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Business class versus first class travel for executives of companies with shipments of export cargo and import cargo in international trade.


If you’re a seasoned business-class traveler, have you ever wondered what exists “up front” ahead of your lie-flat seat as you board your airship to a faraway place? I am sure, if you’re like me, curiosity prevailed and you poked your nose in that cabin up front at the right time to check it out. Did you see anything glaringly different from that of your business-class seat and cabin?

In most cases, I didn’t, with the exception of some airlines like Emirates A-380, China Southern Airlines’ newer first-class cabins and Singapore Air’s offerings. Their first-class suites are strikingly different and a definite “upgrade” from your business-class seat, and maybe there are not as many of them.

But is it really worth the $10,000-plus price difference on top of your business class ticket price? What do you get for that extra cash outlay?

It seems that these days the line has become blurred between premium offerings of international business class and first class. For instance, upon starting your flight, it may be difficult to see the differences between first and business, beyond the obvious: First class may offer a “suite” with more space versus the lie-flat business-class seat.

However, in both cabins, the food is over the top and the libations are at no charge, right? But is it worth it? On a recent flight I took from LAX to NRT (Narita International Airport), I flew Japan Airlines’ business-class offering, and with a 2-3-2 staggered cabin layout, each window and middle seat had a retractable vertical partition that could be raised after takeoff, essentially closing you off from your seat mate and the entire aircraft! It was a “first class type mini suite” of its own at less than half the cost of first class. I’ll take that any day!

When comparing today’s major airlines offering updated or newer cabins, the basic differences between first and business classes on long-haul flights in excess of 12 hours may be as follows:

  • First class areas are less dense than business class, and most have private, semi-secluded pods or cubes. However, the comfort level when business-class seats are laid flat can be much the same as in first class.
  • Lie-flat beds are now common for both cabins (although some business classes come with an angled flat). First-class seats are typically wider and longer, and better padded, and a better-quality blanket, such as a duvet, and larger pillow may be offered.
  • Both classes of service offer brand name toiletries depending on routes and origination points, and first class goodie bags may have a few more bits and pieces to them.
  • First class food selections and service may have a slight difference over business class relative to the food offerings, and more personalized attendant service is achieved due to fewer seats in first spurring better attendant-staff-to-passenger ratios.
  • For food and beverages, business class meals are usually very good. In first class though, one may see luxury items such as fine wines and Champagnes, or even caviar and lobsters.
  • For entertainment, first class may offer a larger screen and better headphones, but generally the video content should be the same. Many passengers these days bring their own entertainment systems anyway.
  • Many airports now offer private first-class lounges and separate dedicated-boarding procedures.

Sure, if you step up from an economy seat to business class seat, you’ll notice a definite improvement, one that can often be warranted so you have a more relaxing long-haul flight. However, a bump from business to first class hardly justifies what more you get other than the above. A better meal, premium wine and maybe a bit larger seat? For how much more?

Some airlines, noting the small discrepancy between amenities offered and the corresponding large difference in price between business and first classes, have taken on the challenge of offering travelers over-the-top, first-class service on some routes with their own “suites.” in the hopes that they’ll pay for the privilege of a Hong Kong-sized apartment in the sky.

At the end of the day, is first class really worth it? I say, maybe … if you can afford it and if the products and services are perceived as being unique. However, if you’ve ever wanted to fly international first class, you had better do it now as many airlines seem to be replacing the most favored first-class seats on their aircrafts with enhanced versions of business class in the hope that their big spending customers will have a harder time telling the difference.

From this frequent traveler’s viewpoint, the days of a first-class travel experience don’t exist like they used to, as most airlines seem to have simply flown away from the good ol’ days.

Brad Dwan is Managing Director for International Energy Sales, Inc., a manufacturer’s representative for mid-level manufacturing companies based in the U.S. and assisting them in expanding their global businesses.

Traveling business class for companies with shipments of export cargo and import cargo in international trade.


It’s time to book another business class flight and get to that important meeting you have made several time zones away. Prepping for the meeting is probably the easy part; dealing with the stress of airline travel these days is the hard part. Overbooked flights, long wait lists for upgrades, shrinking seat pitch and widths, smaller airline lounges and crowded airports are just a few of the many stress factors we deal with when traveling to far away destinations.

