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MBA Students Going Global

HBS invests in a new full-service travel agency to help MBA students plan trips.

Every weekend, tens of students waltz across campus with their rolly bags, ready to venture to some mysterious destination on a trip that you definitely weren’t cool enough to hear about (even though you’re not friends with anyone going on the trip). Each year, the number of trips MBA students take is growing rapidly, and they are more extensive, expensive, further away and for shorter and shorter periods. Rumor has it that an EC went to Japan for 36 hours on an open day, and paid for it all on Delta points.

The administration is seeing this explosion in demand too, and is excited to announce the launch of a new initiative to support students with their travel plans. It’s called HBS Travel, a new consultation and brokerage service designed to help MBA students plan their dream vacations. Whether a regular weekend, long weekend, or 6-week Christmas break, the HBS Travel counselors are at students’ beck and call. “Academics is still the School’s number one priority, but we also must innovate to keep HBS competitive,” says a newly hired student travel counselor (STC). “Of course the most important learning happens in the classroom, but experiential learning matters too – even beyond what we’re offering in FIELD. Whether a nightclub in Medellin, a nightclub in Croatia, or a nightclub in Miami, we believe that HBS has a role in helping MBA students get real-world experiences that expose them to cultures and practices not available to them in Boston.” With how helpful members of the CPD team have been to students, the administration is actively investing in upskilling them to be student travel counselors as well.

“It’s amazing how seamless the process was,” says an anonymous EC. “I just made an appointment on 12twenty, told the counselor my travel goals for the year, and she helped me set up everything: accommodations, car rental, and even made a google sheet for people to fill in their names fast to sign up for spots in Airbnbs, which is definitely the best way to plan a big group trip.”

HBS leadership has also made bold capital investments in this initiative that show they’re seriously committed to this as a differentiating feature of its MBA program – but also that this is a critical growth opportunity. First, the school has initiated the purchase of 100 Airbnb homes across New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Cape Cod to facilitate weekend trips and section retreats more seamlessly. The investment thesis is that the occupancy rate is over 100% for these properties, something only possible by stuffing 20 MBA students in a 5-person house for a weekend in a town students would never visit otherwise.

The second capital investment is the acquisition of TourHero, the platform that many MBA students use to plan trips of any size from 20 to 500 people. It believes that this is a critical step in keeping the School on the bleeding edge of technology, preparing its students for an uncertain future in which technology is rapidly changing (but also because Professors get a full-ride to a trip if they’re the ones who plan it). Third, the school has opened up an Avis rental car depot in the Klarman parking lot to more easily enable students to rent cars, so they don’t have to walk 20 minutes over the bridge to the Charles hotel and pick up their car there, which is like, so inconvenient.

A senior administration official concludes, “as HBS continues to grow and education continues to be disrupted, we are constantly looking for growth opportunities to bolster the school’s financial performance. MBA students have been a loss-leader for the school for years, and now we’ve finally found an effective way to generate value from them.”

Shayne Gelbard (MBA ‘24) was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. Prior to HBS, he founded a venture-backed software startup and worked in brand management, and worked in consulting this summer in New York.

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