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Industry Influencers

Chris Grayling, secretary of state for transport
While opinions are divided on Chris Grayling, we decided to include him for a second year running for his part in several headlines this year – HS2, major infrastructure projects, the several rounds of public consultation on the expansion at Heathrow. And let’s not forget his move to call out Monarch owner Greybull Capital over reports that the company might make a profit from the airline’s failure after the government footed a £60 million bill to repatriate passengers.

Greybull eventually pledged to help pay that bill with any profit made from the sale of Monarch’s assets. If it holds true to its promise, Grayling’s actions could save taxpayers money. It’ll be interesting to see how Grayling handles the Heathrow situation, with a parliamentary vote on the final proposal due at some point in the first half of this year.

IATA’s NDC team
IATA approved new distribution capability (NDC) way back in 2012 and it has been talked about – a lot – in the more than five years since. But 2017 brought a lot of news on the subject, with the likes of Travelport, Click Travel and HRG achieving IATA’s Level 3 certification status. Programme leaders Yanik Hoyles, Eric Leopold and Olivier Hours have taken NDC from a theory discussed at trade shows to a fully fledged concept that will see tangible content flowing through travel channels as early as this year.

It’ll be interesting to see how the initiative progresses as more airlines, TMCs and IT providers become NDC-compliant, especially with the likes of BA and Iberia showing commitment to NDC through its negotiations with TMCs. Some say NDC has the potential to revolutionise the travel industry as much as the GDSs initially did nearly 60 years ago.

Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO, Uber
Controversy on this year’s list continues with Dara Khosrowshahi, who left Expedia to join Uber in August last year only to be faced with challenge after challenge. His statements following Transport for London’s decision to revoke Uber’s private hire licence could be seen as pandering, but you have to admire his ability to put his hand up and admit the company has made several mistakes in its history. Rather than reacting in anger, he approached TfL to work with it “to make things right”.

When, just weeks later, he revealed a massive data breach had occurred in 2016, he again had the guts to say that what the company did at the time was wrong, despite not being involved himself. His tactic of finding those responsible for the cover-up and their subsequent resignations could help Uber save face, but he has a hard task ahead of him.

Donald Trump, president of the United States
He may be a media cliche these days, but when considering influences on global trade and, therefore, business travel, it’s hard not to include Donald Trump in this list.

Under his administration, business travel faces disruption with immigration restrictions on travellers from various countries – adding to the challenge (already in place) of travellers from visa-waiver countries, including the UK, who’ve visited these nations.

As the world’s largest economy by some margin – GDP of US$18 trillion, nearly a quarter share of the global economy – the effects of American decisions ripple around the globe. Whether that’s increased tensions on the Korean peninsula or in the Middle East, trade relations with China and many other countries, scepticism about the WTO or the effects of reducing US corporation tax, Trump’s strategies influence a myriad of areas that impact on business travel.

Johan Lundgren, CEO, Easyjet
The industry was saddened by the announcement that Dame Carolyn McCall – one of only a handful of female airline bosses – was stepping down from her position as CEO of Easyjet to move to head up ITV. She was revered by many as an innovator at the airline, changing the way people perceive budget carriers by introducing passenger-friendly initiatives.

Her replacement, former TUI deputy chief executive Johan Lundgren, has a big task ahead of him with the impending £35 million purchase of part of Air Berlin’s operations. Just before his tenure began, Easyjet posted a decrease in revenue but said it had expected the decline in the wake of investments and growth plans.

Lundgren will now have to keep up McCall’s momentum as it takes on 25 of Air Berlin’s aircraft to compete with rival Lufthansa in what is seen as a key market for the airlines.

Steve Reynolds, founder & CEO, Tripbam
A serial entrepreneur, Steve Reynolds began working on Tripbam, his fourth start-up, in 2013. He began his career in travel technology nearly 30 years ago as a founding member of Competitive Technologies Inc, one of the first companies to provide managed travel technology tools to travel agencies and corporations. Later, he was a founding member of both Travel Technologies Group and TRX. Reynolds later worked for two large outsourced services companies, where he managed their respective outsourced, offshore servicing practices for travel and transportation firms.

In February 2017, Tripbam announced its expansion into the European corporate travel market and established a London office, which serves as its European headquarters.

Reynolds also serves as a volunteer board member of Baylor University’s Technology Entrepreneurship Initiative and the Texas A&M University start-up initiative.

Dr Eric Tyree, chief data scientist, Carlson Wagonlit Travel
Data science is widely recognised as a crucial field wherein lies success or otherwise for practitioners across the business travel supply chain.

CWT’s chief data scientist Eric Tyree was nominated as an “expert in data analytics” who is playing a major role in transforming its business. Indeed, BBT’s interview with the company’s CEO Kurt Ekert last year (see buyingbusinesstravel.com) found data science at the heart of the company’s strategy, dubbed CWT 3.0.

According to one nominator: “Tyree has led the development of a wide range of applications, including new data-driven products and services in corporate travel, consumer analytics, HR analytics, pensions, insurance, portfolio management, algorithmic trading, anti-fraud/money laundering and equity exchange compliance.”

Linda Jojo, chief digital officer, United Airlines
United suffered a few PR disasters in 2017, not least of which was the treatment of Dr David Dao, who was dragged off his overbooked flight and suffered several injuries. But CDO Linda Jojo seems to be working towards smoothing customer relations through technology: she as led a two-year mobile strategy overhaul project, that reportedly put more than 50,000 mobile devices in the hands of employees including cabin crew, pilots and baggage handlers, plus adding technology such as beacons at airports, with the aim of improving efficiency, reliability and customer service. New tech, plus better data analysis was also aimed at the problem of overbooking. Innovations include being able to get boarding passes for partner airlines on the United app (see Q&A). 

As one nominator puts it: “Jojo’s commitment to exploring ways of using new tech and data is driving change within the industry. She’s a great voice for women in tech and travel.”

James Filsinger, president and CEO, Yapta
Yapta was named in last year’s list as ‘one to watch’ and won Best Specialist Business Travel Service in the 2017 Business Travel Awards, and it has come on in leaps and bounds. Since becoming president and CEO in 2012, James Filsinger has overseen Yapta’s pivot from a B2C to a B2B services offering. Under his leadership, the company has innovated two award-winning corporate airfare and hotel price-tracking services that have been deployed by more than 6,500 companies in 20-plus countries.

To date, these services have saved companies such as Amazon, GE and Shell Oil more than US$100 million combined. In November, Deloitte put Yapta on its Technology Fast 500 list, which names the most rapidly growing technology companies in North America, capping another remarkable year for the company. Since 2013, Yapta has seen revenue growth of 702 per cent.