Travel is a way to understand the world: Mary Li’s interview for asianTraveler Magazine

Travel is a way to understand the world: Mary Li’s interview for asianTraveler Magazine

At the close of 2023, Mary Li, CEO and Founder of Atlas, was interviewed by asianTraveler magazine and this conversation has been featured in the recent “Travel Now” issue. In this conversation, Mary shares her insights into how the travel industry has evolved over the past decades and how technology will continue to shape its future. She explains why Atlas is focused on low-cost carriers and gives examples of how we use technology as an enabler to open the world of travel to the ‘untraveled’.  

We present this interview in two parts. In Part 2 (available below), Mary discusses the core ethos of Atlas and its commitment to making travel more accessible and affordable. She also explains how our Air Retailing and Information Platform (ATRIP) addresses some of the industry’s most pressing challenges, connecting travel sellers and low-cost carriers worldwide.  

Discover more about Mary’s vision for the industry, her career trajectory in travel, and her journey as the founder of a purpose-driven business in Part 1 of this interview, available here

What inspired you to create Atlas, and what is the company’s primary mission? 


Mary: Travel changed my life. It helped me find my purpose, happiness, and peace in the middle of life’s craziness. It also allowed me to connect with people and places in a way that I could never have imagined. I could see how vast and beautiful our world is. I met people from all walks of life. I learned to appreciate our differences and similarities. I changed my mindset to think globally, stopped limiting my ideas or views by national borders and instead, saw opportunities to connect with like-minded people and meaningful places across the world. 

I wanted others to have the chance to experience travel, too. Travel isn’t just about going on vacation; it’s a way to understand the world. Only through travel, we experience what it’s like for others. We can see the world as they do and learn to appreciate our differences and celebrate our similarities.  

I believe everyone should be able to travel, but it can be costly. The biggest cost is usually attributed to transportation, especially flights.  

That’s why Atlas is focused on low-cost air travel – on enabling low-cost carriers and agencies to grow together so that more people have access to travel.   

We use advanced technology and data to connect travel sellers from all over the world with high-quality, low-cost air content, removing barriers and making low-cost air travel easy to sell, so more people around the world can enjoy affordable travel, on their terms. 

Our goal is to make travel accessible and affordable for everyone, creating a more connected and understanding world. 

How does Atlas make travel more affordable and accessible?


Mary: Atlas is a b2b company connecting travel sellers (primarily, online travel agencies and their technology partners) with low-cost airlines worldwide, through cutting-edge technology. With our global network of low-cost carriers, we sell the highest-quality, lowest-cost air content via a single, easy and flexible platform that can be integrated within days.

Low-cost carriers (LCCs) now make up over a third of air capacity globally, which is impressive on its own. But in many countries across the world, low-cost carriers play a bigger role, contributing more than half of all scheduled airline capacity. According to OAG, in India, low-cost carriers market share has reached 74% this year. In Indonesia, it is 63%, and in Thailand 57%. Many Eastern European countries like Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia show the same trend. 

It is a huge opportunity for everyone – travelers, travel sellers, and airlines themselves if we can fully utilize this potential. But there are many pain points associated with the low-cost content distribution:  


  • Fragmented and insufficient data; 
  • Legacy technology;   
  • Complicated and expensivecross-border payments;
  • Local regulations;
  • Lack of cohesion across this market, and others.  


Atlas removes these pain points with the technology and partnerships we create. 

We built a single, simple, and flexible platform that allows travel sellers of all sizes to access one or many LCCs with ease. When they connect to our Air Travel Retailing and Information Platform (ATRIP), they immediately can start selling varied and reliable air content from all parts of the world, bringing more and better choices to travelers. 

Ours is a collaborative model where everyone wins, starting with the traveler. Sellers get access to thousands of new routes and destinations with no hassle, while low-cost airlines get an effective way to grow their business beyond their home markets. 

What role does technology play in the services offered by Atlas? How does Atlas connect travel agents and retailers with low-cost carriers seamlessly?


Mary: To enable travel sellers to sell high-quality low-cost air content, we developed the Air Travel Retailing and Information Platform (ATRIP), powered by advanced technology. Hosted in the cloud, this next-generation platform gathers essential data, insights, and processes to help travel businesses search and book air content and make informed, real-time decisions for their customers.  

Visit ATRIP Flight Deck

Unlock your LCC growth now

We’ve simplified the process by creating an easy-to-use API. An API is like a bridge that lets different computer systems talk to each other. In this case, Atlas’ API allows travel sellers and low-cost airlines to connect instantly via ATRIP. Travel sellers and airlines can integrate this API within a few days, and we are proud of the efficiency of our code.  

