Senior Leadership Team
Julia Lo Bue-Said, Chief Executive Officer
Julia became CEO of the Advantage Travel Centres group in April 2018 having previously held the role of Managing Director since July 2013. With a 27-year tenure in the business, Julia’s vision and passion for the sector have enabled her to transform the business culture to one of vigour and energy. Julia has introduced many changes across the business and the journey to transform continues. Julia believes passionately in the SME sector; that they are the lifeblood of business and in 2019 represented the company in the Parliamentary Review with the aim to share best practice amongst policymakers and business leaders. Under Julia’s leadership, profitability and shareholder value have grown along with a growing footprint expansion across all channels of membership.
Julia is highly regarded as a spokesperson for the travel industry, regularly featuring on TV, radio and print media globally. Since the outbreak of Covid 19, her status as a champion for independent travel businesses has been elevated and she now regularly features on national television and on national mainstream news outlets by pivoting direction quickly to react to the ever-changing news agenda, ensuring that output was appropriate, relevant and in tune with consumer sentiment. In January 2021, Julia was announced as an ‘Industry Influencer’ on the Business Travel News Europe 2021 Hotlist in recognition of her part in leading business travel's recovery, driving change and representing the wider industry tirelessly through the Covid 19 pandemic.
As one of the UK Travel Industry’s most vocal and high-profile leaders, Julia has been recognised with many industry awards:
- November 2022 Julia was awarded the honorary award of Doctor of Letters by the University of West London (UWL) for her many years of hard work for the UK Travel industry and lobbying the government through the pandemic.
- In July 2022 Julia was awarded the Outstanding Contribution Award at the Agent Achievement Awards and in the October was the first person from outside of Northern Ireland to be presented with a Northern Ireland special award by The Northern Irish Travel News for services to industry.
- In October 22 she was awarded with an Extraordinary Award at the Travel Marketing Awards and in September 2022 received a Business Travel People’s Award for her contribution to the industry.
- October 2021, she was awarded The Travel Legend Award at The UK Travel Industry Awards in recognition of her part in leading the travel industry’s recovery, driving change, and representing the Outbound Travel sector tirelessly through the Covid 19 pandemic.
- September 2021, Julia was awarded highly commended status for the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Business Travel’ category at the Business Travel Awards Europe and for the same category at the Business Travel People Awards
- January 2021 she was announced as an ‘Industry Influencer’ on the Business Travel News Europe 2021 Hotlist.
- 2018 Julia was nominated as a Leader of change in the IBM IX Everywoman in travel awards.
- 2013 she was the recipient of the Association of Women Travel Executives (AWTE) company award supporting women in business.
- 2012 Julia was inducted into Women’s First Top 100 most influential club for Travel, Hospitality, Leisure, and Tourism sector, and early on in her career was recognised by The World Travel Market as a Future Travel Leader.
Julia's focus for the future is very much on driving forward Advantage's four areas of strategic growth: footprint expansion; product and portfolio capitalisation; digital transformation and operational excellence, all underpinned by having the very best people talent. Julia is a great mentor to team members and has been instrumental in developing key people across the business. In May 2022, Julia was appointed as a Trustee to the Family Holiday Charity, a charity that fund raises to help families get time away together.
Kelly Cookes, Chief Commercial Officer
Kelly joined Advantage in 2019 as Leisure Director and became Chief Commercial Officer in early 2022. Within this role, Kelly focuses on leveraging the Group’s global buying power and drives improved commercial benefits across the Group through identifying opportunities which will develop additional member products and services for the membership. Alongside this, Kelly also strives to maximise membership recruitment and retention.
Kelly has become a go-to spokesperson to represent the travel industry and, more specifically, the travel agent community for broadcast, print and online media. She is an experienced senior travel professional who has spent much of her career within the Thomas Cook group, where she joined the graduate scheme and then moved into roles within a sales and commercial environment. Here, she became skilled in commercial negotiation, sales, partnerships management and senior management.
After joining Freedom Travel Group as Relationship Manager in 2013, Kelly quickly progressed to General Manager in 2014 were she saw both membership and profitability increase. Holding the position for five years, Kelly went on to work as Head of Commercial at Thomas Cook, which included all UK distribution channels.
Paul Nunn, Chief Operating Officer
Paul became Chief Operating Officer 2022. In his role, Paul provides leadership of all operational, IT, regulatory and compliance aspects of the Advantage group of companies, whilst working with the wider global team to deliver further business solutions that are critical to the Group’s membership, which includes bonding, insurance products and services.
Paul is a skilled travel industry professional who has 30 years of experience in the sector. Paul joined Advantage in 1999, following several years of working at a well-known tour operator. Paul spent the first 15 years of his career in Finance, altering his career path by transitioning to an operational role at Advantage in 2008, and has further progressed to the position of Operations Director, where he oversees all operational, IT, regulatory and compliance aspects of the Advantage group of companies. In addition to this, Paul is also sits on the subsidiary Boards of Advantage Financial Services Limited (AFS) and Independent Advantage Insurance Company Limited (IAICL).
During his time at Advantage, Paul has led multiple projects and initiatives; he had a particular pioneering role in the setup and the implementation of Advantage Managed Services (AMS), an area of the business which remains within his remit.
Guy Snelgar, Global Business Travel Director
Guy joined Advantage in June 2022 as Global Business Travel Director. Within this role, Guy is responsible for leading The Advantage Travel Partnership’s Global Business Travel team and driving forward the division’s strategy and partnerships with members who are both in the UK and across the Advantage’s global network.
Guy’s career in the travel industry spans over 30 years, with sales and commercial roles across GDS and travel technology, a major hotel chain, top 10 Travel Management Company, and a payments provider. In 2016, Guy joined Travelport as Commercial Director where he successfully grew the GDS’s UK market share, particularly across independent agents, in business and leisure travel sectors.
During this time within the industry, Guy has led teams both delivering and supporting solutions for hundreds of corporate clients and their TMCs, with travel programmes and spend ranging from £100,000 to over £500m globally. Guy has also served as a board director at the Institute of Travel Management. Additionally, in 2019, he started his own consulting business, working with TMCs and corporate customers on projects ranging from travel programme reviews and RFPs to implementing online booking tools and travel sustainability initiatives.
Xian Mayes, Chief of People
Xian joined Advantage in July 2022. Xian’s position of Chief of People is a new role which has been created to better reflect the importance that our people play in our overall business, both today and going forward. Her experience in all areas of HR is of great support to us as we seek to further develop a future-proof people strategy, as well as looking to support the wider industry in attempt of becoming a more compelling and attractive sector to work in.
Xian joined Advantage from Milton Keynes-based IMServ Europe Limited, which one of the UK’s leading data collection and energy metering experts, where she held the position of HR Director, bringing with her a strong track record of successfully delivered HR change across a 20-year career.
Alexis Coles Barrasso, Chief of PR & Corporate Affairs
Alexis joined Advantage in February 2022 to help drive forward the Partnership’s Public Affairs strategy. In October 2023 she was appointed Chief of PR and Corporate Affairs.
In this role Alexis is responsible for driving forward Advantage’s public affairs strategy, as well as providing leadership of the Partnership’s PR and Corporate Affairs activities, with the objective of further amplifying the public profile of Advantage, and in positioning the brand as a leading voice of authority for the industry across all sectors within which the membership operates.
Alexis has had a long career of working in the UK Travel Industry. For 17 years she headed up the global internal and external communications function for The Thomas Cook Group and, during the latter years, held a seat on the Group’s Executive Board as Group PR & Communications Director when the company was a thriving FTSE 100 company .