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15 October 2018

In the green room at Phocuswright with Jonne de Leeuw

In a series of interviews with executives participating at the Phocuswright event in Los Angeles in November, Phocuswire finds out what makes them tick..

Q: What assumption about travelers have you found not to be true?

That all travelers are looking for a unique, tailored, personalized, off the beaten path, curated, exotic etc. travel experience. It’s actually only a very small elite group that is interested in a tour of making artisanal French bread. The latter is classic 00’s long tail thinking as the vast majority of travelers just behave as they’ve always done:  they want reliable quality, focused on a maximum of 5-10 attractions, but now instantly bookable on a mobile phone.

Q: Do you agree with the often-used phrase “travel planning is broken”?

It is not broken, but there is still ample room for improvement. There are lots of companies working on this with great achievements over recent years – especially on the hotel, flights, car rental and restaurant side of things, where a lot of progress has been made by creating a better and more consistent user experience. We believe the next frontier is the tours and activities market – travelers are still relatively oblivious about how far this market has already developed and the market leaders such as Tiqets, GetYourGuide, Viator and Klook are still in the early days of educating travelers on, for example, the possibilities around instantly bookable Tier-1 content.

Q: If you weren’t doing what you do, what industry/company would you like to be part of and why?

I couldn’t see myself doing anything else today, but if I would have to choose – it would be in nature conservation, the earth is becoming an overly crowded place and we need to preserve as much of its beauty as we can for future generations.

Q: Tell us about your favorite vacation?

I prefer active vacations with little downtime and preferably close to water or mountains: (kite) surfing, diving, hiking, fishing, snowboarding etc. It’s very hard for me to just relax and read a book.

Q: What gives you energy?

All of the above.

Q: What single thing could improve the airport experience more than anything else?

Cleaner restrooms, assuming that security checks can’t be done faster with better technology …

Q: If you woke up to 2,000 unread emails but could only answer 300, how would you choose which ones to answer?

The ones that are directly addressed to me. I actually use an app that filters for those kind of emails.

Q: What do you consider to be the most important invention in the digital world in the last 20 years?

The smartphone, no doubt. I don’t even know where to begin when explaining how that single device has impacted our daily lives.



Q: What’s your must-have app?

WhatsApp. It’s moving in the direction of e.g. WeChat – with more user functionality and with numerous (travel) businesses moving to WhatsApp to provide (customer) service, tickets etc. Adoption in the workplace is also picking up: I recently negotiated a term sheet for a funding round with a founder through WhatsApp and communication with my colleagues no longer runs over Slack.  It’s actually interesting to see how many successful business models start bottom-up through consumers and then move to enterprise scale adoption, look at e.g. Uber for Business or Dropbox Business.

Q: Tell us something you dislike about your role in the company?

As a minority investor I can only exert influence over our investments through the board and by building a trusted relationship with the management team, but I can’t be in the trenches day-in-day-out with entrepreneurs, CEO’s and their teams, fighting side-by-side to build that one single company that is going to conquer the world.

Q: Describe your desk and working environment?

My desk is clean, but that’s mainly because I’m at airports for more than 100 days per year  – meeting/working with as many great companies as possible.

Q: If you could teach everyone in your company one concept, what concept would have the most positive impact?

Don’t be an *sshole. People don’t forget and the world is a small place – only very few people became really successful that way.

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