Unlike older systems, ATRIP doesn’t have the limitations of legacy systems and traditional ways of doing things. We use the latest technology, including AI, and constantly upgrade our platform to ensure that it is unrivaled in terms of speed and reliability.  ATRIP can handle up to 8000 queries per second and it responds to search queries in less than half a second, making the whole process seamless and speedy, providing a hassle-free experience for both travel sellers and their customers. These technology solutions, while invisible to travelers, provide essential infrastructure for the modern travel industry.  

We use technology as an enabler to ensure that people across the world can quickly and conveniently buy affordable air tickets to experience travel in the way they want it. Our goal is to make sure that people can find and book the right flight, use their preferred online travel agency, pay in a way that suits them, and get to their destination with confidence.   

Can you elaborate on the geographic scope of Atlas and the global markets it serves?  


Mary: Atlas is headquartered in Singapore and has a fantastic team of 60+ people spread across seven countries so far: Singapore, China, India, the UK, UAE, Malaysia, and New Zealand.*

Our business, which revolves around technology and air travel, naturally has a worldwide reach. We partner with low-cost airlines worldwide and serve travel sellers across various regions. Some of our clients are global OTAs (online travel agencies), some specialize in specific regions or countries, and some might have a niche proposition. But no matter their size or specialty, they provide services to travelers from all corners of the globe, and so do we. 

*As of March 2024, the Atlas team is based across the following countries: Singapore, the UK, China, India, Malaysia, New Zealand and Brazil.

What are the main challenges you’ve encountered while building Atlas, and how have you overcome them?  


Mary: Building Atlas hasn’t been without its challenges. We launched Atlas in September 2019 , just a few months before the global travel industry came to a halt and airplanes were grounded due to Covid 19. But each hurdle has pushed us to grow and adapt in unique ways. For example, the pandemic gave us time to focus on building a solid, scalable technology platform that became the foundation of what we offer now. 

One of the biggest challenges so far was to pursue our vision of connecting the world in a true, genuine way. We know that to build a truly global business that brings value to everyone in the world, we should start from the inside out – with our team.  

Our team currently spans 7 countries, many languages, and diverse backgrounds, and we are committed to building what we call ‘ONE TEAM culture’ – an environment where everybody can thrive, and be themselves, without enforcing one way of doing things over another.  

However, building a truly multicultural team isn’t easy. We’re not a China company operating worldwide and we’re not a Western company with a team in China. We are a truly global team and, in that sense, I think we are creating something very unique and special. 

It takes commitment, patience and respect to apply this approach to practice. Merging different cultures isn’t easy. Doing this well requires deep insight into the cultures, traditions and mindsets of different people and places. But the most important component is mutual trust, which paves the way for understanding and openness to ensure that everyone here has a voice and feels at ease speaking up. After all, innovation thrives in a culture of diversity and inclusion. 

Like every organization that ever attempted it, we face challenges – remote working limitations, differing preferences, cultural misunderstandings and assumptions, and communication and language barriers. 

To bridge the cultural gaps within our team, we launched a ‘Cross-Border, Cross-Function Team’ initiative. Our goal is to explore what makes us unique and what brings us together, to understand our cultural biases and how they shape our perceptions and experiences. In monthly sessions, we discuss various topics in smaller groups and share stories to overcome stereotypes and assumptions about one another and explore how we are similar in so many ways. 

We acknowledge our differences and come back to our core values – to openly share, enrich partnerships and endorse equality. We encourage our team to challenge each other, to listen to all perspectives and to be open to learning. It is only through this diversity and openness that we live our final value – being driven to innovate.  

It is challenging, but it is worth the effort. As a result, we have an environment where people can innovate, bring their unique ideas and perspectives, and empower others to become better. We have a diversity of ideas and thoughts, and it helps us build solutions that work best for our customers across the world. As a technology start-up that is purpose-led, we have the privilege of handpicking talented people based on their values, vision and experience, and not their location or background. 

In Part 1 of her interview with asianTraveler Magazine, Mary shares her vision for the industry and how the industry evolved over the years. Mary also shared her journey as the founder of a purpose-driven business and how her career trajectory led her to launch a global business that posed to solve some key airline industry challenges.  

Find the Part 1 of the interview here.

You can view the published version of this interview in the ‘Travel Now’ issue on the asianTraveler Magazine website here.

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