Travelogix Presents…Julia Lo Bue-Said
The travel industry has endured a torrid time over the past two years. Fortunately, we’ve had several people working tirelessly to pull us into recovery. Julia Lo Bue-Said is one of those people.
Julia, CEO at The Advantage Travel Partnership, has racked up more interviews than Daniel Craig promoting a new Bond movie. She has been determined to give the travel industry a voice, while simultaneously steering her business, The Advantage Travel Partnership, through the toughest of times.
We caught up with Julia to get her take on the state of the travel industry, the importance of good communication and why attracting talent is crucial for our sector’s recovery.
New Variant, New Problem?
We started by asking Julia how she feels about the immediate future, especially with the arrival of Omicron towards the back end of 2021.
“If we were having this discussion last month, in December, the tone may have been a little different than it is today.
“However, with the government relaxing Covid travel restrictions on entering the UK, we can look ahead with some optimism.
“From the numbers we are seeing off the back of this restriction ease, we’re most definitely turning a corner.”
But how will the media impact a business travel renaissance? Due to Julia’s frequent appearances across television, radio and print, we wanted to know her thoughts on the role of the media.
“As an industry, we have been using the media to get our messages across, both the importance of business travel and the affect it has on our UK GDP. So, the relationship we’ve forged with the media is a key part of our recovery.
“We need optimism, not just in our industry, but also publicly. The media are beginning to support the narrative that travel is becoming easier. Businesses will feed off this and will naturally start weighing up their strategy to commence business travel once more”.
Communication: Recovery’s Secret Weapon?
Right at the start of the pandemic, Julia recognised that communication would play a hugely important role going forward. It became the cornerstone of everything Advantage did.
“During this crisis, our business owners and members needed an organisation that supported them every single day, whilst also providing a very clear line of communication.
“We had, and still have, a responsibility to help members through these tough times.”
For this reason, Julia invested more into this area by moving a communications advisor onto the board to assist with their strategy and ensure The Advantage Travel Partnership would be seen as a trusted and credible authority throughout the pandemic.
Four Pillars for Success
Alongside communication, Julia spoke about four pillars that form the basis of their ongoing strategy: footprint expansion; product and portfolio capitalization; digital transformation and operational excellence.
“The direction is really clear,” said Julia.
“Our strategy is about growing the organisation so we’re robust, whilst being very clear on who our customer base is and how we can leverage things to the benefit of our members.
“With Advantage being owned by its members, we are a network that provides commercial benefits, products, and services to all agencies. We are the largest consortia of its kind in the UK so as we scale further, we want to be able to invest in the organisation to offer the best products and services.”
A New Dawn: Attracting Talent
Not only has the industry lost a lot of experienced travel professionals, but the industry may have also lost some of its sparkle. Potential employees may ask “why would I work in travel?”. Is it a safe and career advancing industry?
Julia believes we now have an opportunity to reassure these individuals and even reinvent what it means to work in travel.
“This is a really important topic and it’s essential we secure the future talent for our industry,” Julia comments.
“As we start to recover, we need to build the narrative around a truly recovering industry across multiple sectors. We need to highlight the many roles and responsibilities that are available in business travel: accountancy, legal, technology – there are different roles within this space.”
Bringing back the talent we lost is one thing, but do we also have an opportunity now to bring in individuals with fresh new perspectives, not only on travel, but on sustainability and duty of care?
“I believe it’s these values that will be key when recruiting people back into our industry” Julia continues.
“It is really important, as an industry, we are communicating the value we place on some of these areas – sustainability and duty of care being the two that we’re talking about today.
“I feel that engaging with universities again is a key component of attracting candidates to our industry. We need to invest in this area to secure the best talent early.”
An Industry That Cares About its People and the Planet.
Switching gears, we discussed the importance of sustainability in bringing confidence back into the sector. We asked Julia what her thoughts were on this topic and how we can encourage sustainability in travel.
“Engagement.” Julia states.
She continues: “Understanding what ‘green objectives’ their clients have is crucial and can you, as a TMC, fulfil what your corporates require from a sustainability standpoint, and can you help them achieve this?
“The second part to this is around accurate reporting. It is making sure that their corporates have access to the reporting platforms to really get on top of the CO2 associated with each trip.”
Alongside sustainability, we here at Travelogix also realise the importance of duty of care and how TMCs could be better armed going into a recovering travel market.
We often ask this question internally. So much so that we built a platform specifically for TMCs called Geo. Geo uses passive itinerary data to locate travellers, whether on the hop, in transit or at their destination.
Geo is also able to provide the user with real-time security and Covid information pertaining to any location, meaning you get the info that matters when embarking on a trip abroad.
“Duty of care is arguably the most challenging piece as we enter recovery” Julia said.
“It is so complex. Considerations around vaccination status, border requirements, policies, documentation and the mental health of the traveller.
“I believe engagement with the traveller will be as important as communication with the corporate as an entity. A personal touch resonates with people.”
We finished the interview by asking Julia what she has learnt about herself since the pandemic began, and what will she be taking into 2022 with her as a leader in travel.
“I have taken so many learnings over the past two years; about myself personally, about our industry and about how the government operate.
“I deeply value what good communication looks like and the important role this plays across our industry.”
She finishes by saying: “As leaders, we have to stick our head above the parapet knowing that we may be shot down. Our partners and supply chain look to us for this type of response.”
“We also shouldn’t be afraid of failing. I would rather fail trying than not try at all.”
A salient statement to conclude our interview with a true force for good, Julia Lo Bue-Said.