Travelogix Presents…Andy Cairns

Travelogix Presents…Andy Cairns

For our 19th edition of Travelogix Presents, we stole some time away from Mr Andy Cairns, Co-Founder of travel and social networking start-up, RAVL.

Learn more about Andy’s start, how RAVL was formed, and why being human is a team sport.

The Start

Glaswegian Andy left school at 16 to “become a rock star”. Aside from playing the guitar at rehearsals and gigs, he was working in offices during the day and earned the name “whizz kid” due to his technical abilities with a computer (his colleagues weren’t so hot technically!)

Andy tells us, “I got promoted quickly up the I.T ladder and was headhunted by a consultancy at the turn of the century. I honed my craft over the next two decades working on various business transformation projects. I worked for small consultancies, large consultancies and everything in between.”

Andy, now guitar-less, or certainly gig-less, lives in London with his wife and three young children.

The Problem

Co-founding the company in 2021, Andy’s story on why RAVL was conceived is compelling. Andy said,As a management consultant, I spent a lot of time on the road. My clients were generally large, global organisations and a big part of my job was managing team members and stakeholders all over the world.

“After the meetings or workshops finished, I found myself alone in hotel rooms in unfamiliar locations. Although I didn’t realise it right away, it took a toll on my productivity and my mental health.

“Don’t get me wrong, the odd night on your own in a hotel away from chores and home responsibilities is fantastic but after a while, it can start to have a big impact!

“Human connection is really important to all of us but being an introvert, I found it difficult to meet with people naturally. I tried a few online platforms but there wasn’t anything that worked for me, so I decided to create RAVL to scratch my itch.

It is practically undeniable that there are challenges when on the road, genuine loneliness and living a healthy lifestyle are but two.

Having an exercise routine at home is one thing, but having the wherewithal to keep to the plan whilst on the hop, catching flights, and attending meetings does take a more determined soul, and perhaps would not be something the average traveller could adhere to.

Feeling connected and being encouraged could be part of the solution…

Andy said, “For me, the biggest challenge as a business traveller has always been remaining healthy, both mentally and physically, while on the road. I am generally not a healthy person. It takes effort for me. I don’t eat the way I should and I tend to get buried in my work and neglect relationships with friends and family.

“I work on that at home by removing as much friction as I can. If I have chocolate in the house, I’ll eat it. So I try not to keep chocolate in the house—that kind of thing.

“Business travel adds more friction. It’s easier to get a room-service burger than it is to leave the room and find a healthy restaurant, It’s easier to get taxis to meetings than it is to work out a good walking route in a new location and It’s easier to open your laptop in the evening than it is to find good people to spend time with. I could go on.

“This leads to isolation, weight gain, stress, and anxiety. It’s something that isn’t talked about seriously in our industry. We acknowledge it and often joke about it but it’s a major issue that needs to be addressed. Life on the road has to get better.”

With that said Andy truly appreciates the value of collaboration and relationships (Hence why RAVL exists!)

The Solution…Enter: RAVL

RAVL users, or Members as Andy refers to them, are the people who travel for business. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are RAVL customers.

Andy says, “At the moment, we’re having a lot of great conversations with corporate travel managers and TMCs who think that RAVL membership would make a fantastic ancillary benefit for their end-users. And, of course, we couldn’t agree more.

“So, while we operate in the B2C space, we’re increasingly moving a lot of our focus to the B2B market.

“Helping to reduce the problems of isolation, wellbeing (both mental and physical) and traveller satisfaction is, of course, good news for the traveller but those benefits extend to organisations too.

“A huge percentage (83%, according to Sabre) of business travellers say that their travel experience impacts their job satisfaction and 55% say that they don’t feel that their well-being is taken seriously.”

That said, for Andy, 2023 proved to be a pivotal year personally, but also for the company. He commented, “I feel like I’ve been talking about RAVL for a long time, so being able to get the app into people’s hands (and into their lives) in 2023 was a massive highlight for me.

