An interview with Maisa Fernandez – Co-founder and Director of Distribution for Globa.li
How did you dream up Globa.li?
Globa.li started as Sarah Fazendin’s brainchild about a year and a half ago. It looked totally different then.
Because we were looking at Africa as our Launchpad, and Sarah and I have worked for over two combined decades within Africa, we understood packaging is the main way consumers book safaris. There are so many elements involved in planning a safari because there are park and reserve fees to consider, additional costs of safari vehicles due to group sizes or young families, lodge-to-lodge transfers – in the end, we understand operators are a critical component in the area and we understand that the current lodge-to-operator itinerary and booking environment is very convoluted, complex and horribly time consuming. We wanted to offer up a good solution.
After we discussed the model in detail, we felt it made sense to create a B2B reservations platform that would help the distributors work seamlessly with the hoteliers, while solving a huge issue for boutique hoteliers – providing live, web-based reservations to buyers and encourage an all-in-one marketplace for both distributors and hoteliers to manage their inventory, guests and payments. Once we discussed this option in detail, we knew were on to something.
Tell us more about your background:
I’ve been working in tourism almost 16 years now. I started my career at Carlson Companies, Inc. in 1998 where I led the communications department for the Carlson Wagonlit Travel franchise division. I moved on to Public Relations for the world-renowned franchise in 2000. Then at the end of 2001, I decided to begin consulting for the public sector within Carlson Destination Marketing Services (CDMS), where I represented some of the most powerful tourism boards in the world, including: The Kenya Tourist Board, PromPeru, Singapore Tourism Board, Nepal Tourism Board, The China National Tourist Office, Taiwan Tourism Bureau, The Northern Territory of Australia and others.
Several months after initiating the merger between CDMS and Myriad, I decided to leave public sector work for the private sector. In 2010, I founded IMPACT Tourism where I have to this day been able to represent some of the finest boutique experiences in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The concept of being able to branch out to the technological travel space has been something I have wanted to do for quite some time. I am excited about the upcoming opportunities Globa.li will offer the travel community.
Which professionals do you admire?
Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber is someone I have been watching. For those who may not know, catching a cab in SFO is a nightmare, and Uber has been alleviating the stress of getting a safe ride in the city and soon, we hope, across the nation. I am watching their expansion closely. They have really managed to “dumb down” the transportation crisis some select cities suffer from. He is disrupting the transportation space to a well-needed halt!
I must also mention Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Chairwoman of Carlson Companies, Inc. Marilyn has always had an amazing business savvy that is exuded through a no-nonsense, strong-minded yet thoughtful leadership-style. I was lucky enough to work with her on several occasions and she is bar-none the leader I admire most in both tourism and business.
What makes Globa.li different?
I could go on here, but for the sake of expediency, I will just say that Globa.li stands to become one of the most flexible and easy-to-use reservations solutions the industry will ever see. We believe this to be true not only for boutique hotels, but for the industry as a whole. I have no doubt that Globa.li will become the new benchmark for distribution systems in the marketplace, one that will ease the booking process for all involved in an aggressively cost-effective manner. We have an amazing, young team, we are nimble, creative, we know the issues (all too well), and we want to see the boutique industry grow. We are working hard and fast to offer up one hell of a reservations solution that will be hard to ignore.
Where did the name Globa.li come from?
Our plan for Globa.li has always been to be a Global Interface.
We felt we needed to keep it simple. Globa.lI came naturally out of the words “Global Interface”.
What is your biggest challenge?
Right now for Globa.li it is just making sure we gain enough feedback from our test users to ensure we have a stone-solid product. Every day brings on a new challenge, but in truth, the only thing we care about is getting it right. With Sarah and my knowledge of the industry, we think we are covering all areas necessary to create a fundamentally necessary platform for distributors worldwide. But there are times we can miss things, so this is a very critical stage for us in or build-out.
Also, we are starting small, specifically in Africa focusing on the North American market, but we have some aggressive plans to move into other emerging markets directly after launch, as well as have the platform available in other languages and currencies. We have a long list of hoteliers ready to sign on in other emerging markets now, but we want to test in Africa first, since we are aware this is the most challenging, when it comes to itinerary building. Staying focused is important in these initial stages, but it is always tempting to stray away from that focus. Sarah helps me there.
What stresses you out?
Actually, at this stage in my career, not much. If I had to pinpoint something that makes me most anxious though, it would be that which I don’t understand, haven’t thought through, or situations I fail to predict that worry me most. I like knowing as much as possible about an issue before I jump in, so I find I can be a bit more tentative and hesitant to make big decisions than say Sarah can. She is more of a risk taker than I am. I wish I had her tenacity.
What is your favorite place you’ve ever been?
Lamu, Kenya. Its easily the most mysterious and exotic place I have ever been. It crawled in my heart the minute I landed there. I’ve been about four times and every time I go back, I find something new on the island. Its magical.
What is your favorite part of the day on safari?
I always love the evenings. It is a chance to reflect on the days events, sit by a campfire and connect with new people. Being on safari is often a very introspective time for me. Therefore, engaging with people over a glass of wine at a fire is nice. But there honestly is nothing like crawling into bed every night to find a warm hot-water bottle and a warm blanket to pull over yourself as you feel the chilly damp air. There is something very cozy and thrilling about being semi exposed to the elements.
Where is the next place you want to travel?
I have always wanted to visit Jordan and the Middle East. Those are next on my target list, but I rarely travel for pleasure. I travel enough for work as it is, so when I take a holiday, I stay home. It’s bliss.
Any last thoughts-
I am just excited to be in this position today. We’ve had immense support from everyone we have been working with thus far. I am hopeful people find Globa.li useful and a value to their business. I think this is as best a time as any to let the readers know our doors are open for brainstorming, partnership, sharing, whatever. Sarah and I are of the mindset that cooperation leads to intelligent “coopetition”, which makes us all better in the end.