Finding the best international business class airline that offers the best overall flying experience from the time you leave home to the time you arrive at your destination can help relieve the travel stress and the ability to embark on a more pleasant, seamless and enjoyable long-distance commute. International business travelers desire a simplistic and comfortable mode of travel inclusive of the best business class seat, best airport lounge and the best on-board/in flight amenities.

Seat Selection

Choosing the best international airline that offers the best overall business class flying experience from a seat selection perspective may be vastly different depending on whether you are traveling solo or with a partner. Many newer aircraft like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, 777 ERs and Airbus A-380/330/350s have several different business class seat layouts to consider.

For example, if you are traveling alone, you want private space and the ability to enter and exit your seat space without climbing over your seat mate or them climbing over you. In this case, look for aircraft with staggered seat layouts in the 1-2-1 configuration. Each aisle seat is one to its own, while the aisles on every other row of two middle seats are accessible from either side. Some of my favorite airlines that boast this option are Singapore Airlines, Asiana, Qatar Airways and Emirates on the A-380 aircraft, Thai Airways onboard the 777ERs and Eithad Airways with their A-380 aircraft.

If your partner is accompanying you, and the desire is to be close enough to one another to have a conversation and still enjoy the personal space during rest, the best layouts are Lufthansa’s 747-8s and Cathay Pacific’s 777ERs, where business class seats are actually angled toward each other, or United’s Polaris business class seats on their new 787 Dreamliners, where the seats are very close together. And kudos to British Airway’s business class seat layout on their A-380 and 747 equipment, where some seats actually face each other.

Airport Lounges

Need to “prep” for your long-distance business class adventure? Some of the best business class lounges can be found in Dubai with Emirates Business and First-Class lounges. They occupy an entire level at DXB with massive amounts of square footage available for eating, drinking, quiet time, socializing and transitioning from lounge to gate. In fact, you can actually walk out of the lounge to your Emirates gate without having to reenter the main airport.

Other notable business class lounges are Qatar Airways’ al Safwa Lounge in Doha, the Qantas First Class lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. Lufthansa has upped the ante with their two lounges, one in Frankfurt and one in Munich, and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific has “The Wing” and the Pier First Class lounges where you can experience all the niceties of international comfort.

In-Flight Lounges

On longer international business class flights in excess of 12 hours, there really is no way you are going to sleep the whole time, so an in-flight lounge is a wonderful amenity to look for when considering choosing the best business airline. These days, the only aircraft large enough to fit a decent sized in-flight lounge are the Airbus A-380s. Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Korean Airlines utilize the vast space available in the aft section of the upper deck, where you can sit at the bar or on either side of the cabin in nice lounge sofas. In most cases, free flowing libations with a bartender, nibbles and wi-fi can make a very nice way to pass some time. Korean Airlines and Asiana Airlines offer additional smaller business class lounges in the forward sections of the upper decks. Most other aircraft only have areas in the galley or nearby that are smaller and only can hold a few people. The exception is some airlines with the newer 777 ERs, but those lounges have small bars with only a few stools. These in-flight lounges are consistently packed with too many people, and flight attendants have to turn people away.


Most major international airports in the U.S. are far behind offering the updated amenities like the more modern airports overseas do. However, the Yanks are catching up slowly.

If you have the chance to travel through or end your journey at Singapore’s Changi, Seoul’s Incheon, Dubai International or Hong Kong, you have done well in blending the best business class airline, best airport lounge and best in-flight lounge into your long journey.

Safe travels!

Brad Dwan is Managing Director for International Energy Sales, Inc. a manufacturer’s representative that represents mid-level manufacturing companies based in the USA, assisting them expand their global businesses.


United Kingdom-based consultancy Skytrax, which runs an airline and airport review and ranking site, recently compiled this list of the world’s best airline business classes of 2017.

1 Qatar Airways

2 ANA All Nippon Airways

3 Singapore Airlines

4 Etihad Airways

5 Lufthansa

6 Turkish Airlines

7 Garuda Indonesia

8 Cathay Pacific

9 Emirates

10 EVA Air

11 Japan Airlines

12 Hainan Airlines

13 Qantas Airways

14 Austrian

15 Virgin Australia

16 China Airlines

17 Air France

18 Swiss

19 Asiana Airlines

20 Oman Air


OK, so, you have booked your 15+ hour flight in business or first class to somewhere far away and you are en route to the airport. The suspense and anxiety build as you get closer. You’re in traffic, not sure about how long the security lines will be, if there are any flight delays, etc.

