This summer, I was sitting at a café on the Amalfi Coast, talking with a waiter about what I do for a living. “Did you start a travel magazine just so you could travel the world for business?” he asked. I laughed. That would hardly be a reason to start a company. Besides, I traveled for business long before AFAR began. But business travel has certainly become much more experiential since my former careers in law and manufacturing took me around the world.
Prior to my Italy trip, I had been talking with Alfredo Gangotena, the chief marketing officer for MasterCard. A true citizen of the world, he has lived in nine different countries, speaks four languages, and travels often.
“Doing what the local people do when I’m on the road comes naturally,” he says. “To do anything else would seem silly.” One of Alfredo’s tricks when he visits a destination regularly is to book the same room at the same hotel. “I get to know the staff. Even though I am in a hotel, it is easier for me to experience a place like a local.”
Alfredo’s approach gives him a firsthand understanding of global trends. “It helps me think creatively about business challenges,” he says. “I come up with many ideas based on my travels.”
To help other business travelers go deeper on their trips, AFAR and Westin Hotels recently launched a program called Westin Finds from AFAR (westinfinds.com). The goal? To encourage Westin’s guests to get to know their destinations like a local. From the thousands of distinctive experiences our community has shared on AFAR.com, we’ve selected ones within easy reach of Westin hotels that we think will inspire guests to get beneath the surface of a place. Take cooking classes at Cooks of Crocus Hill outside Minneapolis; watch wrestling matches in Mexico City; sip gin and jasmine cocktails at Mag Cafè in Milan; and shop for art at Tianzifang in Shanghai. Guests at participating Westins will find at least 30 fun ideas nearby.
Business trips are no longer simply about going to meetings, eating at the hotel, and getting right back on the plane. AFAR is excited to help inspire and enable travelers to experience a place like the locals, because that is when the most interesting and enriching things happen.