PhocusWire editorial team’s favorite interviews of 2019


We’ve talked with executives from every corner of the industry during 2019 and covered a huge range of important issues.

As we wrap up the year, take a deep breath for a day or two and look forward to the next 12 months, we’ve hand-picked our favorite interviews from 2019.

What makes for a good interview?

As journalists covering the biggest, most dynamic and fascinating industry in the world, our answer would probably include one or more of these elements:

  • it should be interesting to both prepare for and conduct.
  • it should be thought-provoking.
  • it should be entertaining.
  • it should be giving people a new perspective on a subject or trend.
  • it should make you want to learn more about the interviewee.

We’re in a fortunate and important position in the media, getting a chance to talk to movers and shakers from around the industry.

The final article for our December theme month (2019 And Beyond) is an opportunity for a bit of navel-gazing on our part, where we hand-pick our favorite interviews of the last 12 months.

We look forward to doing more in 2020.

In The Big Chair – Ariel Cohen of TripActions

  • TripActions is only four years old, but the company is definitely playing in the big leagues, valued at more than $4 billion on more than $450 million in funding in the last 18 months and making moves to take on the legacy travel management companies.

Read the full interview.

Q&A: ATPCO’s Beth Taylor on looking past the C-suite, diversifying voices and leadership programs

  • Since launching in 2018, Lead From the Front has seen impressive engagement: More than half of the company attended the launch event, and one in four employees are actively participating in the program (of all participants, 16% of are male). Here, Beth Taylor shares the steps she took to get the program off the ground and what she hopes to accomplish with the initiative.

Read the full interview

Chamath Palihapitiya in the PhocusWire Studio

  • Prior to an interview on Center Stage at The Phocuswright Conference 2019, Chamath Palihapitiya sat down in the PhocusWire Studio to discuss why he’s so bullish on space tourism, how travel has to be a force for good and the fundamentals behind investing and wealth.

Watch the full interview below…

Chamath Palihapitiya on space, money and priorities (PhocusWire @ Phocuswright Conference 2019)

David Adamczyk in the PhocusWire Studio

  •’s director of strategy for the transport division is charged with thinking about the “connected trip”, whether it’s massively widening the scale and capability of the brand’s mobile app or introducing functionality to the desktop website.

Watch the full interview below…

PhocusWire @ WAF 2019 – on weaving every element of a trip together

Q&A: Doug Lansky on “unbalanced” tourism and tech’s role in destination management

  • In a broad-ranging interview, Lansky, a tourism thought leader who speaks on issues related to destination marketing and management at conferences around the world, shares his views on why the industry needs “a new sheriff in town,” how technology can enable destination management and why much of what is currently happening is “greenwashing.”

Read the full interview

Brand Business – Emil Martinsek of GetYourGuide

  • Martinsek joined GetYourGuide in 2013 as the vice president of product management before taking over the chief marketing officer role, which oversees the company’s marketing and growth strategy.

Read the full interview

How I Got Here – Henrik Zillmer of AirHelp

  • Like many startups in travel and transportation, AirHelp was born out of a frustration with how things are handled (or not) by existing players. Zillmer realized that to make a mark the company should take a few risks and deploy a series of unique and often hilarious marketing tactics. It worked. Zillmer’s story around the creation and evolution of AirHelp is both fascinating and funny.

Listen to the full interview below…

How I Got Here, episode 9 – Henrik Zillmer of AirHelp

Q&A: Ritz-Carlton founder Horst Schulze on tech’s role in luxury hotels

  • Horst Schulze began in the hospitality industry more than 65 years ago as a server’s assistant in a German resort town and was eventually one of the founding members of Ritz-Carlton. PhocusWire spoke to him about changes in the luxury category, the impact of technology, hospitality brands moving into alternative accommodations and how his views on crowd-sourced reviews have changed.

Read the full interview

In The Big Chair – Jeff Klee of AmTrav

  • Jeff Klee co-founded 1-800-Cheap-Air in 1989 as a student at the University of Michigan. The company evolved into a few years later, and in 2005, he created a separate company focused on the needs of business travelers, AmTrav.

Read the full interview

Brand Business – Lindsay Nelson of TripAdvisor

  • Nelson joined TripAdvisor in October 2018 in the new position of president of core experience – overseeing brand, consumer user experience and revenue-generating products and features – after four years at Vox Media. 

Read the full interview

How I Got Here – Polina Raygorodskaya of Wanderu

  • Raygorodskaya’s experience as a female entrepreneur in the sector has been soured somewhat with disappointing reactions from the male-dominated world of VCs over the years. But that hasn’t diminished both her drive (the opposite, in fact) and achievements to date. These issues and many details about the formation and evolution of the company are discussed in the third episode of the How I Got Here podcast.

Listen the full interview below…

How I Got Here, episode 3 – Polina Raygorodskaya of Wanderu

Outside Insight: Samantha Radocchia on blockchain’s power to change travel forever

  • As an award-winning entrepreneur, technologist, speaker and author, Samantha Radocchia has spent the better part of the past decade exploring emerging technologies such as blockchain. With a background in anthropology, she’s particularly interested in observing new technologies in the sociological, cultural and geopolitical contexts and understanding why these technologies are manifesting now and how they’re changing businesses.

Read the full interview

Brand Business – Steven Taylor of Accor Hotels

  • Accor’s chief marketing officer has worked in hospitality since 2003. Prior to his current position, Taylor held positions at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts and Le Meridien.

Read the full interview

Q&A: Travelfish’s Stuart McDonald on the OYO and Instagram problems plaguing Southeast Asia

  • Changes in the global economy have created a drop in gap-year travelers – which have made up much of travel guide brand Travelfish’s readership – while at the same time, budget brands like AirAsia and OYO have made shorter trips to previously prohibitively expensive destinations more feasible. The guidebook ecosystem has also changed, with a shift away from Lonely Planet-style recommendations to Google search results and TripAdvisor reviews. To McDonald, who fiercely defends Travelfish’s independence, much of this is problematic.

Read the full interview

Q&A: Airbnb China president on growing the business, regulators, targeting millennials

  • Airbnb made its ambitions to conquer China clear with the appointment of Tao Peng as president of Airbnb China in July. In the second half of 2018, the number of guest arrivals in Airbnb listings in China increased nearly 3X, and by 2020, the home-share giant expects China to be the top origin market for the company globally.

Read the full interview

Q&A: Vered Schwarz on how women in hospitality can break gender barriers in tech

  • There’s more to hiring a good leader than finding someone with relevant experience: Finding someone with potential and betting on that person’s skills and passion is equally as important, says Vered Schwarz, COO at short-term rental software provider Guesty, where she makes a point of establishing diverse management teams. Formerly the COO of Fiverr, Schwarz has seen the specific challenges women face in the work place – particularly at technology companies – but she believes women in hospitality are uniquely positioned to break down the gender imbalance in travel technology.

Read the full interview

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