MacNair helps pols go the distance


Helping businesses navigate the world of corporate travel and sending clients smoothly from one place to another are all in a days work for travel agencies, but Mike MacNair takes it a whole new level think presidential.

MacNair Travel does the travel arrangements for Presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his campaign, but this is far from MacNairs first encounter with politicians needing support while scaling the political power ladder. We have had the Republican candidate who goes at least all the way to Election Day since 1988, he said.

The credit for the agencys entre to managing the travel logistics for Washingtons movers and shakers goes to MacNairs wife and co-owner of the agency, Ellen. When they transferred from Manhattan to the DC area, MacNair explained, Ellen was hired by the agency handling travel for President George W. Bush. After the election, she was weighing going to work for the White House when the couple got a loan to start their own agency, and MacNair Travel was born.

After that, we just naturally pursued that niche, and weve been doing it ever since she did that in 1988, MacNair said. Nobody knows that part of the business better than us.

Of course, political travel, especially in presidential politics, presents a different set of challenges from more traditional types of business travel.

I think the big difference is they buy a lot of one way tickets because they send people to one big battlefield and they dont know where those people will be going next so the pick one battle at a time, MacNair said. I think the volume of change we have to deal with at a campaign is very high, and the need for speed balanced with the need for value, you know, it keeps us on our toes all the time.

As the race finally gets going in earnest with both parties effectively having arrived at their nominees, MacNair and his team are prepping for the general election. Theres a lot of tools we have to put into place in advance for us to be effective right now and its really just kicking into full gear right now, and were ready, he said.

A business mindset is what MacNair attributes to setting his agency apart from others. I think most travel agencies consider themselves a travel agency, and I think we consider ourselves a business first, one that happens to be in the travel business, he said. That simple approach allows us to always clearly focus on the value our target customers want and the product we need to deliver to get them that value.

However, when it comes to his adopted home MacNair is  more of a sentimentalist.

At times, from a dollars and cents perspective, parking, recruiting, availability of office space, [being based in Alexandria] isnt always a dollars and cents best value, but I wouldnt go anywhere else, he said. This is a town I really believe in. I feel like if we have a challenge or a problem I can go talk to the mayor or find somebody to help me and I value that sense of community a great deal.

MacNair and company certainly seem to be in Alexandria for the long haul. The agency, located in the city since it opened in 1989, moved to a new location at 1101 King St. in March. Staff has swelled to 50 people, some of whom work remotely from other parts of the country.

Like any good traveler, though, MacNair still has the itch to explore. He lived with a family while going to business school in Madrid and he returns to Spain, his favorite destination, to visit. While Alexandria is home for now, he said he hopes to one day open a bed and breakfast in Palma de Mallorca, off of the eastern coast of Spain.

My blood isnt Spanish but I believe my heart is, he said.