Travelogix Presents…Jason Dunderdale
For Ep.18 of Travelogix Presents, we stole some time from well-known ground transport expert, family man, and former National-level Basketball player, Jason Dunderdale.
Set aside six minutes and give this a read, folks.
Jason started out as a career sportsman playing Basketball at a National level for six years before moving into a wildly different environment in commercial and retail banking.
Jason said, “I adored Basketball and was able to contribute to three National Championships and other National Trophies. However, it dawned on me pretty early on that I was neither the most talented nor the most athletic so I knew it wouldn’t last long.”
It was the intricacies of the banking world that pulled Jason in, but after 12 interesting, intricate, and somewhat intermittently tough years, Jason sought out a new career, a new direction.
Jason told me, “The Banking industry went through some tough years, and with the migration to online banking, the elements of the job I liked slowly disappeared.
From my discussions during the Travelogix Presents series, I’ve come to realise that when people ‘land’ in travel, they usually stay, or at the very least, become “hooked”. This was most certainly the case for Jason on joining the travel sector in 2017.
“I sought out a new career. I went through six final stage interviews until I got two offers: one was selling software to Legal firms and the other from global mobility company Sixt. I always liked the thought of travelling, and I loved cars, so Sixt felt like the natural move…needless to say, once I was in ‘the industry’, I was hooked!” Jason said.
After a short stint with giant TMC, FCM Travel, Jason found himself back in ground mobility with FreeNow, before securing a role at Blacklane, where he currently sits as their Global Head of Agency Sales.
As if he wasn’t busy enough, Jason also sits proudly serving as a Supplier Board Director at the Institute of Travel Management (ITM).
The ITM has a strong history of mentorship, so I wanted to get Jason’s thoughts on this and how important this is for our industry to push talent forward.
Jason said, “It is crucial to individual and collective success of the industry itself. We are so lucky to work as collaboratively as we do with peers from other companies.
“When I was in Banking, I never interacted with peers outside of our organisation, so to be able to do so here is priceless.
“If we can continue to use the dynamics of the industry to help each other nurture and grow to be successful, we will only help to secure a future for ourselves in an ever-increasingly competitive and automated marketplace.”
Knowing Jason personally to a degree enables me to understand his views on this. He is a people person and building long-lasting relationships is a key ingredient to his success thus far.
Jason tells me, “Relationships are so crucial long term. It is hard for me to explain why, other than to say that I just genuinely enjoy other people’s company and really getting to know who I am working with. In our industry, it is so easy as there are just so many wonderful people to get to know.”
Starting as a two-man operation in Berlin, Germany, Blacklane now operates in over 50 counties worldwide – a truly global player in ground transportation.
An award-winning outfit with hubs in Singapore, Spain, the U.A.E, the UK and the U.S., Blacklane boast a 300-strong crew.
Offering chauffeur services, city-to-city rides, and airport transfers, Blacklane’s emergence in 2011 was centered around providing peace of mind to their travellers and customers.
Jason tells me, “In the business travel space, Blacklane differentiates itself by focusing on professionalism, global reach, and a commitment to providing a seamless and reliable experience for business travellers.
“This positioning has made Blacklane a popular choice among corporate clients and frequent travellers who prioritise convenience, comfort, and punctuality in their transportation services.”
Where is Blacklane as of 2023? Jason tells me, “2023 has been a great year for Blacklane. We announced the second closing of our series F funding which was led by Sixt – and in the first round by Mercedes Benz Mobility and Gargash Group.
“We’ve also made some important and strategic hires including a CHRO, CFO, CTO, Head of Global Communications and VP of Marketing which supports our next phase of growth.
“Our City-to-City service has expanded to 187 routes in 14 countries and we’re rolling out on-demand services in Miami in addition to Dubai. To top it off, we were awarded ‘Travel Partner of the Year’ at the Business Travel Awards Europe!”
This 34 million Euro injection is, as Jason calls it, “a game changer”.
Jason expands by telling me, “It enables us (Blacklane) to drive innovation in new products and technology while also expanding our presence in local markets and enhancing our City-to-City offerings.
“What’s even more thrilling about this partnership is the strategic value it brings. Blacklane and SIXT will jointly work on expanding their footprint in international markets, initially with a special focus on North America, for both companies the most important growth market.
