and Hyatt Hotels.
Why Take an Educational Trip to New York?
Barry Weisiger, Covington Director of Operations, explained, “This educational trip to New York is part of Covington Travel’s ongoing training program for our agents. New York is a very popular destination for business travel, meetings and events, as well as vacation travel.”
Josée Covington, President and CEO of Covington Travel, recounted, “Any excuse for me to visit NYC and I’m game! I was eager to be the tour guide as 10 of my colleagues and I walked the city from morning to night, observing the vibrancy of it, admiring the ingenuity of its architecture and learning about all that is new with the Hyatt brand of hotels.”
The group flew from Richmond to LaGuardia on a direct Delta flight on a Friday afternoon. Dominic Bradley, Corporate agent in Covington’s Charlottesville branch reported, “There was some construction in Delta Terminal D, but it did not seem to cause any delays and our flight was on time. The recent announcement that LaGuardia is getting a $4 billion facelift is good news for this tired looking airport. However, this is certain to cause future delays, so I will keep alert for updates.” Dominic added a traveler tip: “Have mobile boarding passes pulled up on your device prior to getting to a TSA checkpoint, as the security equipment can reduce cell phone coverage and make them difficult to retrieve.”
Mrs. Covington shared, “I realized once again how important and helpful it is to be met by the reliable car service we use in New York. They whisk our clients to Manhattan by way of short cuts that the ordinary car service, even Uber, does not use or have not bothered to learn. After experiencing that treat first hand, every one of us felt that its slightly higher cost was truly worthwhile and are convinced that offering this car service to our clients is not only a nice feature but a duty.”
Upon arrival in the city, the group was hosted by the Grand Hyatt on 42nd Street, which served as their base to visit and inspect five of the nine Hyatt properties in Manhattan. The Hyatt properties are special in that each of their hotels have a distinctive décor and character. They range from small boutique hotels to large convention hotels and are located in diverse areas around Manhattan, so there is a Hyatt property to suit almost all tastes and budgets.
Grand Hyatt – 109 East 42nd Street at Grand Central Terminal
The Grand Hyatt is a large property with just over 1,300 newly renovated rooms, a spacious, inviting lobby and 60,000+ square feet of meeting space that can accommodate any type of event. It’s located just a 10 – 15 minute walk from 5th Avenue shopping and is accessible to the theatre district and business district without the mayhem of Times Square.
- Hyatt Express check-in and out kiosks were very easy and quick. The location provides easy access to LaGuardia Airport. – Dominic
- The size of this hotel makes it good for any large group. – Anne
- The Grand Club on the card-access only 16th floor is a beautiful area with an outside terrace and an extraordinary breakfast offering. – Sharon
- The Club Level rooms have a spacious bathroom with good lighting, dual sinks and doors between the sinks and shower area. Rollaways are a comfortable, no-fold twin size bed. – Tracy
Hyatt 48 Lex – 517 Lexington Ave
This 116-room boutique hotel was a favorite of several in the group, although it will no longer be a Hyatt property after August 2015. The midtown location is on a quiet street, giving it a residential feel, yet conveniently sits at the corner of 48th and Lexington.
- Guests are greeted individually in the “Living Room,” a second floor lobby, then escorted to their rooms. The rooms were like a luxury studio apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows, a kitchenette with microwave, dishwasher and well-stocked butler’s pantry, a.k.a. minibar. – Tracy
- The small number of rooms per floor gave the property a very intimate feel. – Christi
- The Living Room offers complimentary continental breakfast in the morning and wine and cheese in the evening. The full service restaurant, Lexington Brass, was excellent. – Anne
- The restaurant was fabulous with a neighborhood café ambiance. The food was excellent and portions enormous – Madhavi
Hyatt Times Square – 135 West 45th Street
Hyatt Times Square is the place to be for New York visitors going to the theatre district and wanting to be close to all the action.
