A spotlight on Jools Horton-Lakins, Britannia Student Services

Tell us a bit about your role and how it supports the business?

As Head of Operations, I oversee the daily running of the company, keeping the business aligned to our strategies, developing opportunities for growth and maintaining relationships with our partners. Having a strong global network is a key aspect of our business and I work closely with my team to ensure we deliver the ultimate customer experience.

What has been your career highlight to date?

I was an English language teacher and summer centre manager for 10 years before moving into operational roles for the past 10 years.  During this time, I have had the opportunity to work on a number of important projects; meeting and working with a wide range of talented people. I have used this experience and lessons learned from others to navigate the challenges of the last 18 months.  Successfully transitioning the business to weather the storm of Covid-19 has been a fundamentally significant experience for me.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

There is one that has stuck with me: “Don’t just hear: listen”. This is critically important for me in understanding customers’ needs and ensuring an excellent customer journey.

If you were not working in this sector what other industry would you have pursued a career in?

I like to know how things work and enjoy making things (I built my son a bed during lockdown) so maybe carpentry or perhaps some type of practical engineering.

What are the emerging trends within your sector and have these changed since Covid-19?

I think the world has changed since Covid-19 emerged and is continuing to do so. We have seen an understandable increase in demand for single en-suite rooms compared to other accommodation types, which is in part due to travel restriction and visitor quarantine rules. Also, customers are increasingly interested in and weary of cancellation clauses which is to be expected in these volatile times.

As an association what one thing do you think we have done that has made a real difference to our members during the crisis?

BETA has been a great source of support and information for its members during this very difficult time for businesses.  The regular weekly updates, condensing government guidelines to a digestible format, have been very helpful.  In addition, the webinars with industry specialists such as legal, HR and accountancy firms have been practical, timely and useful.

Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our industry, what is the one thing that you have learnt personally or professionally during this time?

For me, it would be the strength, adaptability and problem solving abilities of our team, and the strength of the working relationships we have with our partners.

What are your crystal ball forecasts for the period ahead and how quickly do you think your business can recover from the pandemic?

From meetings with partners and conversations with connections across the world, it is clear there is a great desire and enthusiasm to travel, especially in the student travel market. As restrictions eased coming into September, we saw a healthy increase in bookings and enquiries and, as we move past the current omicron situation and international travel can resume, we are confident the recovery for our industry will continue through 2022.

How do you think Covid-19 will change our industry (if at all)?

It has brought into focus the delicate balance that companies within our industry have to strike when faced with incredibly adverse conditions affecting their businesses.  I believe businesses have become more resilient, agile and adaptable, and are now better equipped to face market influences (both positive and negative) going forward.  Companies will need to have contingency plans in-place so they can act at short notice to mitigate local and international challenges, in order to protect their business and client interests

Published 03 January 2021