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Meet Atle Skalleberg of Flight Centre Travel Group

Today we’d like to introduce you to Atle Skalleberg.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Atle. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I grew up in a small coastal town in Norway, called Grimstad. It is a beautiful part of the world, but after college, I felt a strong desire to spend time abroad, so I came to Boston for graduate school in 2004. At first, I thought I would return to the motherland, but I fell in love with Boston and its atmosphere. So “liveable” and full of smart people.

After brief stints at The Norwegian Trade Council and an MIT startup, I joined a travel technology company called StudentUniverse. At first, it was just another gig for me, but I soon realized that it was a great team in a dynamic industry. A good fit. Years later I was fortunate enough to lead the business through great growth that culminated in us being acquired by the Flight Centre Travel Group. So here we were, just over a hundred people, joining a $20B business with more than twenty thousand employees across more than a dozen countries.

Fairly soon after joining the Flight Centre family, it became clear that there was an opportunity to lead the group’s digital transformation efforts. Now I have been the Chief Digital Officer for the past year and a half and it is incredibly interesting. Flight Centre Travel Group is headquartered in Brisbane, Australia, but we have built a digital commerce center of excellence right here in Boston. I live in the South End with my wife and son and feel privileged to be able to walk through the city on my way to our Downtown Crossing office.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It’s never a smooth road. Personally, it was a steep learning curve; When English is your second language and you’re operating in a new culture it takes a great deal of effort to get ahead. Professionally there is never a lack of challenges, chief among them probably the global financial crisis and its impact on partnerships and the market. New technologies and the startups leveraging them to disrupt would be a good second. As much as these things can cause massive headaches it is what makes it fun and interesting.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Flight Centre Travel Group – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Flight Centre Travel Group is one of the largest travel groups in the world. We offer leisure and corporate travel solutions across numerous brands, such as; Flight Centre, FCM, Corporate Traveller, Liberty Travel and StudentUniverse. We have built our business and culture with something most travel companies are trying to eliminate: People. We are investing heavily in technology plus human service. Our mission is to “open up the world for those who want to see” and that is truly core to who we are. We are more than twenty thousand travelers and passionate about delivering amazing travel experiences.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We want to transform and get more digital and global. Our leisure model has a clear unique value proposition with consumers and we believe human service coupled with technology will be a winning formula. Our digital transformation is gaining momentum, enabling the handling of simple transactions with reduced human intervention, but equally importantly reducing friction across complex and higher value purchases.

Business originating online is now a multi-billion dollar business for us and online completion (e-commerce models) is expected to reach AUD$1B this financial year, growing 25%+ YoY. Our strongest native apps are growing 200%+ YoY and producing healthy profits. We are making substantial investments in digital commerce talent, platforms and third party service integrations. We are consolidating services, establishing centers of excellence and revamping our approach to data management. You get it, we are doubling down on digital commerce.

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