- The whimsical décor of this property is fun for families. T45 is a Broadway-inspired eatery that is great for a pre-theatre light meal. – Tracy
- Complimentary Wi-Fi with enhanced bandwidth (15 Mbps) supports an unlimited number of devices. – Madhavi
- The fantastic Marilyn Monroe Spa is well worth a visit, especially after a hard day sightseeing around the city. The large, well-equipped gym is a plus for many corporate travelers. – Dominic
- Bar 54 is the tallest rooftop lounge in New York and has wonderful views of the rivers and the city – but you need to make reservations. – Anne
- Only 11 rooms per floor gives an intimate feel in a sky scraper. Rooms have lots of light and colorful décor. The lobby has many people coming and going, so the side street entrance is a plus. – Christi
Park Hyatt – 153 West 57th Street
This upscale, 5-star property has all the bells and whistles one would expect from a luxury hotel, and it caters to the discerning business and leisure client. It is located near Lincoln Center and Central Park, across from Carnegie Hall.
- This hotel completely blew me away. It is the true definition of luxury and exclusivity. – Dominic
- You can definitely tell that this hotel spends a lot of money and effort to make sure guests get the best of the best. – Madhavi
- The gourmet restaurant, The Back Room, is headed by top New York chefs; the service is discrete and impeccable. – Anne
- Staff is warm, friendly and courteous, not snooty. The Living Room bar is very warm and inviting and the ballroom is a grand slam home run – nothing finer. This hotel is luxury personified. – Christi
Andaz 5th Avenue – 485 5th Avenue at 41st Street
This boutique hotel is across from the New York Public Library and near Grand Central Station. New York loft-style guestrooms have high ceilings, 12-foot windows and marble bathrooms with porcelain foot baths.
- The New York Library stocks books in the lobby for guest use and return. The Bar Downstairs is one of the top social gathering spots in Manhattan with a mixology table, upscale tapas, and communal tables (reservations strongly recommended). – Tracy
- This very hip and trendy hotel could fit both corporate and leisure travelers, as its “heart of midtown” location makes everything close. – Dominic
- The Andaz brand was new to me. I was intrigued with the open spaces and the approach. I’ll certainly suggest it to my clients. – Sharon
- The hotel had local teen artists paint a different New York-themed wall mural on each floor. – Anne
- The complimentary beverage offered upon check in is a nice touch. The second floor mixed use space with the open banquet kitchen has great flexibility for different uses. – Christi
Barry summarized the groups’ site inspections, “Hyatt remains focused on customer service. We were very impressed with each of the properties we visited.” Sharon added, “Not only was it great fun, but I also learned a lot and I found all of the food to be very good.”
Christi reflected, “In addition to experiencing an exciting destination like New York, learning about the Hyatt properties and networking with hotel management, this kind of educational trip gives us the opportunity to learn from one another. By traveling together, I get to know my colleagues better on a personal level, but I’m also stimulated by their professional knowledge. We talk about who has been where and share thoughts on travel industry issues.”
Dominic elaborated, “As I checked out of the Grand Hyatt, I reflected on the importance of first-hand experience. There truly is no substitute, as the knowledge and confidence I gained will be immeasurable when offering alternatives to my clients. For example, the front area of the Grand Hyatt was incredibly busy even on a Sunday afternoon. Our car service picked us up at the rear entrance where there was no traffic and no hustle to get into the cars. That’s a great tip I can share with all travelers going to this hotel, and one only gained through my personal visit.”
For more first-person insights into travel to New York City and Hyatt Hotels, contact any of the Covington team members who participated in this educational trip.
Josee Covington, President and CEO
Barry Weisiger, Director of Operations
Tracy Carr, Vacation Advisor
Dominic Bradley, Corporate Travel Agent, Charlottesville Office
Anne Lescalleet, Corporate Travel Agent
Margaret Scott, Corporate Travel Agent
Karen Claros, Corporate Travel Agent
Christi Ruddy, Meetings & Events Professional
Madhavi Del Favero, Meetings & Events Professional
Sharon Soldan, Luxury Vacation Advisor
Sheri Layne, Cruise Consultant
Many thanks to our valued partners Delta Airlines and Hyatt Hotels for sponsoring this educational trip.
Photos courtesy of Margaret Scott and Christi Ruddy.