This is a transcript of an Radio Interview with eTN’s partner TravelTalkRadio host Sandy Dhuyvette and Kevin Maguire, President of the National Business Travel Association.
NBTA has about 4,500 members here in the US, but are somewhat amazed to learn that the organization also counts nearly 30,000 additional members around the world. Kevin fills us in on NBTA’s global outreach and international partnerships.
Sandy: You know, we find that your interviews are so interesting to our audiences, we can see where they go to listen and you are always one of the top, so it’s great to have you back. We know we have a NBTA big, big conference in San Diego – our neck of the woods – in August, and well talk about that, but I also want to talk about what you are really entrenched in into the NBTA that a lot of us don’t realize it’s so big, and that’s the international section.
Maguire: NBTA made a decision about 3 years ago that we would expand on a global basis, and I think that’s one of the things that people have really never heard about is the NBTA reach into other areas of the world. It’s really interesting to know that we have about 4,200 US Members but if you count the membership of our affiliates we’re well over 30,000.
Sandy: That’s amazing to hear that. Let’s talk a little bit about that structure, because we have listeners that are in different countries that are business people that are included in the buying of travel, or they know that they have to go through their ranks in their industry or in their business to get travel. How do you set up an organization and how do you set up a partnership in another country?
Maguire: We’ve done it two different ways. We actually have on the ground NBTA offices in Canada and in Mexico and the Asian-Pacific area and Australia, and we have an office, more of a contact office, in Europe. But, what we have done is go to the various areas around the world, look for other travel organizations, meet with them, talk about the good, the important, the necessary things that can be done by combining the two operations together, and try to find partnerships with the strongest of the local travel associations that are there. The best example that I can give you right now is in Europe, we have an agreement with Paragon Partners which is a group that represents countries all over Europe, from the UK down to Spain.
Sandy: So these companies would be really across the board in the industry.
Maguire: They are across the board. Well, they are very similar to the NBTA. They are just travel associations in those countries that are made up of membership that is just like in our case, businesses involved in travel, businesses who do travel, and suppliers who provide travel services.
Sandy: So that’s really what makes up the membership in the US, too, isn’t it?
Maguire: That is correct.
Sandy: So, with this new conference coming, or the annual conference I should say, coming into town into San Diego, you expect quite a few don’t you?
Maguire: Surprisingly, with the down economy we had thought that we would see a drop of 10 to 15 percent, maybe even more. As of this morning, we are on track to meet the numbers we had last year and the year before, both which were record years. Last year we had almost 6,500 participants, and again we are on to match that now, which is a very, very nice thing to hear but and a very big surprise, too.
Sandy: It is. I mean when you think about the economies of scale and what people are cutting back on and the priorities that they are making, obviously they are making this a priority. Let’s talk a little bit about, first of all, I know you’ve got speakers coming to actually present at the conference that are just world-class and we will talk about those, but what kinds of things would you go to learn or experience if you come out?
Maguire: Well, everybody has trouble selling meetings and conventions right now, especially conventions because it’s an expense and its time away. NBTA has designed their programs over the last two years to seek out innovative buyers and those buyers present their innovative programs to the people who attend the conference. If you really what to develop a networking program, there is no better place than mingling with 6,500 decision makers, important decision makers, heads of companies, heads of airlines in the travel industry. We have a CEO panel from the airlines. This year it’s Continental and Southwest. It’s an open forum, we ask questions; they give us answers. You have a chance to meet the kinds of people that you would not normally have the chance to meet, to understand how things are being done, new things, the way changes are being made. It just gives you a great opportunity to expand your knowledge.
Sandy: And it takes about 3 or 4 days, the entire conference?
Maguire: The program runs from the 23rd of August to the 26th, and we have educational programs of some sort actually beginning two days before the program and ending on the last day of the program. We have certification programs. The NBTA is the only association in the travel industry that certifies people in different areas, and we have those certification programs going on at the same time as the convention.
Sandy: That’s really great. Besides that great stuff going on inside the conference, you’ll be in San Diego, which is certainly a treat and we are having beautiful weather here, I can attest to that being in the studios here, and looking outside these little windows and seeing that there is some beautiful sunshine going on. Before we take a break, I want to just mention, too, that if you are thinking about the NBTA as something you should look into, come on over to nbta.org. Or you can come on over to our website at TravelTalkMEDIA.com, you’ll see a picture of Kevin, you’ll see a link into NBTA, and this actual interview will be available directly after the programming, so you can push this up to other people and let them know the archives are up. We are going to take a quick break and when we come back I would like to talk a little bit more about the international aspect of the NBTA. Of course we will talk a little bit more about the conference and what you can do to get involved in that. And, I want to talk also Kevin which I think is always so interesting to talk to you about, is the new opportunities in tour and travel and certainly what you do for a living besides heading out the NBTA is so interesting, and I always have a fun time talking about that, sound good?
Sandy: Alright, my name is Sandy Dhuyvetter, I have Kevin McGuire with me, we will be right back.
