And travel management company strong in the fashion industry, Aci Blueteam sees business travel resume at a good pace since the end of August. The so-called “restart” occurs in a context of travel requirements that the European legislator has not been able to normalize even with the Green Passbut Tmc knows how to comfort its customers by having created an internal team for over a year. Brilliant idea: enhance the skills ofvisa officewhich already had relations and contacts with embassies and consulates, to focus on the analysis of the new travel regulations that governments are constantly changing.
But it is not the only transformation that Como’s society is experiencing buy from Aci in February 2020 has implemented in the last year.
We talk about it with the DG Piergiulio Donzelli in this interview.
How are your clients’ businesses starting to travel again: what focuses, destinations, additional services do they require?
“Companies are distinguished between those who have had real travel blocks, 90%, and those who have not been able to stop (plant engineering, oil and gas, health functions). We see an intense restart from the end of August with requests not dissimilar to before as basic services albeit more complex due to entry requirements.
This causes the traveler to find himself in perpetual uncertainty e for us Tmc is complex, since we do not know the private life of travelers and if 14 days before they were in “banned” countries we cannot know. The point is that it is not enough to align basic regulations, but it is necessary to standardize such complexity of information that for privacy and other difficulties we fail to simplify our work.
That had already changed, since booking the services it has embraced business intelligence real”.
So how do you support travel managers?
“We deal with risk management in a different way: before we provided a record of the reservations to get the tracking of passengers to contact in case of problems, putting it insecurity. But this was not about the organization of the trip, instead today it is risk assessment properly.
So we have to decide together with the company if he can leave or if he should give up. And again, before Covid-19 we established a number of destinations allowed together with the CEO or the security manager. Today we even decide a priori where to stop».
In what terms can we say “restart” of business travel?
«Since the end of the summer, both Mice and business trips have shown a recovery. We see great hope in the elimination of the travel ban American come on early November, as we historically have the bulk of our activities on the North Atlantic route. This will mean going back to the economic sustainability».
Can you tell us about the specialized team?
«Since July 2020 we have activated the working group Travel Safe (5 people) who had frequent relationships with embassies and consulates, realizing that no information portal was as accurate as the in-person checks.
We have had the privilege of becoming the supplier of premium customers of Il Sole 24 Ore, we provide them with travel assistance. How was it born?
They had an internal visa office and not being able to travel in 90% of the countries of the world, the idea was to transform it into a structured service that helps passengers to travel more informed. It has been so well received that it has attracted new customers in the area corporate».
Aci Blueteam has a turnover of 250 million (2019), 60% in business travel and the remainder equally divided between Mice and tourism leisure.
The latter is generated in part by Tmc VIP customers who book exclusive holidays. Again there is a dedicated team. In addition to fashion, the sectors of origin of Tmc’s customers are represented by accessories from luxuryteams of soccertextile, food production and leading companies in the rubber-plastic.
Learn more about the agency’s MICE activities.
How will your remuneration model change?
«We have always been an anomalous structure among the Italian Tmc, for a native approach.
And first Italian Bsp for Europe-United States routes (in 2019) we adopted a different remuneration model: we did not have a sales force and our fees were 10 times higher. Now, we will have to review it to find new sources, which they replace the missing component by suppliers (Gds and carriers).
However, we never had the focus on those elements.
We worked transparently with the client and the companies accepted our service because it was never the same as others: out of attention, out of obsessiveness in solving problems as if they were ours, meticulousness in applying extremely rigorous sources of saving.
Certainly, compared to the Italian average of Tmc our level of remuneration will need to evolve and we will have to transform services previously included in the fees.
We will get there step by step: we will experience it with a little less “anguish” than those who have worked on process automation with zero fees. Technology costs money and skills must be well compensated. For example, we can get paid for tools previously provided for free, as an incentive to use them, but these are technologies that go beyond self booking tool because they allow complete interfaces with HR for authorization processes and to request cash advances “.
Speaking of technological tools: what news on the traveler’s smartphone?
“We have BT Tool developed since 2014, implemented by the first customers in 2015 and integrated with functionality self booking during the first lockdown. Today it is added Wondermiles for customers with “simpler” or different budgets and needs, integrated with Expedia and trains.
There is no tool that is suitable for everyone, but beware, the distinction is not just the expense of travel.
For example, who has automatic authorization processes can find the solution in Wondermiles. Our philosophy remains the tailor-made approach for each client and not a mass one, but it is not meant in a derogatory sense.
The “customer at the center” is where we will continue to go. If until 5 years ago it was only the human resource that made the difference today even more must be supported by suitable tools. More will come risk management: we will make an exclusive agreement for a platform that we are testing internally before offering it to customers “.
Will the agencies merged with the acquisition by Aci enter business travel and what is their current DNA?
«Let’s clarify: Aci was in tourism with the Aci Travel and Sestante agencies, then for 15 years the majority shareholder of Bcd Italia. Finally they decided to terminate the relationship and Aci sold Bcd Italia to Bcd Europe and bought Blueteam.
Today we are the only tourist entity of Aci. Which includes our business travel centers (Luisago, San Donato, Conegliano) plus 2 Mice centers in Luisago and Florence, plus an American branch in Jersey City (45 minutes by train from NYC) open for 6 years, plus 8 owned travel agencies to which the opening of Rome will be added (in the Caracciolo Gallery, under the Aci headquarters, ed). Finally, the network agencies with no ambitions to reach exorbitant numbers (there are 48 in the Aci Blueteam Partner division, ed) ».
Would you buy a travel agency today?
“Yes, it depends on which one. There are opportunities, but the moment is still uncertain in business travel we are still under half the volumes we did in 2019, despite the recovery.
Our companies are structured to manage certain numbers and we are not in a position to reduce: there are services that cannot be reduced.
The restart is urgent to pay costs that we incur anyway: we can’t live on 50% of the traffic. This industrial scale cannot be stopped or put in stand by.
In March and April we repatriated those who could not return, but the car does not cost the staff, which still has a lot of impact, but for everything else. So before we acquire new travel outlets we must consolidate the recovery. In the return of the air traffic over the United States there is an answer part. Then we will think about new realities and acquisitions. The priority is to make all our resources fully operational, also because quality must remain the same. Furthermore, with the acquisition of Aci we will have new opportunities that we are developing ».
Are new resources arriving in the company, are there any open positions?
“We identified pressing needs two years ago and met them with a chief financial officer and a chief technology officer for process optimization. Both come from the sector, but we are not closed with respect to figures from other sectors.
We have no open positions, but we are reorganizing. Someone digital skills e skill sales will be needed in the coming months “.
You might be interested in: “Restarting MICE” with another speech by Piergiulio Donzelli.