Most people don’t like going to the airport because of the high stress level getting there and the crowds greeting them. The airport can be, at a minimum, one of the most crowded and unsettling experiences one can have while traveling.

Why not take advantage of the premier, premium business and first-class lounges available with most airline carriers today? These lounges can be havens of tranquility away from the unruly masses and hustle and bustle of the common airport areas.

Experiencing the comfort and relaxation of an airline lounge is well worth the visit. The trend is clear: Airport lounges are redefining themselves as enjoyable destinations for elite travelers.

There are different levels of quality with “executive” lounges these days. Some can become so crowded with travelers and their children that there is nowhere to sit. Too many possess glaring lacks of basic amenities such as comfortable seating or decent varieties of food options beyond peanuts, popcorn and draft wine. You’re better off at the KFC takeout downstairs on the departures level. Lower quality executive lounges are found mostly in busy U.S. and European airports.

On the other hand, premium lounges, only accessible to first- or business-class travelers, are found in larger international airports in the U.S., Asia, Middle East and parts of Europe.

There are several creature comforts that are offered at premium airline lounges. Some people rate them higher than others but, from my experience, one of the most important features is the availability of open space. You want to have the option of secluding yourself away from the noise and chatter and enjoy the comfortable seating, lounge chairs and individual alcoves of private spaces.

Other enhanced amenities found at some of the world’s best airline lounges are showers, nap rooms and massage rooms. Many airlines send chauffeured limousines to pick you up from your home and deliver you to private airport entrances.

During my travels, I have found the best airline lounges in the U.S. are: the United Club at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) Terminal E; the Delta Sky Club at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Concourse C; and the AA Admirals Club at Terminal 4 and newly opened United Club at Terminal 7 of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

These lounges are newer and offer the above-average basics in open space and food selection. Warning: They can become crowded as access is not specifically limited to first- and business-class travelers.

To really enjoy the ultimate premium and first-class airline lounge experience, consider some of the world’s best that are located in the Middle East, Europe and Asia. If you can gain access to any of these world-class lounges, chances are you will be blown away by the accommodations, food and drink varieties, abundance of open space and private areas, hot showers, massage rooms and spa treatments. Trust me, you will become so ensconced in your personal experience, you won’t want to hear the call that your flight is boarding.

Some of the notable lounges in the Middle East include the Qatar al Safwa Lounge, in Doha, and the palatial Emirates A380 First Class Pier, in Dubai that occupies an entire airport level of its own with direct boarding access to your Emirates flight.

Two Quantas first-class lounges in Australia—one in Sydney, the other in Melbourne—are large and comfortable. In Europe, Lufthansa goes over and above the top with their two lounges in Frankfurt and Munich. Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific has “The Wing,” and the Pier First Class Lounge is where you can experience all the niceties of international comfort. In Southeast Asia, Thai Airways has an exotic first-class lounge and spa at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.

So really, waiting at an airport doesn’t always have to be an uncomfortable experience. To sample some of the best airline lounges, you may have to “pay to play,” but creative use of airline bonus points, frequent flier miles and booking the right fare class can afford you some of the most relaxing and enjoyable airport visits you can imagine.

Brad Dwan is Managing Director of International Energy Sales, Inc., a manufacturer’s representative that represents mid-level manufacturing companies based in the USA, assisting them in expanding their global businesses.

Asia Lite

Hong Kong, or “Fragrant Harbor” as it directly translates to from Chinese, offers many exciting business opportunities and jaw dropping sights. A former British colony, it is an interesting blend of Chinese and Western culture. I travel to Hong Kong several times per year, since having an office and staff there makes it a necessity.

Hong Kong is one of world’s most densely populated areas on Earth, it’s home to one of world’s most important financial centers, and has more than 1,200 skyscrapers lining its horizon. It is mild in the winter months, but very hot and humid with frequent typhoons in the summer.

It’s relatively easy to travel to Hong Kong. I usually take the Cathay Pacific flight direct from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Hong Kong International Airport (HKG). Service is excellent, and since most flights leave LAX in late afternoon, you arrive in Hong Kong just before cocktail hour the next day, afforded plenty of rest to prepare for your first formal working day. HKG is regularly ranked one of best airports in the world.

