Of the millions of people who travel today, there are just a few dozen that have made their mark on the industry. These are people who have shaped the way we think about travel, our destinations, and provide us with countless memories. They also happen to be some of the most influential people in travel today. If you are looking for some inspiration, let’s take a look at the top ten most influential people in this industry.
When it comes to business travel rules, Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines, has made a big impact. The pandemic’s aftermath has had a long-lasting effect on the travel and airline industries. Scott was the first in the industry to announce a temporary suspension of change fees on airline tickets, and this is why travelers will only pay the difference if they must change local tickets. He has had a significant impact on the way in which other businesses have implemented his ideas. This convinced American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Alaska Airlines to do the same.
Arne Sorenson was the CEO of Marriott International. Marriott has always been a trusted brand by many people, and with Arne Sorenson at its helm, it continued to grow in popularity. He’s had an enormous impact on their acquisition strategies as well as their overall sales efforts. Arne rose through the ranks at Marriott, ultimately becoming its CEO, and continued at the helm until his death on February 15, 2021, at age 62. Under his leadership, there has been growth in their global footprint and made an adverse effect on hotel accommodations worldwide. Sorenson was the mind behind their loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy. His efforts were responsible for the acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts and eventually making the Marriott brand the world’s largest hotel chain.
During his term, Mr. Sorenson was indefatigable in pushing the company’s growth, establishing growth opportunities for employees, an expansion for owners and franchisees, and earnings for the firm’s investors. He is well-known for his commitment to divisive and contentious issues on a global scale, including human trafficking awareness, environmental sustainability, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. He led Marriott to achieve significant progress in these areas.
Avi Lasarow, the CEO of Prenetics EMEA and Honorary Consul for South Africa in the United Kingdom, has demonstrated his clout in global travel today by opposing VAT on PCR tests for tourists. The UK is one of the few countries in Europe that still charges VAT on COVID-19 testing, which makes leisure travel more expensive for visitors. Lasarow is spearheading a campaign to change this. As the creator of DNAfit, a prominent UK genetics firm, one thing that avi lasarow claims is that Prenetics is an excellent alternative for building solutions for COVID-19 testing. In order to assist employees to return to work, these technologies strengthen efforts to stress precision and data privacy. More recently, Lasarow has taken part in the public debate surrounding health passports in the United Kingdom, where he has argued that they are a stepping stone to safer and faster relaxation of lockdown restrictions during a pandemic.
Prenetics were engaged by the Premier League to develop a faster testing system for all 20 clubs, and they had introduced a compulsory health passport requirement for athletes, broadcasters, and staff entering sporting venues during this time. They had also brought mobile testing units into the mix by October. Lasarow publicly supported extending testing “at the point of care” in order to provide faster turnaround times and alleviate laboratory strain. He even urged the UK government, as part of Operation Moonshot, to link NHS Test and Trace to a digital health passport system and enlist the services of other commercial companies for wider coverage.
David Attenborough is a well-known British naturalist and broadcaster who had a tremendous impact on the world of travel today, thanks to his extensive work with BBC Natural History Unit. Fans of his award-winning television series, such as The Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Our Planet, and A Life on Our Planet (released in 2020), are familiar with David Attenborough’s voice. He has traveled to every continent on the planet, bringing his enthusiasm for wildlife and the wild world into our homes for more than 60 years. Attenborough’s love of animals and anthropology prompted him to explore some of the world’s most inaccessible locations, which inspired his audience’s regard for nature as well as a desire to safeguard it for future generations.
On his broadcasting and enthusiasm for nature, NPR noted that he “roamed the planet and shared his findings and passions with his patented semi-whisper style of narrating.” In 2018 and 2019, Attenborough won two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Narrator. He is widely acknowledged as a national treasure in the United Kingdom, even though he has never liked being called that.
Samantha Brown has been a household name in the world of travel since she first appeared on television with her series, “Great Vacation Homes.” She’s an American tour guide and author best known for hosting several traveling shows including “Girl Meets Hawaii” as well as numerous other programs on the Travel Channel. Brown has written several books as well. Her mission is to inspire others through their love of travel by highlighting unpopular destinations that people should be visiting. Samantha has been known for her expertise and passion when it comes to traveling the world, which is why she’s one of the most influential people in travel today.
Her Places to Love episodes received three Daytime Emmy nominations, for Outstanding Travel/Adventure Program, Outstanding Directing in a Lifestyle Program, and Outstanding Host in a Lifestyle Program. On May 3, 2019, Samantha Brown’s Places to Love received the Emmy for Outstanding Travel/Adventure Program, with Brown taking home the award for Outstanding Host. On February 11, 2020, Brown informed Facebook fans that Season 4 of Samantha Brown’s Places to Love was underway.
