Travelogix Presents…Patrick Hooft

Travelogix Presents…Patrick Hooft

For edition No.14 of our Travelogix Presents interview series, we grab some time with Uniglobe Regional President for the British Isles, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Patrick Hooft.

Knowing Patrick personally as a friend, and a former colleague, this interview was a great one to get in the books.

We get to understand what makes Uniglobe tick as an organisation, why staff shortages in the travel industry are a real threat, and how Nelson Mandela helped position and inspire a young Patrick while growing up in South Africa.

Grab a brew, folks, and welcome Patrick Hooft.

Patrick’s beginnings

If South Africa played the Netherlands in a football match and the winner played England, which nation would he cheer on? These are the tough questions we ponder for Travelogix Presents…

Being a native of the Netherlands, Patrick was raised in South Africa and then started his ever-blossoming career here in the UK, where he has been part of the Uniglobe family for over a decade.

Patrick is an important cog in the Uniglobe machine. Having started his career in the hotel industry way back in 2001, primarily in sales and marketing roles before expanding into travel tech, Patrick then started working for Uniglobe back in June 2012 – taking care of the company’s operational affairs here in the British Isles to where he sits now, as regional president of Uniglobe.

His jurisdiction extends well beyond the British Isles too, as Europe, the Middle East and Africa also sit under Patrick’s watchful eye. I did say his career was blossoming…

Uniglobe has a giant global presence and a rich history. Patrick tells me, “As you already know, Uniglobe Travel is a global Travel Management Company that has been serving the travel needs of the business community for more than 41 years.

“Uniglobe Travel International LP is majority owned by the Charlwood Pacific Group of Vancouver, Canada. Uniglobe Travel USA and Uniglobe Travel British Isles have wholly owned subsidiaries of Uniglobe Travel International LP.

“Uniglobe Travel USA also owns agencies within the United States of America. There are 6 independently owned Uniglobe Travel Regions: two in Canada (Western & Eastern Canada), The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, Brazil, and South Asia (India).

“In total, we have an on-the-ground presence in more than 60 countries and presently service clients in more than 90 countries.”

That is some footprint. In fact, this very footprint provides a unique opportunity for the organisation. As Patrick states, “The Uniglobe Travel Members are independently owned TMCs who hold separate agreements with either their Uniglobe Travel region or Uniglobe International.”

Even though Uniglobe seemingly spans the entire universe (or planet), all TMCs operating within the organisation stand by one simple brand ethos: “to strive to be the best provider, with integrity, dependability, and professionalism.”

Patrick tells me, “Uniglobe, on its own, is a trademark. However, what makes Uniglobe so extraordinary is its culture, the members and ultimately – the people.”

Something I can personally testify to as I met some incredibly driven, passionate, and entrepreneurial people at Uniglobe during my six years with the organisation.

Patrick continues, “Uniglobe is made up of a lot of special talents and entrepreneurs. We often refer to Uniglobe, and the folks that make up our sprawling consortium, as the Uniglobe Family.”

2023: How are Uniglobe, and the industry, performing?

We’re seeing huge rebounds in volume this year and in some markets, surpassing that of 2019. A recent Deloitte survey, that was covered by Michael Baker at the BTN Group in April, “included the views of over 108 U.S travel managers and 228 European travel managers from across four EU markets and showed that spending volume should reach about 57 per cent of 2019 levels in the first half of this year and then increase to 75 per cent by the end of 2023.” (Michael Baker, 2023)

While Uniglobe, and the industry more broadly, is seeing successful returns to booking volumes in 2023, there are clearly some concerns in other areas.

Patrick said, “We (Uniglobe) project a highly fluid environment where adaptability will be critical. Those who have the flexibility to adapt will thrive in the coming years.

“However, the major challenges we will see are around staffing- specifically, staff shortages – across all industries, which will ultimately result in higher prices and potentially alter the overall travel experience.

“If inflation continues, it will put pressure on our business customers’ travel budgets. Sustainability will also play a key role in our industry, and we predict new industries to emerge with a great need to use our services.”

What does the medium to long-term future hold?

AI & machine learning advancements, NDC content wrangles, aviation capacity questions, varying commercial models across some, if not all, travel categories and sustainability practices and protocols – all current, and possible future trends, that will continue to hold their place on many industry conference panels in the coming years.

While Patrick and his team remain vigilant to emerging and existing trends, Uniglobe seems to have a more focused eye on the requirements of its clients.

Patrick comments, “It is almost impossible to predict the future. None of us has a crystal ball. Our goal is to remain alert, watch as trends emerge, and focus on – or should I say ‘bet on’ – what will remain the same.

“Something that will remain is our client’s demand for quality when it comes to service and standards. Our customers will always want to have the best and most personalised service when it comes to travel. Hence, we want to put emphasis on the services we provide to our Uniglobe Members and their customers.

Consistently driving forward to meet the needs of your client base is no small feat. There’s an admirable consistency to that, and for an organisation that is 41 years young, that’s quite remarkable.

In the world of technology, a world in which we exist here at Travelogix, Patrick believes that there’s a pace of innovation that cannot be ignored. He said, “Technology will advance rapidly, and more importantly, AI is here to stay.

“The potential of AI is endless, but how it will change our industry is still unclear. We are looking at the developments closely and will take advantage of any opportunity as it arises – if it helps us to serve our customers better, of course.”

To end

Patrick is someone who deeply values travel industry connections and relationships, none more so than that of his ‘Uniglobe family’ and of course the many members globally that make Uniglobe what it is today.

“My philosophy is that we must appreciate rather than celebrate our wins, but most importantly, those who helped us to get there. One’s performance is never the result of one’s efforts alone.

“Remember, behind a successful individual, there is always another person or team. My success is always the manifestation of the hard work of my team at Uniglobe.”

It is this clear togetherness, and feeling of unity, that resonated with me during this interview.

Patrick tells me that while growing up in South Africa, Nelson Mandela had a profound impact on his life as a young man; celebrating his release from prison after 27 years, to becoming President of the country where Patrick grew up.

Hearing Mandela say, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again”, is a quote that still sits with Patrick to this day – and for good reason.