If you’re lucky enough to get a chance to visit London on business then you’ll enjoy the superb facilities that will make your work easier, along with a choice of interesting global cuisines and unsurpassed opportunities to entertain yourself outside your work hours.
Getting to London
The 3 most practical airports for business travellers are London City, Heathrow and Gatwick. London City is the closest to the centre but the most expensive to fly in and out of, as well as having the smallest choice of flight times due to airport restrictions.
Heathrow is the second closest but you will need to factor in potentially long waiting times in Passport Control and Baggage as it is the busiest airport in the UK. Many travellers are now using Gatwick Airport more frequently, as it often offers a wider range of flight times and airline carriers. Flights are generally cheaper to this airport and the journey by private shuttle takes less than an hour to reach Central London.
London City Airport is possibly the least well equipped, in my opinion, for the business traveller. The First Class lounge is quite expensive, and the airport facilities are not vast. You can get complimentary wireless access throughout the airport and I rather appreciate the service that allows you to pre-register before you arrive at the terminal.
Heathrow Airport is probably the most business-friendly with free WiFi for an unlimited period and the option to upgrade the speed with one of the pay-as-you-go packages available. There are also free computer desks with internet facilities in all the terminals. I think the Heathrow App that is now available is inspired – it guides you through the airport from door to gate.
The business lounges are state-of-the-art and you can book meeting rooms there by the hour. There are also traveller bedrooms that can be booked in Terminal 3 if you have a long layover.
I find some of the more understated services really help to ease the stress of travelling for work. You can order your foreign currency online and collect it at the airport when you arrive. Heathrow also has a baggage delivery service that will take your luggage to your hotel so that you can go straight to your meeting without trailing suitcases. It’s these small touches that make all the difference.
Gatwick Airport is making huge strides towards accommodating business travellers. Both terminals are well-equipped with business lounges in Arrivals and Departures. The facilities include meeting rooms bookable by the hour, showers, food, and free WiFi.
Regus operate Workpods in both terminals 24/7. These soundproof private workspaces are ingenious and give you a wireless connection, printing service, and phone chargers.
I don’t always make use of the lounges or Workpods so it’s great to have access to ChargeBox in both the North and South departure lounges, where you can top up your mobile phone battery. There are ample powerpoints throughout the airport but the wireless access is a bit stingy. You get 90 free minutes in the terminals but after that you have to pick a price plan from Boingo for extended time.
My Favourite London Business Hotel
The Lanesborough – While this hotel doesn’t suit every business trip budget, it certainly deserves to have been voted the Number 1 London business hotel in 2016. I’ve only had the pleasure of staying there once but it’s the experience I covet whenever I am travelling to London.
It’s a 5-star hotel that won’t disappoint. You’ll have free WiFi throughout the building and even complimentary use of a laptop during your stay. The Library bar, which has an aura of Old World stateliness that will easily impress your clients and colleagues, has a selection of cognacs, whiskies and cocktails. It makes an ideal place to adjourn to after the day’s negotiations are completed. If you want a venue for informal meetings or a business lunch then the Withdrawing Room in the hotel is perfect.
However, my real love affair with this hotel was inspired by the free butler service that every guest is offered, available 24/7 to run errands and facilitate a smooth visit to London.
A Couple Others…
Knightsbridge Hotel – This hotel is a more realistic venue for most business trips – it won’t let you down. Situated in a quiet street of a very central location in Kensington, you will have all the amenities and the most excellent service that you need for a successful stay as a business guest. The WiFi is high speed and the room service is 24 hours.
Here too the guest areas are unique (if a little less grand than those of The Lanesborough). The library and drawing room are perfectly suited for small, informal meetings and the staff are experienced in catering for such events.
Hilton London Metropole – For a more modern experience and for excellent value I would recommend this hotel. It’s fantastic for centrality and for proximity to Heathrow Airport. If you book an Executive Suite you get access to the Executive Lounge which serves complimentary refreshments and breakfast throughout the day.
The business centre is well-equipped with a phone and fax service, office space rental and meeting rooms. You can even access their secretarial service for a fee. The down side is that, as a regular guest, you have to pay for a wireless connection.
Wining & Dining Your Clients
There are so many options in London for impressing with a meal that it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite; the range of global cuisines is unrivalled. I like Club Gascon where you get a taste of South West France. It boasts a Michelin star and Chef Pascal Aussignac Toulouse who specialises in duck dishes, charcuterie, and cassoulet.
The lunch set menu changes daily and you can get an excellent wine pairing from a Sommelier who specialises in southern French wine. As the lunch service is guaranteed within 45 minutes, the restaurant is the perfect option for a business lunch.
Time to spare….
It’s really hard to prioritise what I would recommend doing if you have some spare time between meetings in London. The capital is so vast that your choice of activities can depend heavily on where you are based.
Bear in mind that the City is very quiet on weekends, however you are perfectly placed for access to most tourist sites by Tube.
If you have time to spare in the evenings then you might want to take advantage of the weekly late night openings at the main museums (all of which are free to enter). The British Museum, National Gallery, Tate Modern and V&A Museum are just a few of the institutions that open their doors after hours.
To stretch my legs and soak up “atmosphere”, I never tire of a stroll along the South Bank where street performers, markets, cafes and locals mingle daily and nightly.
When I want souvenirs and a cool experience, I head for Borough Market. You’ll get a sense of the old London traders here and you can pick up fantastic cheeses, wines and other treats.
London is a great city for a business trip – you won’t struggle to find the right sort of accommodation with the right sort of facilities. The transport options are multiple so you can get a flight at almost any time on almost any budget. But best of all you’ll be in the heart of one of Europe’s most vibrant capitals where the only problem you’ll face is how to prioritise what to do in your limited leisure time.
About Shuttle Direct:
If you’re flying into London on business then Shuttle Direct can provide an efficient and professional chauffeur experience to get you to your meeting or conference venue. With Standard, Executive and Premium vehicles, we can offer you a private transfer service that is discrete and top-rated at a competitive price.