“The thing that inspires me is the idea of making travel more accessible.” Heather Leisman
A travel and adventure enthusiast, Heather brings more than 16 years of travel experience to her role as Managing Director for Europe at HotelTonight. Heather leads the strategic direction and day-to-day execution of HotelTonight operations in Europe.
THC: What inspires you and why?
Heather: The thing that inspires me is the idea of making travel more accessible. Travel used to require extensive planning and research, but today technology is breaking down barriers and making it easier for people to get out and travel. For example, translation apps can help overcome language hurdles while maps, destination content and review sites can assist travellers trying to navigate an unknown city. I love being part of the movement to make people more spontaneous and encourage them to explore the world.
THC: How did you get into your business?
Heather: I got my start in travel by accident, but it came at exactly the right time for myself, and at a very exciting moment for the industry. You see, this was late 1996, the year that both Expedia & Travelocity launched. I had been working in consulting, was looking for a change and was approached by a headhunter regarding a role at a tour operator that specialized in the Caribbean & Mexico. The role was interesting and I had always had a passion for travel, but more importantly, I was intrigued by the shifts beginning to take place in the industry. Travel agents had dominated travel until then and while I’d like to say that I had the foresight to see the revolution that was about to begin, that would be an exaggeration. But I did recognize that big changes were on their way for the travel industry and I wanted to have a front row seat.
THC: What are you working on right now?
Heather: HT Europe will celebrate the second anniversary of its first European launch on 20 June. In just two years, we have expanded to over 60 cities in 18 countries, and are adding an average of two European cities per week to our offering. We have also amassed an international audience of over 3 million users, but this is just the tip of the iceberg for HotelTonight Europe! My focus right now is on growing & scaling our European business so we’re in a position to triple the number of cities in which we operate.
THC: How do you see your space evolving?
Heather: Over the past decade, there have been many examples of how traveller preferences and behaviours are defining the evolution of the travel industry. But nowhere is this clearer than in mobile. Travellers are constantly on the go, their expectations are higher but their booking windows are shorter. Mobile technology is allowing companies to develop innovative approaches to meet the changing demands of today’s travellers and it brings unique opportunities to the travel industry due to the personal nature of the device. Expect to see a shift towards personalisation, and companies leveraging data to create customised experiences for travellers.
THC: Who’s your hero or icon?
Heather: To be honest, I’m a big idol worshipper, but if I had to pick someone, I’d have to say Rosa Parks. In my opinion, a hero is someone who demonstrates great bravery and exemplifies conviction to her beliefs. Rosa Parks ignited change by standing firm for what she believed in and putting her cause before herself.
THC: Where’s your favourite spot around the world?
Heather: I’d have to pick my brother’s lake house on Cape Cod as my most favourite spot. As someone who travels quite a bit, I value and take comfort in the time I spend with my family. When I think about Cape Cod, it brings forth memories of water-skiing, endless hours of pinochle, lobster and Four Seas famous ice cream, but most of all, time surrounded by the people I love.
THC: What’s your favourite injection of culture into a brand?
Heather: While I’m not a motorcycle aficionado myself, I don’t think anyone can argue that Harley Davidson has done an amazing job of transforming its product into a lifestyle. Harley Davidson has created a cult-like following of extremely loyal customers that live and breathe the brand and act as its ambassadors. A Harley is more than just a way to get from point A to point B, it is a statement about who you are as an individual. Proud owners wear Harley clothing, form Harley clubs, attend Harley rallies and organize group rides on their hogs. I think its safe to say that Harley has gone way beyond injecting culture and they have actually created a culture around their brand.