23 February, 2006
Best Bets for Business Trips, by Sophia Banay
Suva, as capital city is the centre of business in Fiji and the South Pacific. Suva is also host to many regional organisations and to companies and banks that serve the Pacific Islands region. The following article gives some good tips on how a business trip can be enjoyed. Business trips are like pornography: overpriced, exploitative and highly repetitious. Over time, the red-eye flights, 4 A.M. wakeup calls and indigestion from expense-account dinners tend to blur one trip into the next. Beijing looks a lot like Berkeley--or Berlin or Boston--especially when all one sees of a city is from a hotel meeting room. But breaking the monotony of huddling over spread sheets and pounding at a BlackBerry is possible, even if you only have an afternoon, or a few hours, to spare before your flight home. After all, business travel can take you to cities you might not otherwise visit. Why not look around a little? According to the experts, your company may actually want you to. "We're seeing more and more travelers try to leverage their business trip for personal purposes," says Dan Basik, the vice president of the Business Travel Division of Bucknell Travel, a full-service travel agency based in Birmingham, Ala. Basik works with financial, insurance, health care and air and space industry companies all over the country, and estimates that 20% of his travelers are extending their stays, bringing family members along, or just using spare time to pursue a personal interest in a foreign city. "Companies by and large are open to it. They realize that business travel is not necessarily fun. If they can make it a perk, it makes sense," Basik explains. Besides, enjoying business travel is good for business. If you're in a relaxed frame of mind and enjoying your trip, you'll have more to talk about with local executives, and will understand the local culture better, which can be a huge benefit if the destination you're visiting is one in which you regularly do business. Luckily, there's no shortage of ways to explore a new city. "Business travelers have limited time," concedes Pauline Frommer, a leisure travel expert and guidebook author. "But greeter programs have popped up in New York, Chicago, Korea, Japan and Australia recently. It's a wonderful, quick way to see the authentic side of the city, and overcome the language barrier." Greeter programs are arranged through the city's Convention and Visitors' Bureau: Just call in advance of your trip and they'll assign you to a local, bilingual guide who will take you on a tour of the city at a time convenient for you--often for free. In addition, Frommer recommends staying in an informal bed & breakfast for a night, browsing the bulletin boards of nearby universities for lectures, workshops and tours that are open to the public, and seeking out graduate students or art restorers who are experts in their fields and will give short tours or talks. "I was in Rome, and located a Michelangelo expert. He took us to the church where Michelangelo's body was kept after he died until his family stole it back. It's a real insider-y way to the get the inside scoop on a city," says Frommer. And that's just the beginning. What about learning polo at an Argentine estancia, or having a suit made on London's Savile Row? It's all possible: You just have to know where to go. To help you get started, Forbes.com has compiled a list of cool things to do while on a business trip. We started by choosing 16 cities, international commercial hubs but also centers of national culture, cuisine, athletics and fashion. Then we asked the concierge at one of the city's best business hotels for a recommended activity for an out-of-town visitor with some free time on his hands. We got answers which ranged from the traditional--cooking classes at the Ritz-Escoffier School in Paris, for example--to the once-in-a-lifetime. In Cape Town, South Africa, travelers can plunge into the ocean with nothing but a scuba suit and a reinforced steel cage between them and the enormous white sharks that live off the coast. For land-lubbers in Houston, Texas, visitors can go cowboy action shooting, acting out typical Western dramas in period dress and with real guns and bullets. Our listed activities vary widely in cost and time-commitment, but any one of them will transform a business trip from blah to bravo. Note from GV : For relatively cheap accommodation, business travellers can live in a two-bedroom home with sea views with their families at a rate of FJD95.00 a night. Discounts are given for longer stays. If you wish to have a particular event/sight/interest, just let us know. Bookings and enquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone +679 3396427.