Travel Tech Blog

Business Travel Rockstar Interview - Mark Colley

Mark Colley Sunbways TravelMark Colley, Managing Director at Sunways Travel

How did you start your career and how did you get into Travel?

I entered travel straight from school, working for the family business, but my heart wasn’t in it then – or perhaps I wasn’t ready to join the family business – because what I really wanted was to get into the financial markets in the City. So that’s what I did. I managed to get a job in the back-office of National Australia Bank and worked my way into the dealing room, trading forex. That was in the 90’s – I expect you’ve seen some of the films or remember the headlines from those days – I can confirm that it was all true!

It was in 2015, after my brother, who had been running Sunways, suddenly passed away, and I was asked if I would take over the business. It’s strange when I think back to that time, because despite reeling from the loss of my brother, I didn’t hesitate in saying that I would. To this day, I am proud to have continued his legacy, and I feel very close to the Sunways family, who had worked closely with Nigel for such a long time – they were a huge comfort to me at the time and we are all still very close.

Is there anything that fascinates you about this industry?

Yes, the collaboration! I often find myself in a room filled with competitors, and without exception, everyone will share their knowledge and collectively strive to improve business travel. Coming from a highly competitive environment, this still blows my mind and it’s without doubt one of the best things about our industry. 

Who inspired you?

My father started Sunways in 1973, so I grew up in a ‘travel family’. His entrepreneurial spirit inspired me growing up, and still does today. 

What was your most memorable experience during your career?

I’ve had a very interesting career, but two experiences stand out; being made a director at the age of 25 while working for a major City broker – I think I was the youngest in the company at the time; and winning a Michelin Star at a restaurant I once owned and ran - that completely came out of the blue.

There were a lot of memorable experiences from my days in the City, but like I say, it was the 90’s and I don’t think I can share them with you on here!

In your view, what is the greatest achievement in travel technology since the millennium shift?

Has there been any great technological strides since the millennium? I’m a relative newcomer to travel, but I’m going to be quite controversial here in saying that travel tech is overdue reform when it comes to aggregation and distribution. Maybe One Order will achieve this in time – but given how NDC is going so far, who can say…

Your favourite piece of technology created for the travel industry ever? (Except Midoco/Umbrella of course)

Oh goodness, this will sound very dull….but it’s analytical reporting! Frontline ops will argue distribution solutions – and rightly so – but for someone running a travel business, as well as overseeing account management, data is everything to me. I confess to being completely nerdy about it! 

What would you recommend travel newbies to do in terms of technology?

Learn your customer requirements and the complexities of content first. Then apply this knowledge to sourcing or building the most suitable technology solutions to fit the purpose. Too often we see technology solutions enter the market that have not been developed in collaboration with the people they’re hoping to adopt it. I would recommend starting with the problem and the people dealing with it before you set out to develop a solution.

At present, what are the hottest and most relevant challenges in the industry?

It's not here yet, but it’s coming….AI and WEB3. They will transform our industry in more ways than any customer facing tech solution has ever done. Watch this space, it’s unbelievably exciting…

Quick-fire questions

Water or mountains? Mountains – with a lot of snow
Train or plane? Plane – I am always transported back to my first flight as a kid in the 70’s
Tea or coffee? Coffee – the good shit
Dog or cat? Dog. Cats seem pointless.
Beach or adventure? Adventure
Remote, office or hybrid? Hybrid – one of the best things to come out of the pandemic
Favourite movie? Wolf of Wall Steet
Favourite song?

Live Forever – Oasis. I was there.

Favourite destination?

On a mountain skiing with my family

Being a travel rockstar yourself what Rockstar would you like to meet?

Liam Gallagher – in a boozer

Have you ever met a rockstar?

Rod Stewart – does he count?

What’s next on your bucket list?

Tracing my daughter’s gap year footsteps through Thailand – only, in very nice hotels


Who's the next Business Travel Rockstar we should interview?

I nominate Nick Scott of arrangeMY.

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