Commercial Travel Still A Challenge, From Booking Flights And Hotels To Finding Breakfast (Transportation Special)

NickGold Transpo
(Photo by Gary John Norman / Getty Images)

Back in the Before (COVID) Times, getting breakfast at the hotel before the ride to the airport – let alone having a waiting car, on time, and a plane to board – was something a lot of global touring artists and their crews probably took for granted.

That’s where Nick Gold, president and founding partner of Entertainment Travel, comes in. Commercial travel isn’t just about the planes, hotels, and cars – for Gold and his company, it’s every logistical detail in between.

So when 20% of the higher-end hotels that Gold utilizes still aren’t providing breakfast service in the aftermath of staff and supply chain shortages, it’s his job to adjust his budget to include buying breakfast when the hotel kitchen isn’t running.

“Obviously, the hotel that you can book and what you will get from it is predicated on the budget,” Gold explains. “If you’re with a high-end act, you know you’re going to get the great hotel, which is going to include Wi-Fi and breakfast. Probably 20% of what I book now does not include breakfast. … if it doesn’t, for some acts I just have it included. Most people are none the wiser because they want to have it.”

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but it’s only a tiny piece of the puzzle that is arranging touring travel. But when even something as basic as breakfast is fraught with complications in the post-COVID world, well, you get the idea.

Gold’s agency caters specifically to the entertainment industry and its unique travel needs. Entertainment Travel was established by Gold, himself a former tour manager, in 1984 and is highly sought for its attention to logistical details and service.

And that’s been made more difficult with uncertainties tied to rampant inflation as well as shortages in staffing all along the travel chain – from reduced commercial flights and ground transportation to hotel closings to staffing limitations.

“From a flying point of view, it was mentioned that most of the carriers within the U.S. will not be increasing their capacity internationally for some time, maybe during or after this summer, once they can reevaluate how that travel period has gone,” Gold says of the air travel situation. “So you currently have more people trying to fly in fewer planes and even the prices of fuel predicated higher because of the demand.”

Relationships are everything, even in the travel and hospitality businesses. Good relationships allow companies in many cases to negotiate special rates for groups and individuals in major markets like Nashville, Los Angeles, and New York as well as in smaller markets.

But even the best relationships won’t buy you a room in a favorite hotel if it’s been closed, which is what recently happened to Gold. The day he spoke to Pollstar, he’d learned one such hotel in Germany he wanted to book had closed.

“It happened just today, and I’m devastated,” Gold says. “The Park Hyatt Hotel in Hamburg closed, and I’ve been using it for years. It will be 2025 when they rebuild in Hamburg. So what will happen between now and then? All I do know is now I’ve got to fight [for favorable rooms and rates elsewhere].”

Gold says there is some light at the end of the long tunnel, however.

“Car rentals are getting better. [Rental agencies] are getting more cars in their fleets, but still a challenge depending on what city you’re trying to pack out of. But I know that all these car companies are trying to get their fleets back to where they were, and it’s a slow process.”

Flying continues to require extra effort to work around, as the number of domestic and international flights continues to lag behind the number of planes in the air prior to March 2020.

“I have not seen any increase in service number of aircraft,” Gold explains. “Getting engaged is slow and expensive. … This is something that’s going to carry on through 2023, I think, and carry on easily into ‘24.

“I think only then will we see how all of the different vendors in the industry, whether they be airports, hotels, ground transportation, continue to recover from the mess. Just cause we’re busy doesn’t mean that everything has gone away.”