Most Americans won’t encounter any major cultural differences when doing business with locals, although Hong Kong people tend to be a bit more formal and conservative. Locals put a strong emphasis on hard work and success and also subscribe to longer working hours—but hey, what’s wrong with that?

Formal western business attire (suits for men and women) is the norm. From a cultural perspective, it’s good to practice the usual formalities that one would in most other Asian countries, such as giving and receiving business cards with two hands. When receiving a business card, handle it with care and look over it for a few seconds before putting it away.

English and Cantonese are the official languages in Hong Kong. Cantonese is the primary language spoken by locals, but most people, especially the younger generation, speak English. Not all taxi drivers speak English so it’s always a good idea to have hotel or business destination addresses written in Chinese to show them for reference, just in case.

Luxury business hotels abound both in Kowloon and across Victoria Harbour on Hong Kong Island. My favorite is the W Hotel in Kowloon. You can take the Airport Express train as soon as you clear immigration at the airport all the way to Kowloon Station. It takes 24 minutes and runs every 10 minutes. Kowloon Station is right under Elements Mall where the W Hotel is. Simply take the elevator up to the W Hotel and you are there!

Another beautiful and newer hotel is the Ritz Carlton at the top of the ICC Tower in Kowloon. Make sure to go to the very top to the Sky Bar at night and look out over the beautiful city lights of Hong Kong.

When you get hungry, you’ll find a wide array of international food options. Local delicacies include dim sum (bite-size foods typically served in bamboo steamer baskets), hot pot and sushi.

When the sun sets, the fun begins. Lan Kwai Fong is the hottest night life spot in Hong Kong, frequented mostly by white collar workers and expats. Award winning dining with more than 100 bars, restaurants, shops and clubs makes Lan Kwai Fong a favorite for many.

Hong Kong boasts highly developed public transportation along with a clean and efficient subway system. There are many taxis and buses roving throughout the city, but be careful when crossing the street—they all drive on the “wrong side” of the road.

Make sure to save some time for sightseeing. Most popular is Victoria Peak, the predominant mountain in the western part of Hong Kong island. You can take a tram to the top for a stunning view of the city and harbor. While you’re up there, have a bite at The Peak Lookout restaurant and see the panoramic view across Victoria Harbour.

Other popular spots are the Mid-Levels Escalator, located in the Central business district; it is the longest outdoor covered escalator in the world, measuring 2,600 feet long and 443 feet vertically!
Most any spot located on the Victoria Harbour waterfront is a great place to view the “Symphony of Lights,” a 13-minute laser light show beginning every night at 8 that synchronizes 40 buildings affixed with lights on both sides of the harbour with a musical score, creating a fantastic visual experience.

Make sure to leave some time and take a taxi over to the other side of Hong Kong Island on the peninsula to visit Stanley. It’s a small seaside area with an array of small shops and street stalls and two of Hong Kong’s most beautiful beaches.

Last, but not least, if you thrive on chaotic shopping experiences, check out the Ladies Market on Tung Choi Street. You can hone your bartering skills and negotiate with some of the best purveyors of inexpensive clothing, accessories and souvenirs at more than 100 stalls.

Hello Delhi!

“Namaste”… and welcome to India!
I’ve travelled to India several times over the past few years on business, mostly to Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad. It is truly an amazing country, huge in many aspects relative to geography and population. India is the second-most populated country in the world after China, with more than 1.2 billion people. Yet, the entire population lives in a country roughly one-third the size of the U.S. and ranks seventh overall in the world in square miles.

India is also one of the most diverse countries in the world. It is a sophisticated, modern, industrial leader that is home to many primitive tribes and millions of poor people. Religion and language separate people—and a wide gap separates the few wealthy from the many poor.

There’s much to India that makes a visit to this country so appealing, exciting and potentially stressful for some Western visitors. With two sides of India bordering major oceans and the northernmost border backing up to Nepal, Pakistan, China and Bangladesh, India offers a multitude of sights to view the country from a cultural and historical perspective. The massive population and traffic congestion throughout the major cities can make travel difficult.

Before your trip to India, ensure you have your visa in order. If you’re visiting for tourist purposes only, there is a relatively new streamlined process call an “e-Tourist Visa” (eTV) that can be done electronically. If you are like most Global Trade readers, however, then you probably will be there for business and will need the more formal, traditional type of visa. Best to contact the Indian Consulate in Washington, D.C.; alternatively, there are many online visa services that will gladly take your USD in exchange for a formal Indian business visa.