Sandy: Alright, welcome back to TravelTalkRADIO. We are talking to Kevin McGuire. He is the President of the NBTA. They are actually situated in Washington DC. Kevin is in Texas, and you actually work for the University of Texas, don’t you, in your day job?
Maguire: I do, I actually manage travel for the athletic program here which is kind of a new concept in the travel industry and I’m having a blast.
Sandy: It must be a blast and, of course, you are probably a real fan, too, aren’t you?
Maguire: I was raised with the University of Texas. I have orange blood if I bleed. So, the answer is yes.
Sandy: (Laughs.) Orange blood, I love that, I love it. Now, the other part about this whole story is that the opportunities are out there. I mean, every time I talk to you, it seems as if there’s these new, like you said, buying travel for a university. That’s not something you think about growing up and being a part of, but certainly that’s a great career isn’t it?
Maguire: It’s a part of the industry that was really never discovered, left untouched, really until about a year ago, when we looked about it at the NBTA, part of it was because I was here at the University. There are so many opportunities in developing managed-travel programs in the sports industry, and not just with colleges, but also at the pro level because we have a committee now that exists that kind of goes over all the possibilities in the travel industry related to sports travel. It involves all the major sports in the collegiate level and all the major sports programs at the pro level.
Sandy: It’s really kind of an onion you have to peel, I mean, when you look at it from the outside as a user of travel you think, “Oh well, yes, I’ve to go and get the best deal and make sure the connections are right.” But you are doing much more than that, aren’t you, in your daily aspect of buying travel?
Maguire: We actually, at this point, are looking at the way things are have been and the way things could be and I like it because it gives us a chance to try new things, make mistakes, develop new programs, learn from those; it’s just a lot of fun
Sandy: Yeah. You’ve got what 17? Did you tell me one time you had 17 different teams?
Maguire: I have 16 different traveling teams.
Sandy: And that’s women and men?
Maguire: Women and men.
Sandy: And would you have varsity and JV?
Maguire: We don’t have JV anymore. They use to have that, but now it is strictly all varsity
Sandy: Wow, amazing stuff. You know, besides buying travel in sports, are there any other fields that you see coming up that are new trends and might be a career opportunity?
Maguire: The travel industry is really evolving right now more than I have ever seen. Part of it is because of the economy; part of it is because people are beginning to step out of the box with more comfort. But, you can look at the corporate side and there are better ways to handle meetings. Strategic meeting planning is the big thing right at the moment because you need to show some kind of return on your investment. You can develop new ways to approach travel issues that have never done in the past. There are also, from the leisure side, this is the time when specialization probably plays more into the scenario of travel than ever before. It just requires that you are not afraid to use your imagination and you’re not afraid to step out, and if you make mistakes, you make mistakes, but things work.
Sandy: You know what I love about it is, you can think outside the box, but yet you have an organization like the NBTA to fall back onto. And not only do you have the conference coming up that we mentioned in San Diego, but you have other educational opportunities during year, too, don’t you?
Maguire: We have programs throughout the year and they are either based on specific topics or again we have certification programs that help people develop, whether its in the meeting planning part of it, or whether it is for new people in the travel industry that are learning really how travel from a managed standpoint is handled, to people who have been in the business as long as I have who are been able to get masters and PHD level designations through major universities.
Sandy: Wow, that’s pretty amazing stuff. You know what; let’s do the namedropping game now, too. I mean, you’ve got some great speakers coming on in. Do you mind talking about that and telling us some of those great names?
Maguire: Well, I make the opening speech, is that what you mean?
Sandy: Well, there you go, Kevin Maguire! (Laughs.)
Maguire: (Laughs.) It’s very rare that you get a chance where you can go and you can hear a former president, Bill Clinton, he will speak. Sir Richard Branson, the head of Virgin Atlantic, who has done so many things from a maverick and successful standpoint with the airline industry. Dara Torres, the Olympic champion, who has silver medals from the last Olympic Games, and she’s actually going to enter the World Games after our program. And then to open the session, is Captain Sullenberger who is from US Airways who landed his plane on the Hudson with no injuries and saved all of those lives. We have an American hero, we have an Olympic champion, we have a business champion, and we have a former President.
Sandy: It’s just amazing stuff. It’s worth the price of the entry ticket just to see those folks and, of course, you will have a lunch with them, too. So, that’s the great part about NBTA, plus all of the networking which is so valuable, priceless as a matter of fact. You know, we got to get out of here as the time goes so quickly. I want to remind everybody, go over to nbta.org and come on over to our website. We’ll guide you there nicely, and if you are not subscribing to our newsletter, please do that because we have more information about the NTBA in there. And we’ll continue to do that because August is the time and the opportunity for you to get a hold of these folks and really broaden your reach and certainly, hopefully you will be a part of that. Kevin, thanks again for joining us you did a great job as always.
Maguire: Sandy, always a pleasure. Thank you.
Listen to the interview: http://www.TravelTalkMEDIA.com/archives_jul19_09.html#1008