Welcome to the first of our new ‘In Conversation With’ series. Where we delve into Focus Chair, Bob Schumacher’s, wealth of experience, and gain insights into his vision, leadership and valuable perspectives.
What attracted you to the role as Chair of Focus?
When I worked on the supplier-side I always had the greatest respect for Focus and its business model. I saw and felt ‘partnership’ at its core and saw a results-orientated consortium that offered a win-win for both the TMC Partners and suppliers. The nimbleness of the organisation, as well as the opportunity to address the many TMC Partners through an efficient central team, was another key attribute. Given the opportunity to assist in keeping ‘a real good thing going’ I was eager to take on the role.
What are you looking forward to most about the role?
I have spent my career in travel and much of it on the supplier side interacting with TMCs and leisure agencies, and our mutual customers. I look forward to the opportunity to sit on the other side of the table and to better understand the challenges and opportunities of a vibrant and disparate partner base.
What particular skills do you think you bring to the Board/Focus Partnership?
During my time at United Airlines I spent eight years as Chair of BAR-UK and so the procedures and processes of being Chair are familiar to me. Key to being successful in such a role is ensuring that each and every member/partner has a voice that is represented at Board level. Beyond that, ensuring a Board that is open, inclusive, transparent, approachable and professional is essential, as is ensuring that it is up to date with all current challenges and opportunities to ensure future success. I hope I can help!
What are your objectives, what do you hope to achieve during your tenure as Chair of Focus?
Simply put, I hope we can achieve, with a growing number of TMC Partners, success that exceeds the sum of our parts. The next one to two years will offer tremendous opportunity and will be key to forming the future size, shape and offer to Focus Partners. Success will be harnessing the best ideas and opportunities across the multi-supplier base for the benefit of all the Partners.
How did you get into the business travel industry?
Frankly, I was a bit of an aircraft nerd as a youngster, and whilst I am deep into recovery from that, it has brought about a career in travel that I have relished since leaving university. I have been fortunate enough to have worked in both the operational and sales and marketing side of the business and I would not change a day on this journey.
Who has influenced your career the most?
Back to the confessions of a recovering airline nerd, several members of my mother’s family worked for Swissair back in the day, and an uncle of mine was wholly responsible. I think he also has some liability for inevitable future deafness as a result of sitting at the end of runways watching 1970s’ airplane technology soar inches over a young boy’s head!
What are you seeing as the biggest challenge in business travel over the next 12 months?
The post covid ambition – and beyond the sphere of business travel, was to build back better. This, as we know, was easier said than done especially with such a strong return to travel in the initial post-covid bounce. We have seen this stabilise and now we need to ensure that full confidence is restored in the traveller, and confirm the reasons why business travel is so important for business (and economic) success.
Which industry issues or trends are of particular concern to Focus TMC Partners? How will Focus help its Partners address those concerns.
I look forward to finding out exactly what keeps our TMC Partners awake at night but I can assume from the outset that technology (in its many guises), and core quality staff resourcing are high up on the list. To me the beauty of the Partnership is that a lot of such work – particularly as relates to technology provision – can be done centrally and shared with the Partners. The adage of ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ comes to mind.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in business travel?
I am borrowing a tag-line from someone(!), I know, but ‘Just do it’. The industry is many things but it will never be dull! It is an essential facilitator of local and global commerce and look at any point on the globe and business is being done and people have to travel to do it. Be a part!
If you could change one single thing in business travel, what would it be?
To remove the misconception that business travel is in some way frivolous. People do business with people they know and we are the key facilitators, and we should be proud of it.
If you would like to get in touch with the Chair of Focus Travel Partnership, or have any media enquiries, please contact: Joanne Emerson, firstname.lastname@example.org; 0203 973 7730