Once you have sorted all the formalities, it’s time to book a flight to your Indian destination. I prefer the most reputable airline services with the most direct connections. It’s a long flight, so best to limit your connections depending on your port of debarkation. My favorite from LAX to Delhi is on Emirates, with a stopover in Dubai. This route gives you some time in Dubai for shopping or additional business meetings, and the Emirates service is beyond perfect. India also has two major airlines, Air India and Jet Airways, the former offering better service in my opinion.

Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi is a massive airport that has been updated over the past few years. Once you arrive and step off the plane, take a moment to stop and engage your five senses. You will find that the first three—olfactory, sight and sound—will come to you first … very quickly!

Delhi, India’s capital territory, is a massive metropolitan area in the country’s north. In Old Delhi, vibrant bazaars are filled with food carts, sweets shops and spice stalls. Almost 16 million people live here and it is known as the most polluted city in the world. Climate can be up to 100 Fahrenheit April through July, so plan accordingly. Heat aside, I find very nice accommodations at The Leela Palace; they have transportation services from Indira Gandhi Airport to make your journey seamless.

Chennai (Madras) is located on the Bay of Bengal in eastern India. You will get spoiled by Indira Gandhi airport if you went there first—Chennai’s is in need of some updates, though the international terminal was recently given a face-lift. Chennai is the largest industrial and commercial center in the southern part of India.

Although it has a heavy industrial and commercial automotive and automotive component manufacturing base, Chennai has attracted the highest number of foreign tourists than any other city in the country. For accommodations, I recommend the Leela Palace Chennai or the Westin Chennai as good business hotels that offer a variety of meeting facilities and excellent restaurants. Travel from any other major Indian cities to Chennai is best accomplished through local airlines such as Jet Airways.

Hyderabad is the capital of southern India’s Telangana state. Otherwise know as “The City of Pearls,” Hyderabad is a major center for the technology industry and is also home to many upscale restaurants and shops. Be sure to take in a few visits to the pearl stores; they are fascinating.

Unlike many other airports in India, the Hyderabad airport is modern and very appealing. Once outside of the airport ring, you can experience the rugged, barren roads leading to the main city. It’s about a 45 minute taxi ride. The Mindspace Enclave in Hyderabad is a modern information technology and technical park that is home to Qualcommmm, Novartis, IBM India and Accenture. The Westin Mindspace is a wonderful new hotel with accommodations for the traveling businessman.

While doing business in India, keep in mind that meetings are rarely held on time and appointment attendees are usually quite tardy. A quick and infamous Indian head bob from your business host will in most cases mean yes—not no—so become acutely aware of your surrounding guests and culture.

At the end of a busy day, take time to enjoy the Indian cuisine native to the region you are visiting. Choices while sampling Indian cuisine are vast and flavorful. My favorites are tandoori style cooking with chicken or chicken tikka and curried rice followed by an ice cold Kingfisher beer.

Doing Business Down Under


G’day, mate. How ya’ going?”

You’ll hear that all the time when you visit “The Land Down Under.” I travel to Australia several times a year on business. Of all my travel destinations in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East-Africa regions, comparatively speaking, Australia is the most welcoming in terms of Western culture, business, accommodations, beautiful scenery and food.

When traveling from the U.S., keep in mind that, on the average, our summer months are their winter and vise versa. The best time to travel there is December through February if you like mild-to-hot, summer-like weather.

Most of Australia is semi-arid or desert, with a large part of that in the center of the country. On the east coast is where most of the Australian population resides. Major cities are Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Perth is the largest city on the west coast, Darwin is north central and Adelaide is south. The city of Gold Coast, which is just south of Brisbane, is one of the fastest growing cities in Australia. This is where you will find the beautiful beaches and great night life of the famed Surfers Paradise region.

Six states make up the country of Australia: New South Wales (NSW), Queensland (QLD), South Australia (SA), Tasmania (TAS), Victoria (VIC) and Western Australia (WA). Sydney is the largest city and business hub located on the east coast in NSW and offers an abundance of hotels, restaurants and major sightseeing attractions such as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, where those who do not suffer from acute acrophobia can take a guided stroll across the top of the bridge, 440 feet above sea level, and take in the beautiful and dramatic sights of Sydney Harbour.

