Leading through a pandemic

Advantage CEO, Julia Lo Bue-Said, has been featured in a new Senior Women Leaders series  ‘Leading during a pandemic’, as part of a Deloitte Inspiring Women Leaders in Travel initiative. Here are a couple of snippets from the interview...

What has been the most challenging part of your career and how did you overcome this?
If asked last year, I would have said stepping up from Leisure Director to Managing Director. I hadn't appreciated the move from an operational role to general management. But now, I would say leading a business through the pandemic tests everything you've ever learnt as well as rolling together every management crisis theory into one, from People, HS&E, IT, operational practices, risk management, governance and financials to name a few. 

How has the industry fared in managing the challenges posed by the pandemic and where will the industry be in the next five years?
The pandemic continues to have a seismic impact on the travel industry. With international travel at a standstill and government measures banning international travel, this has contributed to a near shutdown of the sector. Last summer we saw the government introduce measures which included travel corridors. This led to mass cancellations and refunds of such a magnitude, leaving many of the supply chain simply unable to cope with the volume. 

We do live on an island, the weather is pretty miserable most of the year so from a leisure perspective, we can see already a significant pent-up demand for when the time to travel is right and restrictions are lifted. With family and friends looking to be reunited, we expect more multi-generational travel and a focus short-term on products to satisfy this change in demand. The industry will also need to provide clarity on what safety protocols have been implemented by the host destination. In five years, we anticipate growth on 2019, as the desire to travel won’t decline. However, there is a responsibility on us all to consider the sustainability agenda as I see the need to provide greater transparency to the end-user, important if we are going to change future behaviours. Business travel is expecting a slower recovery as corporates redefine their future objectives around sustainability, budgets and duty of care. Face-to-face meetings will always be important, and some essential industries cannot operate without, such as oil & gas, and marine workers. Travel Management Companies (TMCs) will play a pivotal role in helping their corporates and travel buyers implement the right travel programme in a world co-existing alongside Covid. 

How have you remained positive during the crisis and looked after your wellbeing and mental health?
The pace and adrenaline have kept me going. I’ve done lots of walking in the weekends and try to take time away from working whenever possible. Encouraging everyone in the business to go for a walk every day to get away from screens. For everyone it is very different, and it has been a case of adapting, trying differing coping mechanisms and spending time with my family. It’s important to not stare at a screen all day long no matter how tempted we may be particularly as our home and work lives have merged! ​

What can the industry do to attract and retain high-calibre women?
We have to visibly showcase women in leadership roles. We are seeing more of them now and success for me will be once we can normalise this. We need to showcase what success looks like and know how to positively celebrate women in leadership roles! Showing it is possible gives other women something to aim for. Unfortunately, through the pandemic, we will have inevitably lost future talent for the industry, and as we approach the recovery, we need to showcase the travel industry on a pedestal, as an industry that does present women with many leadership opportunities.

You can read the full interview with Julia on the Deloitte website here >>


Danni de Nervaux

Marketing Campaign and PR Manager

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