Set-in-stone filming schedules. Paparazzi. Extra-special specialty meals. Middle-of-the-night trip changes. And the occasional pet monkey that gets its own airline seat. This is what work looks like when you’re a travel agent for the entertainment industry.
It’s an unpredictable job serving an unusual business. That’s exactly why BCD Travel agents love what they do. Some, like Sean Johnson, have spent more than two decades maximizing comfort, security and efficiency for stars, entertainment executives and production crews on the go.
“The most challenging thing about my job is the thing I enjoy most,” said Sean, who’s based in Southern California and books flights, hotels, apartments, limos, trains, helicopters, boats, private jets and more for travelers of one of BCD’s largest entertainment clients. “The pressure of getting talent to a destination when all the flights are sold out and they have to be there by a certain time or the show will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars is both a challenge and a thrill.
“This is nothing close to a 9-to-5 job. Our clients’ travelers have shoots going all the time in different parts of the world, and one thing that makes them feel just a little less stressed is knowing that they can depend on their travel agent to be there when they need them,” he said.
Expert advice: Cybersecurity and the entertainment industry
BCD Chief Information Security Officer Sherron Burgess will talk about cybersecurity threats facing the entertainment industry at BTN Entertainment Travel, March 21 in Santa Monica, California.
Making the impossible happen all day, every day
For some BCD entertainment travel agents, the reward for “making the impossible happen all day, every day” is being part of the creative process. “I have always had a passion for music and came from a family of musicians. It’s great to work in that world,” said Charlotte Gale, who’s based in London and serves a multinational music conglomerate that’s been a BCD client for more than 20 years. She’s seen—and done—it all, from arranging for a superstar musician to bypass zealous fans with a golf cart ride through the back halls of an international airport to calling London nightclubs to find where a big-name singer left his prized leather jacket. Charlotte’s secret to success? “I never say no!”
A love for the movies led Sara Yesayan, an operations supervisor based just north of Los Angeles, into entertainment travel 17 years ago. She thrives on using her team’s know-how and connections with hotels, airlines and other suppliers to make travel magic happen fast. Once she even helped a production crew shooting on location escape a mudslide. (That required sending a fleet of SUVs to whisk them away before the sludge made it down the mountain.)
Prioritizing privacy and security for high-profile travelers
But Sara’s top priority is ensuring the privacy and security of entertainment travelers. “We have very strict protocols to protect them,” she said, listing some of the challenges: aggressive admirers, paparazzi, bad guys phishing for details about the lives of celebrities. BCD agents ask lots of questions and immediately report anything that seems suspicious.
Mark Wallace, who supervises U.K.-based agents serving an entertainment content production and streaming company, explained some of the protocols. “We make sure we have everything covered to protect the talent, including gathering passport information in a secure way, using an alias for bookings and arranging greeters to ensure celebrities aren’t left alone in a busy airport.
“We understand how privacy and comfort go a long way to helping entertainment travelers feel safe, well looked after and in the right hands,” he said.
The meticulous attention to detail, adrenaline-fueled saves, unpredictable schedules and quirky requests (i.e., an agent once booked a hotel room for a zebra) are all worthwhile when the credits roll. “I watch until the very end of any movie my team has booked travel for,” Sara said. “It gives me a strong sense of satisfaction for all the hard work that went into making it come to life.”