Staying in a four-star hotel sounds like you’re getting the royal treatment – unless one of the world’s most expensive and luxurious hotels is right next door.

That’s what happened recently to Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Gary Toebben and his wife, Janice, on a trip to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The Dubai Chamber of Commerce invited the Toebbens and the heads of three dozen other U.S. chambers on a weeklong tour of Dubai. The once-booming emirate was hit hard by the collapse of global financial markets and is trying to drum up foreign investment.

The tour included a visit to the Burj Khalifa – now the world’s tallest building at 2,717 feet – and to one of the huge manmade “palm islands” jutting out into the Persian Gulf. Toebben, an avid mountain climber, said he especially relished the visit to the indoor Ski Dubai resort.

But it was the iconic Burj al Arab Hotel that made the biggest impression on him. Built in the shape of a giant sail, the hotel bills itself as the world’s most luxurious; rooms are said to start at $1,500 a night, with the Presidential and Royal suites going for more than $15,000 a night.

Of course, after touring the Burj al Arab, the chamber delegation stayed at a four-star hotel next door.

“Anywhere else, the hotel we stayed in would have been considered absolutely world class. But there…” Toebben mused last week.

When asked if he would have liked to have stayed at the Burj al Arab, Toebben laughed and said, “I don’t think it was in the budget.”

In the Cards

Seventeen years ago, Carl Terzian threw a get-together so powerful that people are still getting together as a result.

In 1993 Terzian, whose eponymous PR agency organizes networking events partly to encourage business leaders to help non-profit organizations, held a 25th anniversary celebration with 2,300 guests. He told each one to bring 12 business cards. After the party, each guest left with a dozen random business cards and was told to contact those people during the coming year.

Terzian also warned that he would check up on them 17 years later to see what happened with this giant networking experiment.

Terzian’s anecdotal research lately has found that since 1993, several couples have been married and hundreds of people have joined non-profit boards because of the card exchange.

“It goes to show you that people who had been bashful about networking, or didn’t know how to do it, can find great benefits if they just give it a try,” he said.

Although most of the cards today are lost or obsolete, the relationships live on. Also, the black leather cardholders that each guest received at the party still adorn desks all over Los Angeles.

“The fan mail we get talks in glowing words about friendships that came from the cards,” Terzian said. “The other day Lynda Boyer, a vice president at CB Richard Ellis, told me, ‘I’m still pulling cards from that 25th anniversary cardholder.’”

Staff reporters Howard Fine and Joel Russell contributed to this column. Page 3 is compiled by Editor Charles Crumpley. He can be reached at

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