“Hearing the feedback from our users, good and bad, is an incredible privilege and it has boosted my motivation to keep going and keep improving.

“2022 was all about establishing relationships in a new (to me) industry and in 2023, those relationships have flourished into treasured friendships. I’ve found the travel industry to be incredibly welcoming and supportive.

Andy deeply values collaboration and relationships. Knowing Andy a little, I understand these to be cornerstones of his ‘why’.

“Being human is a team sport”, Andy tells us.

I mean without sounding cheesy, this HAS to be printed on a T-shirt and sold at every business travel conference in 2024!

He continues, “I love my alone time as much as the next guy but when I work with other people, magic happens. Like most jobs, my work is a series of problems to be solved and I find that sharing that problem, even just explaining it to someone else, can present solutions far quicker than I can come up with on my own.

“It’s really important to tap into other people’s knowledge and experience and get a different angle on what you’re working on, not only from a pure work point of view, but it’s good to have people to share the work experience with.

“Celebrating a win is best done when you’re surrounded by people – sharing the pain of a loss can make it more bearable.”

Industry Challenges vs Opportunities

There are a whole host of challenges that plague our industry year on year. Pandemic aside, economic and political instability around the globe is always a wave that can wobble even the most sturdiest of ships.

We then of course have open conflict and war in both Israel and Ukraine which is still leaving mouths ajar around the world.

In the world of travel, Andy thinks that the sustainability piece remains as important as ever. He likens the situation to the smoking ban of 2007 here in England.

Andy said, “I think the number one challenge is going to be managing the impact of business travel on our environment. I liken getting on a plane to lighting up a cigarette. In the past, it was done everywhere; not only at home and in bars and clubs but in restaurants, hotel lobbies and on board planes (I still can’t believe that was a thing!).

“Then people began to say “Hey, I need to breathe too and your decision to smoke is impacting me” and very rightly, it became more and more of an issue.

“There became a shift in societal attitudes towards smoking which led to two major changes; legislative and technological. Governments (backed by the will of the people) put a stop to smoking in public places and new startups emerged with devices to be used as an alternative to smoking.

“With the societal shift in attitude, it became unpopular to continue the old way and laws were hugely effective. Now, if someone is smoking where they shouldn’t it’s not seen as maverick to skirt the rules, it’s seen as incredibly rude and an affront to the people around.

The societal shift in attitude to air travel is coming. Legislation will happen and if it’s not done right, it will cause enormous problems, not only for travellers but for industry. We need tech to step up and offer cleaner solutions. It’s happening but maybe not quickly enough.

Conversely, on the opportunity front, Andy believes the ‘travel industry start-up ecosystem’ is a really exciting place to be in 2024. He tells us, “We have a lot of good people working on challenging the status quo that keeps things inefficient for the benefit of keeping incumbent solutions profitable for a small number of large organisations.

“Most of these new solutions have customer experience or sustainability (and often both) at the forefront. It’s an exciting time to be a part of it.

Even for those who don’t have a business of their own, there’s an incredible opportunity to get involved in the coming changes. Investing in startups has never been so accessible to everyday people and, thanks to some incredibly generous government schemes, the risk has been drastically reduced.”

To Finish.

On meeting Andy a fair few times at industry events, including RAVL’s own Travel Industry Breakfast event which is held occasionally in London, I get the impression that RAVL was created to specifically remedy a problem Andy has felt personally on the road, travelling for work.

The feeling of not being tethered societally, or not having a connection when you’re travelling for work can indeed be a lonely place. In Andy’s mind, RAVL puts that to bed.

Being an introvert, or simply shy, is one thing, but not having a supportive network around you is something entirely different.

We cannot wait to see where RAVL gets to in the business travel space. Heaven knows that we need to maintain genuine connections and a true sense of collaboration with colleagues and industry strangers.

In the words of Author Jonaton Harri, “Loneliness isn’t the physical absence of other people, it’s the sense that you’re not sharing anything that matters with anyone else.”