Friday, April 25, 2008

Stelios and the Travolution Achievement Award

Someone emailed earlier to ask us to publish the citation I gave:

The Achievement Award is an accolade Travolution gives each year to an individual whose influence has – we believe – helped shape the online travel industry into what it is today.

Last year’s recipient was Brent Hoberman, co-founder of, who many of you would have heard speak earlier today.

So tonight we are pleased to honour yet another pivotal player of the last ten years in online travel.

Our individual does not come from a pureplay online company, one which was created on the web and with the web in mind.

In fact, he was in many respects just a supplier of a product similar to hundreds of others critical to the travel experience.

But there was a difference.

The distribution point for his service was initially a call centre. Nothing unusual in that, you might say.

However he saw very quickly what was happening to the travel industry and its move towards direct distribution via the web.

Within an incredibly short space of time the call centre was discarded in favour a fully-functional and easy-to-use website.

His model was quickly adopted by others in the sector and set a precedent in terms of how to market via the web, use PR to maximum affect and, most importantly, challenge how other suppliers use third parties to sell products.

Unusual for a supplier at the time, his company bypassed the Global Distribution Systems favoured by so many others. He didn’t need them. Consumers flocked to his product regardless.

Some have said his single-mindedness in this area in particular triggered much of the soul-searching by the GDSs in the late-1990s and early part of this century as to what their role would be in a sector increasingly reliant on a direct consumer relationships.

Most of them came through that period of introspection with a very different strategy.

But there is more… And we’re not here to talk about GDSs.

Within a frighteningly short space of time, our recipient’s product became one of the leading suppliers in Europe.

And where he led, others quickly followed.

Other suppliers soon realised that the consumer-direct model was worth investigating – in fact, they had to.

They have all adopted the B2C model and, as we have discovered tonight rather ironically, are doing it – in the minds of our judges – better.

It would be naïve to suggest that none of this would have happened without his desire to change the way products are sold to consumers.

The important point here is that he had the ambition, single-mindedness, guts you might say, to put it all into action.

The ability to spot an opening did not end once he had created one of the leading low-cost carriers in Europe – one which sold an overwhelming majority of its fares via the web.

Hotels, car hire, bus transfers, internet cafes, cinemas, personal finance, pizzas and, er, male toiletries have all followed.

Most recently, his low-cost model has been thrust at a sector not known for his lack of frills – cruise.

Say what you like about the products, and most people DO have an opinion about the products, but his determination to just simply try something should be applauded in a sector which was 15 years ago – some might say – rather lacking in innovation.

Some of his products have been a success, others haven’t. Some of the original models have been modified…

He doesn’t seem to mind.

So what about the man himself?

Our recipient is the only Knight of the Realm to feature in tonight’s awards. And the only person I spoken to in over two years at Travolution who signs his emails “serial entrepreneur”.

He has seemingly courted controversy almost all his career, from legal actions against the use of the word “Easy” by other brands to his decision to live in Monaco.

Nevertheless, he has always been guarded about his private life.

He has never disputed the fact that he was helped by his father when trying to get the airline off the ground.

This personal touch, however, leads most to say he is, without a shadow of a doubt, a people person.

In the very early days he would help baggage handlers in Luton if something went wrong.

Let’s ponder that one for moment shall we……

His larger than life character meant that he would dominate meetings, desperate to ensure every aspect of the EasyJet brand was absolutely perfect – especially the website.

His enthusiasm for the colour orange, we are told, had to be reigned on a number of occasions!

But Stelios Haji-Ioannou knows how to work people.

We were told that the brand exposure EasyJet received via prime time Airline programme on ITV was believed to be worth around £25 million worth of free airtime advertising.

Such is his own personal brand that he is almost universally known simply by just his first name.

But more importantly his devotion to challenging the status quo, showing leadership across a variety of sectors, and for reshaping the travel industry means he is should be recognised for his accomplishments.

I therefore, and on behalf on my colleagues at Travolution, announce that the recipient of the second Travolution Achievement Award is Stelios.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

Technorati tags:

No comments: