By David Armstrong
Happily for frequent fliers, the dark, dank, cramped, downright depressing airport hotel is gradually becoming a thing of the past. Oh, places like that still exist, especially in smaller markets. But in major markets of the developed world, global hotel chains are providing major upgrades in consumer choice.
A good case in point is the Vancouver Airport Marriott Hotel, located in Richmond, British Columbia, 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Vancouver International Airport (IATA code YVR). I stayed there for three nights in mid-January of this year and saw a goodly number of good points about the modern, 18-story property, which is kitted-out with 172 suites and 65 rooms. The hotel is entirely smoke-free.
In addition to hosting western Canada’s largest airport, Richmond is home to North America’s most Chinese-orientated community. Locals told me that about half of Richmond’s 190,000 residents are recently arrived Asian immigrants or established Asian Canadians, led by Chinese Canadians. Most come from Hong Kong, coastal regions of mainland China or Taiwan.
They give Richmond, located just south of better-known Vancouver, B.C., a distinctly Asian flavor in cuisine, culture, shopping and sightseeing.
The Marriott, which shares its high-rise, central-city development with a Sheraton and a Hilton – all three hotels are operated by the same land-management company and were built at the same time – is not Chinese- or Asian-themed. However, the Marriott does provide excellent access to Asian Richmond, and everything else nearby – including downtown Vancouver, which is 20 minutes away by subway.
Not least, the hotel provides excellent access to Vancouver International Airport, linking to YVR with a free shuttle bus that departs the airport arrivals section every 30 minutes and also stops at the adjacent Sheraton and Hilton. I took the punctual shuttle upon arrival. I took a cab from the hotel at departure, a ride costing C$25 (US$25), with tip.
A third way to go is the safe, efficient and frequent TransLink subway train to and from Richmond Brighouse Station; it costs C$2.50 one-way and is just a 3-minute ride. The 8- to-10 minute walk to the Marriott from Brighouse Station is less practical in bad weather, however, as I discovered when heavy rain drenched British Columbia’s lower mainland on the last day of my visit.
To be sure, no area airport hotel matches the location of the Fairmont Vancouver Airport, one level up from departures and actually in the airport, for flying convenience. But the Marriott is smoothly linked to YVR and its location in downtown Richmond is more convenient than the airport could be for shopping, eating, sightseeing and strolling.
The Marriott has a good – not fancy – business center just off the lobby, equipped with two PCs and a printer that I used to print my airline boarding pass.
Guestrooms offer wired and wireless Internet connections for C$16.95 daily, and the guestroom desk is usefully fitted with a lower shelf for laptops and other devices, along with plenty of plugs for powering up and recharging. The hotel also offers seven meeting rooms with a total 5,199 square feet of meeting space.
I stayed in a spacious corner suite on the 17th floor that came complete with a big outdoor balcony overlooking busy Westminster Highway and, across the street, Richmond Centre, a bustling, sprawling shopping mall with a popular food court throbbing at its heart.
The Vancouver Airport Marriott’s main restaurant is the American Grille, a cozy place where hotel guests take breakfast – a buffet rounded out with cooked-to-order egg dishes. At night, the restaurant transforms into a Pacific Rim eatery with a full bar and its own street entrance.
The Marriott has installed effective sound-proofing between floors and guest rooms. The hotel could, however, do a better job of screening out the steady drone and growl of street traffic from outside. Happily, aircraft noise is not a problem despite the property’s close proximity to a major airport. The same cannot be said of some airport hotels, even now.
My in-room desk faced a wall and mirror in the sitting room of my suite, which also included a fair-sized closet with an iron and ironing board, two armchairs, a desk lamp, a refrigerator, a microwave oven and a 37-inch flat-screen TV. It could have used an in-room safe for valuables.
The bathroom was cramped, with a combined shower/tub – functional but not fetching or roomy. The bedroom, in a separate room with a door, contained a chest of bureaus, a smaller second TV and a comfortable bed with down comforter and duvet. I slept well, wake-up calls came when they were supposed to and the engaged and engaging staff did a lot to make my stay a good one.
The Vancouver Airport Marriott Hotel is located at 7571 Westminster Highway, Richmond, British Columbia, Canada V6X1A3. To book or for more information, call 1.604.276.2112, or visit www.marriott.com/vancouver. Rooms run from C$189 per night.
David Armstrong is a San Francisco Bay Area journalist specializing in features, news and reviews about travel destinations, airports, airlines, hotels and resorts. He is the former tourism, aviation and international trade reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and covered tourism, movies, media and theater for the Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner. He is the author of five books and numerous travel articles for TheStreet.com, Travel + Leisure, Global Traveler, Napa Sonoma Magazine, The Globe and Mail (Toronto), Toronto Star, Chicago Sun-Times, Aviation.com and many others. He blogs at http://davidarmstrongontravel.blogspot.com.