Travelport Locomote chief executive Sandra McLeod on why Gen Y is the future of business travel

Sandra McLeod. Source: Supplied.

Melbourne travel management start-up Locomote has a new name and is planning its own global journeys. The platform has announced big expansion plans and will now go by the name Travelport Locomote to reflect a majority stake that US listed business travel giant Travelport took in the company earlier this year. Staff have doubled in the past year and the operation has sights set on the US.

Travelport, which turns over $US2.1 billion ($2.74 billion) annually, operates the Galileo and Apollo corporate travel systems. In December it bought a majority stake in Melbourne-based Locomote, founded by David and Ross Fastuca. A Smart50 finalist two years ago, Locomote was turning over $3.5 million a year in 2014.

Sandra McLeod was appointed chief executive officer earlier this year, arriving in Melbourne after 26 years working in a variety of roles at Travelport. She’s now using her decades of experience in the travel industry to help expand the brand from Melbourne.

SmartCompany spoke to McLeod about the importance of peer respect and how to grow a business with a Gen Y consumer base.

I literally joined travel straight from educationand it was a conscious decision, I’d always wanted to work in the industry. I’ve done various jobs and really worked my way up.

I joined the industry in 1979, and I think in those days the world was a little more of a fun place to be. Travel was definitely more fun, now it’s very business-focused. The fun part is still there though, I think. You come to work every day thinking “what is my challenge going to be?”

You spend a long time at work, so I have to learn something every day.

Business travel is a big part of the career. It’s something you get used to I guess – it becomes part of the churn really. I’ve had roles where I’ve travelled over 40 weeks a year.

Before, one week I could be in America, the next week Australia. Now I’m very much in Melbourne most of the time.

Travelport first made an investment in Locomote in 2014, a minority stake back then. I’ve had a couple of years to build up a relationship [with the team] before I landed here.

Business travel to date has not been very intuitive. If you’re a corporation today, you probably have relationships with a lot of suppliers, and what Locomote does is brings all of these into the one platform.

Every single thing that the traveller does is recorded and then there’s a mini audit trail so the corporation knows where the traveller is.

Travel consumers are now younger; they’re Generation Y – it’s 30-year-olds that are coming up the ladder. They want to book their business travel the same way they book their leisure travel.

In the old fashioned world, there were executive assistants or personal assistants who’d make the reservation. Younger travellers want to take control of their own bookings.

I learned very early on that leadership is about your own personal values.

I think leading is very different to managing. I think it is a skill you can learn, but also something people are naturally born with.

The thing people tend to forget about is that belief that the only person you need to make a positive impression on is your boss. It’s also about your peers.

Spaces are also important. We moved into an open plan office at the end of August.

Before we were in an old Victorian mansion house. It would have been fabulous for somewhere to live, but we had four engineers in one room with everyone spread out.

We were super excited to get here [to the new office]. It’s made it so much easier to work in that whole, collaborative way.

That’s why I’m so energised being in this company – because it’s such a young company.

These people are all Generation Y. They work in a collaborative way, and use debate and collaboration in their work.

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