Saving the global economy one business trip at a time
A Transportation Security Administration agent checks a passenger's luggage at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. (Erik S. Lesser/Associated Press)
In August, the unemployment rate in the US remained stubbornly stuck around 9%, the rate in Europe hovered closer to 10%, and world financial markets remained topsy-turvy with little stability in sight.
With governments on both sides of the Atlantic scrambling to come up with new ways to stimulate their economies, encouraging companies to hire workers and bring the unemployment rate down, I started wondering: how much do our business trips stimulate the economy, and how many jobs do we save every time we take off?
The World Travel and Tourism Council reports that travel and tourism directly supports 99 million jobs around the world — 3.4% of global employment in 2011. The council said that business travel alone created 40 million new jobs between 2000 and 2007.
Those are some pretty impressive macroeconomic numbers. But I also wanted to know how much my own travel was helping out. So on my last flight across the US, I did some informal research and figured out that my last business trip touched the lives of 38 people.
While there are countless people behind the scenes who may have indirectly benefited from my trip from San Francisco to Atlanta, I only counted the number of faces I saw or the voices I heard as they helped me on my way. Here’s my tally:
Taxi ride to San Francisco International Airport: Three jobs
First, a friendly dispatcher picked up my call after just two rings. Then there was the stone-faced Russian driver who did not say a word for the entire 30-minute drive to the airport. At the airport curb, a parking guard ensured that cars did not linger any longer than necessary to drop off passengers.
Airport security: Six jobs
At security, a smiling inspector checked my boarding card before entering the screening queue. Then, a TSA agent matched my boarding pass with my ID, scrutinizing it with a special light and asking me to recite my surname. Another agent helped travellers organize the plastic bins filled with belongings, reminding everyone to take off their shoes, belts and empty their pockets. It took two more people to man the full body scanner, and I know there was someone in another room who checked out my scan on the monitor.
Airport lounge: Five jobs
There were two attendants at the airport lounge check-in desk. A bartender served me a Diet Coke. Another attendant replenished the snack table. And then there was the overly aggressive janitor who was not going to let any business traveller prevent her from getting her job done that day.
The gate: Four jobs
There was a gate agent who was unable to upgrade me but was kind about it. Another agent scanned my boarding pass as I entered the jet way. Two more TSA agents gave me a visual once-over as we boarded.
During the flight: 10 jobs
There was the pilot, co-pilot and, I think, five flight attendants on board. There were also two ground crew members who readied the plane for takeoff, adding fuel and loading luggage onboard. Upon arrival, a gate agent drove the jet way up to our plane door and welcomed us to Atlanta.
Renting a car: Three jobs
On the way to get my rental car, an attendant guided me to the new automated train for a five-minute ride to the rental car lot. At the counter, an agent helped with my request for a midsized car with the lowest mileage (my secret for getting the best car on the lot), and of course, tried to convince me to upgrade and buy all sorts of extra insurance I didn’t need. Once I picked up the car, a friendly guard at the turnstile matched the car with my license, provided directions to the freeway and wished me safe travels.
Checking in to the hotel: Three jobs
The check-in clerk patiently listened to my typical laundry list of questions, and found a room with a great view and good wi-fi reception. A front desk manager was hovering around in the background. Then, a hotel housekeeper had just finished cleaning my room as I arrived at the door.
The hotel restaurant: Three jobs
Since I arrived late in the evening, I decided to have a quick dinner at the hotel restaurant. There was the waiter who served my club sandwich even though he was checking his watch and ready to get out of there. Behind the scenes there was at least one chef and one dishwasher.
A wakeup call: One job
After returning to my room, I called the hotel operator to request a wakeup call at 6:30 am.
The next time you consider cancelling a business trip, think about the jobs that your trip will support. By getting out there, spending wisely, visiting clients, growing your business and maintaining relationships, you are doing far more to stimulate the global economy than any government has been able to do so far.
Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel