Originally from Pakistan, Hazmah Ahmad moved to North Florida when he was 13, and went to middle and high school here in Jacksonville. He attended college at the University of Florida and volunteered for two years with the Athletic Association of Florida. Shortly after, he did three different internships with the Atlanta Falcons, staying with the team for eight years in the process. In 2013, Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell personally asked Ahmad to come down and work for the Jaguars as their team travel associate (a.k.a. the ultimate trip planner).
What’s it like booking travel for an entire team?
I’m responsible for picking all the hotels in the spring for the team, finalizing the contracts and room blocks. We take anywhere from 160 to 180 guest rooms and seven meeting spaces.
That’s intense! What’s the biggest challenge you face?
The biggest challenge is that the schedule comes out in April, and we have 30 days to find a hotel and 30 days to sign contracts. I spend the first part of April looking at my top hotels, and when the schedule comes out, the hotels will respond saying if they have availability or they don’t. Sometimes these hotels will book things years in advance, forcing us to be out of town.
How about the international travel?
It was challenging the first year in 2013, because we’ve never traveled before, and Gus, Dave and myself were all brand new and learning how to operate together. The League helped quite a bit because we weren’t the first team going there and doing this. It’s a lot of work for the 1/20th of our season, and takes about a year to plan, but it’s fun. It’s a very cool and different experience from doing the domestic games and it’s cool seeing it all come together.
What’s a typical week look like for you and your team?
A typical week will go like this: J.K. Lacoste, my associate, will go out on a Thursday to the away city and set everything up with the arrival airport, hotel and stadium. Brandon Roth, another team member of mine, will handle getting the two busses leaving from EverBank, and I’ll already be at the Jacksonville airport waiting for the team’s arrival. When we land, Brandon, J.K. and I will meet and handle the trip together from there.
Favorite city you’ve traveled to? Where do you want to go next?
NFL wise, I like Seattle, San Diego is a cool city, and New York is always fun, even though you’re staying on the New Jersey side. There are a few cities that I haven’t gone to yet, like Phoenix (where the Arizona Cardinals play), Green Bay, Minnesota and Buffalo.
If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?
Australia would be cool to see and experience a different continent.
Easiest city you’ve traveled to?
You’d think the easy answer would be Indianapolis or Nashville, but Houston has been pretty good to us. It’s the “easiest” out of them.
Any advice you’d like to give someone planning a trip?
Well, my wife runs the whole show on family vacations. She’ll put it all together and I’ll just show up. I’ll jump in and do the flights, maybe the rental car. I’d say to just plan as much as you can, but then also just enjoy it!