Insights on Entertainment Travel: Our One-On-One With Steve Thomason of New Act Travel

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By Mollee D. Harper

Georgia Entertainment News goes behind the scenes of the busy and unique world of entertainment travel, through our one-on-one with Steve Thomason of New Act Travel. Thomason works in the Entertainment Division of this 25-year-old travel agency, home-based out of Los Angeles with a bustling satellite office in Atlanta to facilitate the comings and goings of entertainers who work on both Coasts.

During our time together, Thomason shares the strengths and special nuances of his entertainment team, and the travel accommodations they provide to entertainers and industry professionals, around the clock, and on a daily basis. He shares insights into the type of personalized service his client’s can depend on, and the successes of this legacy agency where he’s worked for the last 20 years. Thomason also highlights the opening of the Atlanta office to respond to Georgia’s tax credits and booming market, and he shares some memorable requests by entertainment travelers.

New Act Travel first opened its doors in Los Angeles, California in 1993. The company was founded by Lily Dallal who serves as CEO for the business. New Act Travel is a full-service agency with over 125 travel agents who serve clients in the entertainment, corporate and leisure markets with accuracy and a personal touch. Over the past two decades, New Act Travel has expanded its national reach to better serve its clients by adding satellite offices in Encino, New Orleans, Dallas, Boca Raton and Atlanta.

Inside New Act Travel

Thomason offered, “Lily Dallal is the owner and serves as CEO of New Act Travel. She employs 125 agents, plus she has a large sister company where she employs another 100 agents. New Act Travel serves a large number of unique entertainment clients each year and the combined business from all markets is an estimated $225 million in annual revenue.”

“We work for movie and television production companies, cast and crew,….everyone. We go from the PA up to the Executive Producer of a show. We also work with music tours, and gaming  professionals. 95% of what we do is airfare. It’s what we do most, and best. For some clients, we have built a deep relationship and strong rapport and have been working with them to meet their travel needs for many years. Building long-term relationships is our key.”

Thomason continued, “My division is the entertainment team division. We have six agents that work together to serve our entertainment market. I’ve been with the company for 20 years. My business partner, Patrick Nemcik, has been with us for 15 years. Our team is bilingual and can speak French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. We handle all travel arrangements for our clients with a collaborative approach, which means we each jump in to make sure our clients are never waiting.”

He continued, “Patrick starts at 5am LA time. I start at 6:45am. John comes in at 8am, then 10am and so on. We have to make sure we provide full coverage for East Coast times so we can cover our clients’ needs really well, no matter where they are working at that moment in time.”  

“Patrick and I both also serve on the Entertainment Advisory Board with Delta Airlines. This gives us the opportunity to talk with other agents who serve our market, and bring more understanding about the entertainment business and their specific travel needs.”

“There are some really big players that serve the entertainment industry. Many of these won’t answer emails until the next day. We do things differently. We answer our emails within 20 minutes, and quicker than anyone else. That extends over to after hours and weekends as well.”  

“Entertainment industry needs are so much different than other markets. They are all about making it happen, now. They also have some very unique travel requests we work hard to fulfill for them.”

Right now, I have an actress who needs to bring her cat on the road with her. I am working with Delta Airlines to have passengers move first-class cabin seats around to accommodate her request.”

“We have waivers and favors with the airlines. There are so many changes we handle. We have great people we can talk to within the industry that can help us meet those demands. Entertainment people are not normal people.”

“We deal with other unique situations. We recently had to make the travel arrangements for several exotic pets that were performing on ‘America’s Got Talent’. We had to fly in a pig, turtles, cats, and dogs. We just flew in five dogs from the Ukraine that had to perform on the show. For one particular client, we had to make arrangements for a special monkey to fly in a first class seat, which he did. It’s a lot of follow through to make sure these animals get to their destination on time, and safely.”

“This is the kind of oddball thing that happens from day to day in our work.”

“We handle the travel arrangements for the contestants of the ‘Amazing Race’. We also work with the cast and crew of the ‘Atlanta Housewives’. We’ve handled air travel for tapings of the ‘Family Feud’, and even work with some of the cast of ‘Dynasty’.”

“It’s not uncommon for us to visit a client at their office, which is also the production set, in order to understand and meet their needs. It means a lot to them that we are willing to go the extra mile.”

“In the travel business, much of your work is really handled online and by telephone call. We want to change that whole perception and model for our industry. That’s why we visit our clients, their set locations and more, so we can really offer a personal touch. We really want to show our clients that we care by engaging in what they are doing.”

Thomason added, “I’m very proud of our entertainment team. We all get along. We make it a fun job. If someone’s drowning because they’re swamped, we jump in and help. As other companies, shut down at 4Pm each day, we don’t do that. We stay in constant contact and monitor our messages and emails continuously. I think this is part of why we do so well. We all love what we do, and we all enjoy traveling.”

The Atlanta Office

 Thomason described, “We opened our Atlanta office about five years ago. It’s located across from the Grand Hyatt on Peachtree. It’s been doing well since day one. As a result of the success of our Atlanta office, we also added a satellite office in New Orleans, which is considered the sister of Atlanta in entertainment. They’ve gotten their tax incentive back which is helping to keep them viable. I think Atlanta was overlooked for a while. Atlanta is booming and crazy with all of its entertainment markets today.”

“Georgia’s tax credits were a big incentive for us to set up our Atlanta office. Everyone we deal with receives an entertainment discount and is able to use the tax incentives in both Georgia and Louisiana.”

“We all visit Atlanta on a regular basis. It’s important so people know we’re real people vs. talking to an email. We spend time with them, like the old days, and share lunch and get to know them. We make a point to go to Atlanta at least once a quarter.”

Thomason offered, “I am very proud of our Atlanta market right now. We work with a lot of terrific people there. Chad Casey provides luxury transportation services to many of our clients once they arrive at the Hartsfield Airport.”

“The Atlanta market is a very hot market. We scramble for seats in first class because it is such a hot market. It’s especially difficult during the holidays, because folks doing business in Georgia want to go home to LA to visit family. It’s hard to find them seats, but we do.”

Thomason concluded, “Our service levels are very high. We provide good service. We have a good reputation with the airlines, as well as our clients. It’s a lot of work, but we make it work.”

Executive Bio

Steve Thomason has served as a Travel Agent for New Act Travel since 1998. Thomason has worked in the travel industry for over 33 years, with a strong focus on meeting the unique travel needs of the entertainment industry. He got his start in the industry working as a Reservations Sales Agent for TWA, and currently serves on the Entertainment Advisory Board for Delta Airlines. Thomason received his formal education in business from LA Valley College.

For more information on New Act Travel, visit the company website at: http://newacttravel.com/.

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