A new era begins for BCD Travel

On July 1, Stephan Baars becomes what BCD Travel refers to as a “boomerang” colleague.

Baars, who had been the travel management company’s CFO for 11 years, had left BCD in 2017 to lead investment company Boron Management. (Both Boron and BCD Travel are owned by Dutch businessman John Fentener van Vlissingen.)

Now, Baars has boomeranged back to BCD Travel as CEO with John Snyder stepping down after a 31-year career with BCD, one of the world’s largest providers of corporate travel services. 

“I have never lost my eye on BCD Travel,” said Baars, a native of Hanover, Germany, during a joint interview with Snyder. “I have never lost my contact into BCD Travel. John and I stayed connected over those years, even if I was not working for him anymore, so that has kept my passion for travel [alive].”

Baars returns to BCD following the pandemic, which Snyder called the biggest disruptor the company has faced. Covid-19, he said, “had a dramatic and permanent change on our industry.”

The company is recovering. According to Travel Weekly’s 2023 Power List, BCD expects to return to 80% of 2019 levels this year. BCD is No. 4 on the Power List with $16 billion in sales. 

“The leisure side of the business clearly has recovered much quicker than the corporate side, and I don’t know if we’re settled in to the new normal yet or not,” Snyder said. “I’ve quite honestly given up checking my crystal ball, because it’s not worked for the last three years trying to predict what’s going to happen in this industry.”

BCD has returned to profitability, and Snyder said he was excited for what the future holds. 

He hesitated to call his stepping down a retirement — “that, to me, is a bit of a scary word” — but said he will take some time to spend with family and “recharge my batteries.”

From economic to geopolitical, there are uncertainties in the industry right now, Baars said, but there has always been unpredictability.

“One thing is clear: this industry is so resilient against all the changes and external factors that we have,” Baars said. “Despite all these effects, the industry is still growing, and that’s what we believe as well. The industry will continue to grow, while at the same time the industry will continue to change.”

In the short term, Baars said he plans to meet with BCD executives and employees with a focus on listening. He also plans to continue investing in both people and innovation within the organization. One key reason he returned to the company: culture.

“Sometimes it’s just a word,” he said. “But if you will talk to our employees around the world, that makes us so different in this challenging environment.”

Sustainability is also a priority for the company and Baars. He said that umbrella extends to more than just the environment, also encapsulating procurement and ethical business practices.

“It’s a hard time to step away because I think the next few years are going to an incredible time for BCD and for the industry,” Snyder said. “But for me personally, it is the right time. I feel very confident Stephan’s going to be the right leader for BCD for the future.”

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