There aren't enough great adjectives to describe Hugo Burge, the former chairman and CEO of Cheapflights as well as a significant investor in travel startups.
It's fitting that tributes to the man, who died suddenly at age 51 on Wednesday, are flooding in given his impact on online travel.
His kindness and generosity touched many in his years in the sector and no doubt many more in his initiatives in the world of artists and makers as director of Marchmont House thereafter.
A statement on the Marchmont House website reads: "It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Hugo Burge, who died suddenly at home on Wednesday 10th May. Hugo’s kindness, intelligence, curiosity and belief in a better world made him an inspiration to us all. He was a beloved son and a great friend. We will miss him terribly.
"His family ask for privacy at this time. Arrangements for a memorial service will be announced in due course."
Much of the travel industry will remember him for his pioneering role in championing the emergence and rise of price comparison websites, by leading a buyout and becoming chairman of Cheapflights, alongside David Soskin, in 2000.
Burge later took on the CEO role as well, a position he held until the company was sold to Booking.com for $550 million in mid-2017.
The interim years were marked by a number of milestones, including the launch of Cheapflights in the United States and other international markets in 2003 as well as mobile sites in 2011.
Under his steady hand, the company also acquired rival Momondo in 2011.
Kevin May, a former editor of Travolution, tnooz and PhocusWire, said: "Hugo was an intrinsic part of the online travel world in the [United Kingdom] in the 2000s, having - alongside CEO David Soskin, as a brilliant double-act - spearheaded the price comparison model through Cheapflights.
"He was always generous with his time, loved a robust discussion about the market and was always curious about new technology and how people can interact with it to improve their experience and the industry.
"In particular, after we launched a new magazine for the online travel business called Travolution in 2005, he was for many years a very active participant in our events - as a panellist or delegate - and always wanted to learn from and debate with his peers."
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Burge was also involved in a number of venture firms including HOWZAT Partners and Marchmont Ventures as a partner and investor.
Arnie Weissmann, editor-in-chief of Travel Weekly, said: "Such a loss. Hugo stood out among a very impressive group of online travel entrepreneurs not only for his creative approaches and business success, but for his thoughtfulness, modesty and humanity.”
Burge was involved in the backing of more than 70 startups including Nezasa, Byhours and Handiscover.
Tom Leathes, founder and CEO of Motorway, a company Burge was chairman of, said: "Hugo was an inspiring entrepreneur, investor and curator. He led Motorway's very first funding round in 2017, when we were a team of four. He led our Series A in 2019, has been the chair of our board throughout, and he advised me and our team through every turn in our journey. He pushed us to establish our purpose and values right from the start and live by them.
"Most people need the validation of others to build conviction. Hugo didn't care what other people thought. He always believed in us without even blinking, and his energy, passion and unwavering faith in us made us believe we could achieve anything. We are so lucky to have had that faith."
In recent years Burge was committed to the arts as a director of Marchmont House, where he encouraged a balance between the technological advances of the 21st century with the values of the arts.
One recent interview quotes him as saying: "As someone whose career was built on the digital revolution, I have a deep-seated love of technology and the incredible things it can achieve. But it has limits and dangers that need to be countered by a 21st-century Arts and Crafts Movement, which takes from the past but looks to the future – a celebration of artists, skilled craft makers and designers, the beauty of nature and the importance of community.”
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