“Blacklane’s chauffeur services will be available via the SIXT app in the US and other international markets in 2024, offering Blacklane as an additional premium mobility option on the platform. The partnership will also benefit both companies through for example leveraging SIXT’s fleet capabilities and connected services.
“This will offer guests and chauffeur partners an even broader choice of vehicles and services.”
In a recent Forbes interview with Blacklane CEO, Jens Wohltorf, he touched on how crucial technology is to the company. We wanted to understand Jason’s view on this and the role he feels technology plays at the company.
Jason told us, “We’re all about ‘care’. When it comes to our technology, we always keep ‘care’ in mind – It’s what drives us to create new features that make the Blacklane experience better.
“Behind the scenes, in the intricate web of our backend systems, ‘care’ is the compass that guides us. We’re obsessed with efficiency, especially when it comes to dispatching rides.
“We take pride in our reliability, boasting an almost flawless track record with a staggering 100% fulfilment rate for our guests. But our commitment to ‘care’ doesn’t stop there.
“We’re equally proud of the sustainable income streams we offer our chauffeur partners. For us, it’s not just about providing rides; it’s about fostering long-term relationships and ensuring that our chauffeurs thrive in their partnership with Blacklane.”
‘Care’, to my mind, would also mean ‘care’ for our planet. I wanted to learn more about the level of care that Blacklane is also putting into sustainable mobility and the electrification of its fleet.
Jason said, “Sustainability has always been at the core of Blacklane’s DNA. We are on track to deliver our commitment of 50% of our rides using electric vehicles by 2025 – our fleet in Dubai is already 100% electric and we have carbon offset all rides since 2017, dating back to our founding in 2011.”
Green credentials indeed, and something that will be interesting to keep an eye on as the sector continues to march towards a more sustainable footprint.
Industry Opportunities & Challenges for 2024
As ever with our guests, we always like to find out just how they view the next 12 months (and beyond), not only in their vertical but across the broader industry.
Jason told us, “There are several challenges that face in the industry; from changing consumer preference regarding travel, environmental concerns around emissions (both of which can also be seen as huge opportunities for the industry too), to economic woes across varying global markets and geopolitical tensions and unrest.”
However, on the flip side, Jason cites “technological integrations, flexible rules and policies, remote work/leisure travel, health and wellness in travel and personalisation as serious opportunities for 2024.”
Advice and Mentoring: A New Generation
Jason has seemingly been around mentoring for a huge chunk of his life, both professionally and personally.
Jason said, “I honestly can say there are so many to mention here from all stages of my career. I share my thoughts, feelings and frustrations with certain people, probably a bit too much and always ask for their advice.”
His Dad, Jim Dunderdale, played a vital role in Jason’s formative years, there’s Roderick Wellington, whom Jason cites as “an expert networker and probably the most level-headed person” he knows.
Other mentors include industry names such as Simone Buckley, Amy Brooks, Jon Bolger and Steve Proud.
Lastly, his wife Jessica. Jason tells me, “Jess understands the industry, sales and how my mind works – she is an incredible sounding board and my biggest advocate.”
What advice would Jason give to a young aspiring new starter in travel? Jason said, “Network!
“Network as much as you can and throw yourself into every opportunity to get your personal brand out there.
“I remember my first week at Sixt, I was told to travel to Pineapple Studios in London to participate in a ‘networking’ event. Within 25 minutes of arriving, and nervously introducing myself to lots of new faces, I stood around a piano singing and then dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller!
“I would have never done that without being pushed into it, but it was the best thing that happened to me at a very early stage and set the course for my new career.”
This is now going to be the Travelogix induction process from now on!
Jason is genuinely a people person. During my time at Uniglobe, Jason was our account manager in his Sixt days. Every member of the team enjoyed Jason’s company, including the owners of the business; he was friendly, and warm and didn’t shy away from finding a connection with you. I am pleased to say this remains today.
Every time we see each other at Industry events, we spend the vast majority of the time talking about our families, our children etc, then stumble onto chat about travel.
It’s those chats I enjoy the most with Jason, connecting on a level that could sometimes be hard to reach in business, but with Jason, it always comes across as effortless.