New York is famous for a few things.
The Empire State Building. The Mets. Crazy cab drivers. Aggressive
residents. And great restaurants. When thousands of delegates
descend upon the Big Apple for the ASTA World Congress Nov. 4 to 7,
many will want to go out on the town.
So, several of New York's finest agents shared with us their
favorite restaurants and watering holes -- all of them accessible
to agents by subway or taxi. For dining in high -- and very
high-priced -- style, Valerie Wilson, president of Valerie Wilson
Travel, named her favorites: Le Cirque, Daniel and Le
Other New Yorkers in the know at Valerie Wilson Travel came up
with a few more upscale suggestions: Home cooking at An American
Place, 565 Lexington Ave., (212) 888-5650; French food at
Brasserie, 100 E. 53rd St., (212) 751-4840, and Asian-Cuban fusion
at Asia de Cuba, 237 Madison Ave., (212) 726-7755. Jenni Lipa,
president of Spa Trek Travel, offered several eclectic
• Sushi Samba, at two locations: 245 Park Ave. S., (212)
475-9377, and 87 Seventh Ave., (212) 691-7885.
"It's Latin American and sushi -- Japan meets Brazil," Lipa
said. "They do amazing, very delicate presentations of summer and
• Rain, at two locations: 100 W. 82nd St., (212) 501-0776, and
1059 Third Ave., (212) 223-3669.
"It's Thai/Vietnamese food, and it's fabulous," Lipa said.
• Avra, 141 E. 48th St., (212) 759-8550.
"It's Greek food; fresh, fresh fish. You can choose your own
Lipa also suggested some places to unwind and have a few drinks
"A fun place is always the Marriott Marquis," she said, referring
to the rotating Broadway Lounge at the top of this theater-area
hotel at 1535 Broadway, (212) 398-1900.
For younger, hipper agents, Lipa mentioned Tenth Street Lounge
downtown, 212 E. 10th St., (212) 473-5252. For agents who want to
go someplace "cool" but a little more "adult," the Monkey Bar, 60
E. 54th St., (212) 838-2600, should do the trick. For the elegant
and refined, try the uptown Carlyle Hotel, 35 E. 76th St., (212)
Michelle Peluso, president and chief executive officer of online
agency Site59, contributed Bubble Lounge, 228 West Broadway, (212)
431-3343, to the list of nightlife. "That's a fun champagne lounge,
with lots of little rooms," she said. Bubble Lounge is across the
street from another Lipa nightlife pick, El Teddy's, (212)
Because both bars are near the World Trade Center site, Peluso
said, agents might not be able to take a cab all the way there.
They can take the subway or a cab to West Broadway and Canal Street
and walk about three blocks south.
David Buda, executive vice president at Tzell Travel, offered up
a couple of gay-friendly spots in the Theater District, close to
the Jacob Javits Center: Barrage, a bar and lounge with a mixture
of locals and theatergoers, 401 W. 47th St., (212) 586-9390; Don't
Tell Mama cabaret nightclub, 343 W. 46th St., (212) 757-0783, and
44 & X Hell's Kitchen, 626 10th Ave., (212) 977-1170, where
American comfort food is on the menu.
"They are all mainstream, gay-owned or operated businesses --
nothing shocking or over-the-top," Buda said. "All are nice
neighborhood gathering places."
Angela Crane, a senior consultant at World Travel Partners'
on-site at Turner Broadcasting, has lived in the New York area her
Where would she go? "Salute," at 270 Madison Ave. at 39th
Street, (212) 213-3440, she said instantly. "It's a really great
Italian restaurant," she added. "I've been there a couple of
Wing Wong, a consultant for Linden Travel, was caught a little off
guard when asked about New York -- she spends her days arranging
travel to other cities. "We know the hot spots in London, Paris,"
she said with a laugh.
There was silence for a few moments. "I'm thinking," she said.
Finally Wong got her top picks in order. She voted for Carmine's,
200 W. 44th St., (212) 221-3800, a midtown spot that's good for
groups. In fact, this boisterous, popular Italian eatery limits its
dinner crowd to groups of six or more -- and meals are served
family-style. Wong also mentioned Becco, an Italian restaurant
right off Ninth Avenue at 355 W. 46th St., (212) 397-7597.
That stretch of 46th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues is
known as Restaurant Row because it's filled with popular yet
affordable restaurants and bars. ASTA delegates who are undecided
can easily troll Restaurant Row and stop in wherever the food
-- Rebecca Tobin
Brave new world
Today, the industry faces two
new significant challenges -- remaining financially viable for the
short- and long- term and getting people traveling again. While
there are no magic bullets, there are common efforts that we see
our customers taking. Many of these efforts are not new, but the
need to communicate and support travelers is greater than ever:
• Addressing concerns
One of the most obvious requirements post-Sept. 11 is to provide
assurance to customers about their travel plans as well as
information about airport security requirements and baggage
Alternatives and discounts
As the industry struggles to recover, there are more discounts
available than ever, which provides agents a great opportunity to
reestablish contact with clients. Great deals are available on
airline tickets as well as hotels, tours and cruises. Some
travelers remain nervous about flying. Rail, car and cruises are
possible alternatives. Many agencies that did not emphasize these
forms of travel previously are quickly building their expertise and
offering these options.
• Building alliances
In rebuilding the public's confidence in travel, it is
heartening to see the teamwork and professionalism demonstrated by
the travel industry. Agencies are joining forces, industry
organizations are promoting the value of agents and CRSs are
providing financial relief to both airlines and agencies. It will
take all of our joint efforts to get through this period, and
agencies should continue to build alliances with others in the
While the focus of many today is on survival, travel agencies
need to make decisions that will position them for the future. For
instance, large and small agencies realize that they must have some
Web presence to survive long-term. The Web offers a way to
communicate cheaply and efficiently with clients -- from providing
security information to basics such as flight alternatives. An
agency can take advantage of several inexpensive options today to
establish their online presence and reduce the agency's overall
Ellen Keszler is senior vice president, North America, of
Sabre Travel Agency Solutions. Contact her at [email protected]