TTME FEB 2019 - PG - 7

‘Customer is the king’

Serving the travel industry for the past two decades, Kathryn Wallington, Country Manager—UAE, Travelport, shares how she realised her fascination for travel, to explore the world and its many cultures, and her vision and growth plan for the company.

Shehara Rizly

Kathryn Wallington took the reins as Country Manager UAE for Travelport over a year ago and works with a highly-talented team to deliver best-in-class technical solutions that meet the evolving needs of their local customers. She states, “We truly believe our success is defined by our customers’ success. So, we are always focused on helping them achieve their goals and identify new growth opportunities in the market.”

Riding high on success
Starting off her career in 1990 at Thomas Cook Retail as a Sales Consultant, Wallington quickly worked her way up through various levels of management including team leader, Customer Service Manager and Branch Manager. She reminiscences, “During this period, I had many opportunities to travel the world, which fulfilled my dream as a young girl to work in the travel industry. Following this, I joined Travelport to develop my experience within the travel industry in 2005. I was interested in GDSs and technology, which made my transition exciting, and my parents have always encouraged me to take on new challenges in areas that I’m passionate about. I have always viewed Travelport as a progressive company with diverse areas of interest, allowing me to gain experience and knowledge as Head of UK Sales, Operations Manager for Europe, Global Customer Advocacy Senior Director and Strategic Customer lead for Europe. These roles enabled me to broaden my outlook on the business and gave me opportunities to develop my management skills across a number of teams while leading them to success in the UK and across the region. About 14 years later, I accepted the role of Country Manager for the UAE.”

Pursuit of passion
From an early age, she wanted to get into the travel industry. “I was fascinated by travel and wanted the opportunity to travel the world and experience new cultures. I feel lucky to have been able to achieve that goal. It’s often said that it is difficult to find a job that you love, but I did, and I feel privileged,” she happily shares.

Remarkable achievements
Being customer-focused, Wallington’s proudest moments, which will always stand out for her, are winning awards voted and judged by customers. She says, “One was a prestigious award I received as Sales Manager of the Year at the TTG Business Awards and the second was Travelport being awarded the Best Technology Partner and Best Travel Technology provider for the second year running at the Arabian Travel Awards 2018.”

Changes in the industry
Wallington shares about the many changes witnessed over the years in the industry that she holds dear to her heart. “The technology available today has enabled us to transform how the industry is engaging with travellers. I believe that one of the biggest changes is that travellers do not want to just book a flight any longer. They are looking for an enhanced experience, and for us to be able to meet their demands, we must adopt technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, big data and mobile applications.”

Working in the UK and Middle East
In her words, “the biggest similarity between the industry in the UK and the UAE is the willingness to embrace technology. Similar to the UK, the UAE travel agents are enthusiastic to adopt new technologies to better serve their customers. They also face the same challenges when dealing with experienced travellers. In both countries, our customers are passionate about what they do. I believe that there aren’t major differences between the two. However, the culture in the UAE presents a greater focus on the development of relationships with customers.”

Travelport makes a mark
Working for over two decades at Travelport, Wallington shared her thoughts on its growth plan. She stated, “We continue to reap the benefits of our transformation from a GDS to a travel commerce platform and remain well-positioned for long-term growth given our commercial wins and the ongoing investments we’re making. Our investments are focused in the key areas that differentiate us like our industry-leading travel content; our search, merchandising and shopping capabilities; and our leading mobile, data and payments solutions. We are also proud to have been the first travel commerce platform to be certified by IATA as a ‘Level 3’ aggregator under its New Distribution Capability initiative. In November 2018, we achieved another milestone as the first travel commerce platform to process bookings through NDC.”

Millennials & technology
According to ‘Travelport’s Digital Business Traveller Research 2018’, millennial business travellers in the UAE are driving an evolution in corporate travel by demanding both cutting-edge digital support throughout their trips and ondemand advice from consultants.

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