Now Boarding: Small Businesss

Travel services are rolling out the red carpet once reserved for big customers

Hip-hop artist Speech and his wife, Yolanda Thomas, owners of four-employee Vagabond Productions, dropped a hundred grand last year on airfare alone for their Fayetteville (Ga.) music publishing and production company. Beth Slifer, president of Slifer Designs, a $20 million residential-design firm in Edwards, Colo. is staring down the barrel of a $231,000 travel budget for 2000. Only $50,000 of that will be billed back to clients. "Usually, it's spur-of-the-moment meetings with potential clients," says Slifer, "and my travel plans change constantly, meaning I'm often caught paying the highest fares." Michael Berneis, CEO of New York startup Inc., spent $15,000 jetting to Europe to meet with partners and investors, so he saves on lodging by staying with friends.

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