The best and fastest way to get to Australia is on Quantas, Australia’s primary airline carrier. The direct routes from most U.S. airports to Sydney and other cities include travel on the spacious and well-designed Airbus A-380s. A lie-flat Business Class seat makes the time fly by for the 14-hour ride.

Staying in Sydney has its advantages. It is a beautiful city with five-star hotel accommodations and home of the Sydney Opera House, situated on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour. This iconic structure is a sight to behold. I usually stay in Darling Harbour or downtown, as both locations provide easy access to taxis or public transportation to the business center of town.

When out and about in Sydney, check out The Rocks. It is an historic inner-city suburb that is very popular with tourists. Many restaurants, art galleries, pubs and shops line the cobblestone walkways with a unique weekend market similar to what we call a swap meet.

Venture a bit farther out from Sydney to the Blue Mountains, about an hour drive. Most notable there is The Three Sisters rock formation, so spectacular that it resembles the USA’s Grand Canyon.

Sydney also offers a ferry system with boats of different sizes regularly plying Sydney Harbour from one destination to another. A wonderful side trip is on a high-speed ferry from Sydney’s main ferry terminal in Circular Quay over to Manly Beach situated at the southern end of Sydney’s northern beaches. It’s about a 30-minute ferry ride with spectacular views of Sydney Harbour along the way. Manly boasts great shops, restaurants, nightclubs and a few cool dive bars.

On the way back from Manly, have a stop in Watsons Bay and eat at one of the many restaurants on the beach that offer a wide variety of fresh seafood and tasty libations. Watsons Bay provides great views of Sydney across the harbor and also of the Harbour Bridge. Take a short stroll up to the Sydney Heads, where you can see the large entrance to Sydney Harbour. South Head has the most dramatic views atop the high cliffs with crashing waves below.

Also of notable interest in downtown Sydney is the Sydney Tower. It’s the second-tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere and affords a 360-degree view of Sydney and the surrounding areas. For the adventurous, take a 40-second ride to the top and enjoy the open-air glass Skywalk.

For spectacular beaches, Sydney’s most famous is Bondi Beach. It’s almost a mile long and features many popular restaurants and hotels with spectacular views of the surrounding headlands.

Seoul Searching


Over the past few years, I have traveled to Seoul, South Korea, many times for business. This has been in large part due to the ratification of the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement in 2012 that unleashed countless new opportunities for U.S. exporters like my company to sell more Made-in-U.S.A. goods, services and agricultural products to Korean customers—and most importantly, to support more good jobs here at home.

Seoul is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. Only about 50 miles from the demilitarization zone (DMZ) and border to North Korea, the city is situated adjacent to the Han River and has a population of more than 10 million people. Its history stretches back more than 2,000 years, and the city is home to several major automobile manufacturers such as Hyundai, Daewoo and Kia Motors, along with electronics giants such as Samsung and LG.

A city immersed in the past but eager to embrace modern times, Seoul is one of Asia’s most interesting and culturally vibrant destinations. Having only become a major tourist destination in the last decade, Seoul still has many secrets for adventurists to share. Many neighborhoods, sites and markets scarcely see tourists, but offer a nice chance to mix with locals.

How You Feel
How You Feel

Getting to Seoul is rather straight forward, with plenty of direct flight options from most major U.S. airports. Korea’s two largest airlines, Korean Air (KAL) and Asiana Airlines (OZ), have major hubs at Incheon Airport (ICN) and the smaller Gimpo (GMP)—which was the main international airport for Seoul and South Korea before being replaced by Incheon International Airport in 2001. Today, Incheon is the primary airport serving the Seoul National Capital Area and one of the largest and busiest airports in the world.

My preference is Korean Airlines with their twice-daily flights from Los Angeles to Seoul aboard relatively new Airbus 380-800s. The A380 has a superior Business Class layout that occupies the entire second level of the airplane with lay-flat sleeper seats and two lounges, fore and aft, to help relax during the 14-hour flight.

In Seoul, first-class telecommunications, five-star hotels, western restaurants, modern transport systems (including very efficient subway networks in Seoul and Busan via the KTX high-speed train) and innovative architecture can be found throughout the city. For top-pick, business-friendly hotels, downtown Seoul offers the J.W. Marriott or the Westin Chosun in close proximity to business central, or the Sheraton D-Cube City Hotel just outside of City Central on the west side of the Han River.

