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San Francisco is highest-priced city for business travelers; L.A. is No. 8

Framed by wires from the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco skyline shimmers in the evening just after sunset. San Francisco is the most expensive destination for business travelers, a new study shows.

Framed by wires from the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco skyline shimmers in the evening just after sunset. San Francisco is the most expensive destination for business travelers, a new study shows.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

The City by the Bay is once again ranked as the most expensive U.S. destination for business travelers.

But the big surprise in an annual study of hotel, rental car and dining prices is the ladder-climbing by Detroit.

The latest report by the trade publication Business Travel News, which measures prices paid by corporate travelers visiting the country’s 100 biggest cities, found that the fastest increase in hotel rates — 22.5% from 2014 to 2015 — was reported in Detroit, a sign perhaps that the Motor City is bouncing back from its 2013 bankruptcy.

Detroit’s average nightly hotel rate of $198 is still a bargain compared with San Francisco, the city with the highest corporate hotel rate of $370 a night.

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When hotel and car rental rates and dining costs are added, San Francisco leads the country with business travelers paying a daily average of $547. Other California cities ranked this way: Santa Barbara, No. 6, at $409; Los Angeles, No. 8, at $402; San Diego, No. 23, at $348; and Anaheim, No. 35, at $319.

San Francisco’s expensive real estate is partly to blame for its high hotel rates, said Joe Brancatelli, a business travel expert and online columnist.

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When corporate travel managers choose a meeting location, he said, they will try to save money either by choosing a cheap locale or by sending fewer employees to an expensive destination like San Francisco.

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“Say you are planning a meeting and someone says, ‘Let’s have it in California,’” Brancatelli said. “Why not go to Los Angeles instead of San Francisco?”

Despite the high prices, San Francisco reported a record 24.6 million visitors in 2015, an increase of 2.7% from the previous year.

The national daily average of $318 rose 3.9% over 2014, according to the report.

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The good news is that car rental rates remained mostly flat last year, at an average of about $47 a day.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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