As the co-founder and head of Toronto-based independent record label Arts & Crafts, Jeffrey Remedios not only finds himself travelling the globe on business but also having to entertain associates while on the road – an easy enough task at home but a slightly trickier one in far-flung locales.
Like many executives who maximize their time while travelling, Mr. Remedios, who takes trips to festivals, conferences and meetings one week per month, tries to find a way to mix business with pleasure – and has found savvy means of doing so along the way.
While many travellers might turn to the traditional hotel concierge for advice, creative types like Mr. Remedios already have access to a built-in network of peers who have their finger on the pulse of their particular urban scene.
“Trendy places heat up and cool down, and when you're only in a city a few times a year, it's impossible to really know about any of that yourself, so I depend on the locals’ knowledge,” Mr. Remedios says. “I'll go to a town like Buenos Aires, and even before I go, I’ll be in touch with some amazing locals who do similar things to what I do, like artist managers or concert promoters, and they'll help guide my trip.”
Like many other busy executives seeking out unique entertainment options, Mr. Remedios also relies on online tools to plan, keeping an eye on Twitter and websites like ASmallWorld.net.
The rise of social media provides a great opportunity for frequent business travellers heading to unfamiliar destinations; it’s the online equivalent of having a personal network at their fingertips. All it takes is a quick Twitter or Facebook post inquiring about the best place to have a beer in a city, and chances are someone on their contact list knows exactly the spot to suggest. Experts note that using social media – including such options as LinkedIn, which cater specifically to the business professional – to cultivate an international network of contacts can make business trips that much easier.
Travel-focused social media is becoming increasingly popular with business travellers, with websites like Dopplr.com offering creative ways to seek out travel advice and share itineraries from cities around the world.
Not all business travellers may have the network (or inclination) to look for options on their own, so many still turn to concierge services, which can help with everything from reservations at the busiest restaurant to tickets to a sold-out show. But the fusty image of the traditional hotel or airline concierge has taken on an updated spin to match the quick pace of modern international business travel.
Concierges at boutique accommodations such as Toronto’s Drake Hotel can assist visitors looking for distinctive ways to interact with clients by tailoring entertainment options that showcase the best of the city.
“More and more business travellers seem to be looking for a cultural experience – it seems like as long as people are being forced to travel, they seem to want to have a whole experience attached to it,” says the Drake’s head concierge Jonathan LeClaire. “We can facilitate meetings here, or plan an entire curated experience for them and their guests, whether that’s a walking tour of the Queen West neighbourhood or a picnic at the Beaches.”
The hotel is able to keep business travellers in the know thanks to an active staff that meets weekly to share tips about the latest openings, happenings and trends in town, says Mr. LeClaire, adding that the hotel’s close relationships with area restaurants, bars and entertainment venues means that his staff is often able to facilitate even the trickiest request from business travellers hoping to score a good table at a popular eatery or tickets to a buzzworthy show.
Since most on-the-go execs are glued to their smart phones, another way hotels like the Drake try to anticipate business travellers’ entertaining needs is by staying connected via technology – the Drake’s concierge team has its own Twitter account, and is also partnered with the mConcierge iPhone app. “It helps us keep our finger on the pulse of what guests are looking for,” says Mr. LeClaire.
Long before travellers even reach their destinations, airline concierges are busy fielding requests from harried business people who need to set up entertaining options for when they get to the other end, says Deborah-Ann De Souza, director of concierge services at Air Canada.
“Time is of the essence for the business traveller – they live on the road, so depend on us to assist with the details,” she says.
As such, business travellers are increasingly taking advantage of airline concierge services as an effortless way to tap into the services they need. Air Canada’s premium concierge services are available to the 50,000 “super elite” frequent fliers who travel the required 100,000 qualifying miles each year, but also to those flying in Executive First class. Most other Canadian and international carriers offer similar programs.
Air Canada, which has 148 concierges in 20 cities worldwide, is an affiliate of the exclusive Les Clefs D’Or concierge society, which plugs the airline into a vast network of hotels, restaurants and other entertainment venues around the world, Ms. De Souza explains.
Concierges can also help tailor entertaining options to a specific budget, Ms. De Souza says, pointing out that companies were beginning to tighten their belts long before the financial crisis hit last year.
“Your average business customer is very cost-conscious in how they’re spending their money and how they’re entertaining. Someone will fly in and want to be able to take their client out to lunch someplace nice, and they’ll work over lunch, and then the person returns to their home base,” Ms. De Souza says.
“So when there’s less time to get it right, sometimes it helps to have someone like us jump in and lend a hand.”