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson is an English business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. He founded the Virgin Group and controls more than 40 businesses worldwide. Branson began his entrepreneurial journey at a young age.
Virgin is one of the world’s most recognized brands, with operations in a variety of sectors including travel, telecommunications, health care, banking, and music.
At 16, Richard Branson struggled in school and dropped out — a decision that eventually resulted in the formation of Virgin Records. Richard Branson is a self-made multi-billionaire who began his career in the music industry and has expanded into many fields, including space tourism with Virgin Galactic, making him a billionaire. He is also known for his bold personality and athletic accomplishments, such as flying over oceans in a hot air balloon.
In recent years, Branson has put most of his efforts into his space-tourism business. He formed The Spaceship Company with Scaled Composites to design and construct a suborbital spaceplane. In 2015, Branson launched Virgin Voyages, which is a new cruise line.
In 1998, he released an autobiography titled Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way (rev. 2011). The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership is a book in which he expounds on his management philosophy. Sir Richard Branson was knighted in 1999.
Richard has attempted a number of record-breaking challenges, including the world’s fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, several oceanic balloon trips, and kitesurfing in the Channel. He’s dubbed Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, “the greatest adventure of all.” He has a large following on social media, where he discusses everything from business to the environment and adventure to purpose.
From 2014 until the present, Sara Nelson has served as the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants and is currently serving her 4th term. Sara Nelson began her career in the industry of airline travel when she was a flight attendant in 1996 at United Airlines and now represents more than 50,000 aviation first responders in 17 airlines. In recognition of her work in helping to end the 35-day federal shutdown, The New York Times dubbed her as “America’s most powerful flight attendant.” She was also listed as one of InStyle magazine’s Top 50 Badass Women.
In her time, Sara has helped the union to win several of its biggest legislative victories. These include COVID-related compensation of $54 billion that will keep employees connected to their work pay, health insurance, along with other benefits, for 16 consecutive months and to prevent the industry from crashing in one of the most challenging times in aviation.
Sara was involved in the passage of a brand new FAA law, which is a law that contained significant improvements in safety and also reforms to improve the working conditions of flight attendants on US airlines.
Maureen was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but moved to London at age 20 and met her future spouse, Tony Wheeler, on a park bench in the city on October 7, 1970. She went on a trip with Tony from London through Europe and Asia, then to Australia. That journey resulted in the travel guide Across Asia on the Cheap, which established Lonely Planet.
BBC Worldwide took control of the Lonely Planet travel guide book business for a humongous amount. Since then, the Planet Wheeler organization has been established to tackle poverty in Southeast Asia, East and West Africa, Nepal, and Afghanistan.
She then went on to found the company with her husband Tony Wheeler in 1973. Maureen is recognized for leading Lonely Planet, through its early years when it was a small, four-person operation that published guidebooks to places most people had never heard of and sold them out of their car boot, into one of the world’s largest travel publishers.
Charisse began her career at Delta as a temporary part-time Reservation Sales agent in 1985 and has held numerous roles since. She previously served as Delta’s Vice President – Reservation Sales and Customer Care. In this capacity, she was in charge of 10 customer care centers in 4 countries employing 6,000 people who responded to an average of 32 million calls per year.
Further in her career, Charisse was recognized by Moves Magazine as one of the Power Women in 2019, and she was recently named one of the 20 Most Influential Women in the Travel Industry by TravelPulse.com.
She is also on the board of Advisors for Women Leading in Travel and Hospitality. She is a member of Dress for Success Atlanta’s Board of Directors. Charisse Evans has a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of North Texas and is involved in several charitable causes, including Breast Cancer Awareness and women’s empowerment.
Padma Lakshmi is an Indian American cookbook author, actress, and model. She’s best known as the host of the television series Top Chef.
She began her own television series, Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi, in January 2020. The show combines her passions for cuisine and travel with her commitment to immigrant rights, examining how cultures’ cuisines influence American cuisine. Lakshmi visits many different communities throughout the US and explores Persian cuisine in Los Angeles, Thai food in Las Vegas, Peruvian cuisine in Paterson, New Jersey, and Native American ingredients in Arizona. In New York City, she prepares dishes from India, bringing attention to her own immigrant roots. Lakshmi is a busy mother, but she still makes time to travel with her young daughter. She believes in the importance of learning from other cultures across the world, and she regularly does so.
These are the top 10 most influential people in travel today, a list of influencers that have made a significant impact in the travel industry. These are individuals to watch and learn from if you want your company to be successful in this competitive landscape. Whether they’re TV personalities, CEOs or entrepreneurs, these leaders have made their mark with innovation and creativity.