How You Look....PITCH IMPERFECT  South Korea’s famous noraebang (karaoke) is a top choice for making business relationships a little more personal.
South Korea’s famous noraebang (karaoke) is a top choice for making business relationships a little more personal.

When visiting on business, one should be ready to mix professional with social life as the Koreans base their business relationships upon personal ones. Drinking Korean alcohol—soju, beer, scotch or other liquor—is commonplace in establishing a personal, business relationship. Also commonplace is the “noraebang” (song room), where businesspeople frequent establishments to drink and sing karaoke in private rooms with their Korean counterparts—so tune up your vocal chords!

There are many dining options in Seoul, from high end restaurants to less formal, family style or traditional Korean BBQ establishments. Korean cuisine is largely based upon rice, vegetables and meats. Traditional Korean meals are noted for the number of side dishes (Banchan) that accompany steam-cooked, short-grain rice. Kimchi, Korea’s cabbage-based national dish, is served often, sometimes at every meal. The Seoul Tower, a major city landmark, measures more than 700 feet high, and a revolving restaurant at the top affords diners a 360-degree view of the city.

While visiting Seoul, there are several adjacent areas that are worth checking out. Gangnam is the commercial center and forms the financial center in conjunction with Yeoui Island; Digital Media City is the technology hub. The Jongno and Central District areas are the historical and cultural centers of Seoul. Both the Greater Gangnam Area and Gangnam itself —inspiration for the “Gangnam Style” pop single—are widely known for heavily concentrated wealth and high standards of living, which has been compared to such cities as Beverly Hills, Calif. Korea’s most expensive real estate can be found in the Gangnam District.

Busan is the largest seaport in Korea, located about 200 miles south of Seoul. The KTX high-speed train is a perfect way to make the journey. It takes a little more than two hours and is a very comfortable way to travel. It affords passengers a nice opportunity to see the Korean countryside while countless rice patties fly by at almost 200 miles per hour. A must-see in Busan is Haeundae Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand worth visiting when meetings have concluded and relaxation is the order of the day.

Brad Dwan is managing director of International Energy Sales, Inc., a manufacturer’s representative for leading companies in the Renewable Energy, Electric Vehicle and Energy Storage space.

Destination Dubai

Tips For Tourists and Business Travelers, From One Exec to Another

Dubai offers much for the business traveler or the tourist. Port Jebel Ali is the world’s largest man-made harbor, the biggest port in the Middle East and seventh busiest in the world, so a lot of my business takes place in and around this area. For the tourist, or when I want to get out on weekends (Dubai works six days a week, so the weekend is really on Friday, the only day off), shopping in Dubai is the thing to do. The actual shopping is average, but the experience is intriguing. Malls in this city are realizations of unrestrained fantasy, offering surreal attractions to lure you—and your credit card—in.

Over the past few years, I have traveled to Dubai several times for business. It is one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). The best and fastest direct way to get there is on Emirates Airlines, which offers superior business-class service with direct flights to DXB from LAX, SFO and JFK. They even pick you up in a private car for transport to and from home, airports and hotels!

When you arrive at Dubai International Airport, the first thing you notice are many men wearing the traditional Kandura—or dishdash, as it is referred to by visiting expats—and many women dressed in burqa, along with droves of other travelers wearing variants of western world dress.

Dubai is simply amazing, as it lies directly within the Arabian Desert, but you can swim in the Persian Gulf at the beaches of many 5-star hotels along Jumeirah Beach. It is a city of the super-rich and super poor. You are unlikely to see a place where the divide between the “have nots” and the “have yachts” is so apparent. The local-born Emiratis, who make up about 12 percent of the population, are typically extremely wealthy, but the town was built on the backs of a huge working-class population predominantly from the Indian subcontinent and from less prosperous areas of the Gulf. Sitting between the two groups is a burgeoning band of expats, mostly from the West, who are profiting to varying degrees from the city’s modern day Gold Rush.

Dubai has more than 70 shopping malls, including the world’s largest, Dubai Mall. You can visit the indoor Ski Dubai, the artificial skiing slope and snow park, and carve out a few giant slalom turns inside while watching the world go by outside in 114F heat.

