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BBT March/April 2019 cover
March/April 2019

Hotlist 2016: Industry influencers

We take a look at which major players will be influencing the managed travel sector in 2015 and beyond.

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CAROLINE STRACHAN, PARTNER, FESTIVE ROAD

THE PAST FEW YEARS HAVE BEEN BUSY for Caroline Strachan, who recently stepped out of the corporate world with a move from American Express Global Business Travel to consultancy firm Festive Road, where she becomes an equal partner in the business.

Before Amex GBT, Strachan led the team at Astrazeneca, which was awarded the Best Travel Team category at the 2013 Business Travel Awards.

Festive Road’s founder and chief executive, Paul Tilstone, previously worked with Strachan at the Institute of Travel & Meetings (ITM) and together, they helped launch the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) in Europe. And with the consultancy already securing clients such as Barclaycard, IATA, Marriott and UBS, 2016 could be another important year for Strachan, who says she sees “real opportunity for independent experts in engagement for both the buyer and supplier communities”.

ALEX CRUZ , EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, BA

VUELING’S FORMER CEO AND CHAIRMAN ALEX CRUZ featured in this list back in 2014 where he was focused on making the Barcelona-based no-frills airline a successful premium low-cost carrier.

Over the past 18 months Cruz has seen passenger numbers at Vueling increase, turnover rise and losses drop, as well as new routes to destinations such as Man­chester and Belfast. It also strengthened its links with sister carrier BA. This success has led to Cruz being named executive chairman of British Airways.

It was a successful year for the UK flag carrier, with passenger numbers soaring and improved revenue, which helped owner IAG post its first ever operating profit. And even though a lot of the focus will be on IAG in 2016, especially with the recent acquisition of Irish carrier Aer Lingus, Cruz will be expected to help steer BA towards another successful year.

STEVE SEAR, SVP GLOBAL SALES, DELTA

2015 SAW THE BIG-THREE US CARRIERS work closer together in battling the threat of Gulf airlines, as the state subsidy row looks set to continue this year. On the domestic front, Delta, American and United are all still looking at ways to increase market share.

In September, Delta launched its Operational Performance Commitment – a new programme which guarantees to beat rival airlines on key industry on-time metrics. The initiative sees the airline paying corporates if it has more flight delays than American and United. Delta said it will award credits of US$1,000 to US$250,000 to businesses with a corporate contract.

One of the key members behind the announcement was Delta’s SVP global sales, Steve Sear, who was nominated by Mike Qualantone, senior VP at Amex Global Business Travel. He said: “Delta has consistently out-performed its two competitors and stands out as the model for on-time performance in the US.”

AARON GOWELL, CEO, SILVERRAIL

WHEN A TRAVEL GIANT SUCH AS EXPEDIA SIGNS ANY DEAL, it’s worth taking note, especially when that deal is to expand into the rail sector. This is what happened in November when the travel booking site announced a partnership with Silverrail, whose ticketing platform helps simplify the process of accessing multiple rail companies through a standard interface. A roll-out with Expedia is expected this year.

Silverrail’s own expansion and plans to change the way rail is distributed is nothing new, but CEO Aaron Gowell makes it on to this year’s list for his innovative plans for the wider travel sector, too. His next focus is on seamless mobility or multi-modal trans­port. He says: “I want to help big cities crack congestion issues through inno­vative uses of technology and joining up the door-to-door journey for individual travellers.”

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