Mercedes Oblanca shares her journey from a new joiner in the workforce to becoming Managing Director at Accenture. We discuss why travel companies and women need to reinvent themselves in the new digital world, as well as, insights on the Travel industry in Spain, and how hotels can survive digital disruption.

Accenture Travel: Tell us how you travelled the journey of your career from a new joiner in the workforce to becoming a Managing Director at Accenture. And, how you navigate in the NEW, rapidly evolving business environment.

Mercedes Oblanca: I have worked in Accenture for 25 years and I continue applying the same passion in our work every day like the first day. Today, I am much more confident about our ability to do great things for our clients, basically because I believe there is a unique component in our DNA, in women and men; our commitment to design and deliver the best solutions for our clients.

I am passionate about the travel industry, for two reasons; 1) I love travelling and 2) there is no better way to deliver happiness to people than delivering delightful experiences that travelling to new places brings

What could be better than helping the travel industry reinvent itself? We all need to reinvent ourselves to be able to help our clients to do so. For that is key, to accelerate our own digital transformation to be able to navigate in the New and make an impact for our clients.

Moreover, the digital transformation we are experiencing in the way we work and interact with clients and teams, also opens new opportunities for women to rethink how they can manage their work-life balance.

AT: BBC News reports that according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Spain is set to overtake US as the second most-visited country in the world, behind France. Of course, Spain naturally has a lot to offer from beaches, to shopping, to wonderful food and people. However, is there anything Spain does differently in terms of travel experience that the rest of the world can learn from?

MO: Spain has a unique blend of natural & cultural resources, great infrastructure and social stability. Solid travel companies are leading the transformation of the tourism sector, building new brands with new value propositions - from innovative life style hotels to new fine cuisine restaurants and exclusive services around the emblematic cities - attracting the upper scale tourism segment.

The transformation of the industry is not only happening in Spain; new disruptors (Airbnb and other sharing economy platforms) and the morethan-ever demanding customers are compelling traditional companies to reinvent themselves to compete in the market, keep attracting new customers and retain existing ones.

Companies need to transform their value proposition to customers, create new alliances with other players in the ecosystem, and digitally transform their operations to become more agile and respond to customer needs in real time.

AT: How can hotels survive (and thrive) the disruption by OTA’s, meta search engines and digital?

MO: The new disruptors are becoming the “top of mind” travel channel for many travelers today. Hotels, airlines and destination service companies are reinventing themselves to coexist in the ecosystem in a way that we call the “magnetic battle”. On one hand, they need to partner with the disruptors to stay relevant to the final customer, deliver end to end engaging experiences, building trust and customer mindshare. On the other hand, they need to transform their own digital channels to reduce dependencies on digital intermediaries.

Further, more than ever, customer expectations are liquid i.e. they are changing faster than ever, and therefore personalization in real time is key to attract customers and engage with them, across the travel journey - from inspiration through booking, travelling and the stay at the destination.

AT: Accenture Research finds the challenge of gender pay gap is as wide as ever. How can we make the future workforce an equal workforce- and encourage more women?

MO: Globally, women are the engine that move and change the world, regardless of their country, race, religion, or social status. And the digital era is helping different women groups across the globe, to surface the inequalities and fight them.

Women are becoming more and more relevant in the digital era; an example of that is the increasing number of women in top positions like CDO (Chief Digital Officer). Recent examples are in big travel companies like Accor Hotels or TUI. So, a way to reduce the gender pay gap is for women to reinvent themselves with digital and technology skills to be able to apply to high paying jobs.

In Accenture, women are being key in the transformation of the New Accenture. And Accenture is now one of the best places to work for women. I am very proud of the company I belong to, and I am happy to encourage the women in Accenture everyday—to continue learning and transforming themselves in the new digital world.

I am optimistic about the future for our daughters. They are much further than us at their age!

AT: How do you achieve work-life balance?

MO: It is always challenging to combine personal and professional responsibilities… and always implies a certain degree of extra effort. But “the important thing is to know what is important.” Enjoy as much as possible the different facets of your life, and most importantly, never cross the line that makes you feel you are sacrificing your personal life.

AT: Your favorite holiday spot to unwind is?

MO: A quiet beach destination in the Baleari Islands, enjoying the sun, the sea and the excellent Mediterranean food… and the mobile phone absolutely off!

Mercedes Oblanca

Managing Director – Accenture

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