Ships in port along Dubai’s skyline
Ships in port along Dubai’s skyline

The city draws large numbers of shopping tourists from countries within the region and as far as Eastern Europe, Africa and the Indian Subcontinent. Dubai, also called “The City of Gold,” is known for its souk districts. As you migrate around the Gold and Spice souks, you can really experience the originality of the city as it was before the massive commercial expansion took place in the early 1990s.

My favorite hotel on Jumeirah Beach is the Madinat Jumeirah Hotel. It is huge with its own waterways to transfer guests from its shops, bars and restaurants to the neighboring cluster of hotels. The landmark Burj Al Arab Hotel is just down the beach, which is the world’s tallest hotel and a beautiful sight, especially at night when it changes colors. You will easily part with $2,500 per night for a nice room there, and that is the only way to gain entry to the Burj, unless you can secure a dinner reservation.

If you like boats or “mega yachts,” the Dubai Marina is the place to go. It’s a massive new development that borders Jebel Ali. The Marina is full of yachts and skyscrapers and hosts the Jumeirah Beach Walk, with a number of restaurants, hotels and an open-air market when the weather permits. Be sure to take this in if you have time.

Arabic is the main type of food in Dubai. Many restaurants feature Shawarma, which is a wonderful medley of lamb and chicken mixed with tomatoes, pickles and garlic sauce. It’s a bit like a kebab and the taste can be different depending on the restaurant. Falafel and Arabic bread are nice compliments to most meals in Dubai. Settling in to a nice restaurant and starting off with a flavored tobacco Hookah pipe makes for a nice evening’s experience.

A few times I have ventured out beyond the city’s grasp to experience the Arabian Desert to its fullest. The Bab Al Shams resort is a plush desert escape built in an Arabic fort setting in and around an oasis. Inside the walls, shaded courtyards, walkways and water features provide cool shelter and maintain the unique ambience and atmosphere. The after dinner show includes Arabian horses performing on their natural desert sand stage right outside the courtyards.

Shopping in Dubai is average, though its malls are realizations of unrestrained fantasy.
Shopping in Dubai is average, though its malls are realizations of unrestrained fantasy.

I also stay in other areas of Dubai, mainly downtown where the newly commissioned Burj Khalifa is located. It’s currently the tallest building in the world, and the super exclusive Armani Hotel occupies its highest floors. From the observation decks on these highest floors you can see all of Dubai from downtown to the beach on a clear day. The Palm Jumeirah, which is billed as the Eighth Wonder of the World, is a master-planned community that can be seen off in the distance, along with The World, an archipelago of islands that forms a world map in miniature. (The islands are for sale, so if you can afford it, you can buy a “country” for yourself.)

Downtown Dubai offers many types of hotels depending on your budget and style. I have found that the Al Manzil and Qamardeen Hotels offer up a great value for the business traveler with locations central to downtown Dubai.

Dubai is a fascinating city with a converging dichotomy between opulence and poverty. There’s plenty in Dubai, with exclusive hotels, shops, high-end malls, mega yachts, Ferraris, Bentleys, Lamborghinis and BMW 5 series police cars on one side, and traditional souks with outlying areas of poor and poverty on the other. A must-see for both the tourist and the business traveler!

Teddy Roosevelt Almost Slept Here

The Inn at Irving Place, New York City [By Linda Fish]

If you are looking for a quiet, quaint place to stay in the city that never sleeps, The Inn at Irving Place just might be your cup of tea. Known for Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon and its afternoon tea with the locals, the 12 guestrooms and junior suites cater to that business traveler who wants something ”homey.” During my recent stay, the Inn provided just that—a nice respite from the usual city bustle.

Built in 1834, the old Lower West Side brownstone takes you back in time. You won’t even find hotel signage out in front, just the address, 56. Furnishings and architecture are from the Victorian period, reminding me of some of San Francisco’s B&Bs.

HotelChampagne and an appetizing fruit and cheese plate are served upon arrival. My room at the top of the stairs was on the small side, but the bathroom—by New York standards—was voluminous. Although cozy and very quiet with its Victorian furnishings, a “fluff job” is probably due for this charming New York City Inn.

Located on a quiet, tree-lined street, The Inn at Irving Place is not only near the beautiful Gramercy Park and its revitalized neighborhood but also just two short blocks from the subway station, offering a quick ride to the financial district or midtown.

Rates start at $445 a night. Residences or apartments are available for longer stays starting at $375 a night.