Greg Webb, Travelport
Greg became CEO of Travelport in August 2019. Prior to this, he was SVP and general manager of Oracle Hospitality with responsibility for all business functions including sales, strategy, enablement, product development and consulting. Greg previously spent 20 years at Sabre in various executive positions across product development and marketing and ultimately led Sabre’s largest business unit, Sabre Travel Network.
In a series of interviews with executives participating in the online event in September, PhocusWire finds out what they have learned from the COVID-19 crisis.
With the benefit of hindsight, if you could go back to the start of the crisis, what would you do differently?
I actually wouldn’t change a lot. I’m really proud of how quickly and decisively we reacted to the crisis at the beginning and the support we’ve continued providing the industry since the start.
When it became obvious that the crisis and downturn was going to have a long term impact, we put measures in place to manage our business through the crisis and recovery – using the right analytics, we implemented the necessary business controls and support for our team.
Also, in March, we launched the travel technology sector’s first COVID-19 Resource Hub, trained more than 100,000 travel agents on subjects like managing air ticket exchanges and introduced new tools like a free Airline Health & Safety Tracker and COVID-19 Smartpoint plugin.
We’ve achieved all this and more in a short time, while continuing to progress – and stay on track – with our next generation platform. I could not be prouder of the team.
What have you learned from this time about the way you'll manage and communicate with your team(s) moving forward?
I have always considered honest, open and regular communication important; however, the extent of its value has really shown over the last few months.
We are currently holding senior leader calls every two weeks, and all-Travelport internal calls fortnightly on the alternate weeks.
During these calls, we’re being very transparent about the challenges in the industry and how they affect Travelport and our customers.
We’re also providing updates on how we are progressing with our strategy, which hasn’t changed from when we laid it out earlier this year. I’ve received a lot of support from across the leadership team, and the employee base has continually shared how much they appreciate these open discussions. We’re heading in an exciting new direction, and we’re not taking our foot off the accelerator.
What do you miss most about travel?
You’ll find few people on earth who are bigger proponents of travel, and I daresay, even fewer who are avid consumers of travel products and services than I am.
Most of all, I miss the freedom travel gives us to, in a single day, completely change our environment. I also miss the experience of it all: stepping off a plane, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures, seeing new things and learning something new. I always need an escape plan!
What have been the surprise benefits to not traveling?
The biggest benefit of not traveling is the bonus family time I have gotten to spend with my three children. They all ended up back at home for an extended spring/summer break, which was an amazing blessing that I thought we might not ever get again with my older son working, my daughter attending university, and my younger son being a senior in high school.
From a work perspective, what’s surprised me is that despite not being able to meet the Travelport team face-to-face, I feel I’ve gotten to know them better on a personal level. We have a highly active "Stay Connected" group on our internal social channel, Yammer, where employees share fun and often amusing stories about their experiences in lockdown.
We discuss everything from how we’re adjusting to the "new normal" and the new skills we’re learning, to the music we’re listening to, the books we’re reading, and the trips that we’re still managing to take. It’s been inspiring to see so many people making the most out of what is a very challenging time.
What lasting changes will there be to you personally from this time?
I’ve learned many things which will stay with me. For example, one event really can change the world overnight – and in real life, not just in the movies! I am seeing just how important it is to not only look after ‘your own’ in challenging times but to do what you can to support others.
Our industry is one of the largest on earth, and yet it is still very intimate. People remember how you were there for them in the tough times more than in the good times.
What has been your one guilty pleasure during lockdown?
Watching uplifting YouTube videos. One of my favorite discoveries during this crisis has been John Krasinski’s Some Good News. It’s a great reminder that despite all the bad news in the world right now, there still is good news out there.
I’ve shared a couple of clips from the show in my weekly "Good News Friday" email to the Travelport team.
I don’t think the world spends enough time recognizing and celebrating amazing people doing amazing things.
Executive Interview: Travelport
One-to-one interviews with executives from across travel to learn how the travel technology and distribution landscape will change post-COVID-19.