Barnett on Business Travel



March 15, 1992 -- Forget the rich and famous who travel on a magic carpet with all expenses paid. How is corporate America getting around during the recession, particularly hard-core travelers who are on the road 50 percent of their lives?

Some still travel regally. Some are pinching pennies. Most are traveling smarter. Hopefully you can pick up a few money and timesaving tips.

"I'm an organized flyer, but I'm a little insane, too," says Leo Arthur Kelmenson, chairman of Bozell International, the advertising agency for Chrysler, Merrill Lynch and the U.S. Air Force. "Running to the gate with two jam-packed briefcases is better than jogging 10 miles a day."

Kelmenson makes travel time pay because he answers all his mail on the plane with handwritten notes - no dictated letters.

Rick Gentile, vice president of Olympic sports programming for CBS Sports who handled production on the recent winter games in Albertville, France, spends his money with U.S. companies in Europe, not because he's patriotic but for value received.

He likes American Airlines' business class ("serves strawberries and whipped cream") to Paris and the Marriott Prince des Galles on Avenue George V ("comfortable, perfect location."). In Geneva, he prefers the Noga Hilton ("terrific warm showers and super service").

Howard Fields of Sausalito, Calif., averages 1,000 miles a day or 365,000 miles a year traveling the world designing spectacular water extravaganzas for hotels. He created the longest swimming pool in the world at the Hyatt Regency Cerromar Beach in Puerto Rico but designed it on a tray table in coach class on Eastern Airlines.

"I've learned to travel comfortably," he says. "Seersuckers and Hush Puppies, bow ties because they don't wrinkle, one garment bag for two weeks."

Fields, on the go from Tahiti to Turkey, Australia to Aruba, never drinks anything stronger than water while flying, orders cheeseburgers from room service "because social contact while you're working and traveling hard drains you."

Form travel habits and stick with them, stresses Richard Torrenzano, senior vice president/corporate affairs for Smith/Kline Beecham, who divides his time between London and Philadelphia.

"Always get to the airport 45 minutes early, stay in small to medium-sized hotels where the telephone operators are reliable and the overnight shoeshines and pants pressings are prompt."

In clearing customs, "Always put your bags on the counter and open them up because usually the officers just wave you through."

Torrenzano, the former chief spokesman for the New York Stock Exchange, carries a "briefing book" on every trip.

"It has every name, address, phone and fax or telex number I'll need on the trip and all the information for every meeting."

Most travelers think the jet plane is quicker than the train, but not Bob Gaines. The vice president of food marketing for the Newspaper Advertising Bureau, representing 1,400 dailies, always takes the Amtrak from New York to Jacksonville or Atlanta.

"I have a roomette, plug in my laptop computer, go down to the lounge car for a beer, then go to the dining car, where you are treated like a human being.

"You dine at a table rather than on a lap tray. And steaks on the grill sure beat the gruel they serve on airplanes," claims Gaines. Plus, with an overnight train trip, he saves the cost of a hotel room, one day rent-a- car charge and a rush-hour dash to the airport.

Don Best, director of consulting accounts for International Data Corp. of Framingham, Mass., has a suitcase full of shortcuts. He always flies Continental Airlines because his One Pass Elite frequent-flyer card almost always gets him an upgrade from coach to first class. He uses Avis rent-a-car because as a Preferred Club member, "the car is ready, the trunk is open and the engine is running. I'm always looking for ways to save minutes and steps."

Best never carries a garment bag, prefers an underseat bag and "folds down a second suit" that fits in his carry-on luggage. Though he stays at Marriott hotels because of the health clubs, he has a list of "quirky hotels and inns" for most cities he visits.

This column originally appeared in the Albany Times Union

Copyright 1990-2009 by Chris Barnett. All rights reserved.