TAV Operation Services

Interview: TAV Operation Services seeks to extend its reach in airport hospitality

Introduction: TAV Operation Services has set out ambitious goals to extend the reach of its airport lounge and hospitality services network in Europe, North and South America, Africa and the Middle East. The recent opening of a 750sq m HelloSky branded lounge airside at Milan-Bergamo Airport is one step towards growing in the vital European market, with further projects to follow. The TAV Airports company is well known for its primeclass lounge services, TAV Passport loyalty programme, tavport.com travel portal and airporteasy.com services in its home market of Turkey and others as geographically diverse as Georgia, Tunisia, Macedonia, Latvia, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Kenya, Oman, USA, Denmark, Chile and Switzerland. At the time of the Bergamo opening, TAV OS CEO Güclü Batkin spoke to The Moodie Davitt Report about the opening, the ambitious plans to expand TAV OS’ presence through the wider Groupe ADP network, and how tailored, personalised hospitality services matter now more than ever. By Dermot Davitt.

“We are working with the top management to become the exclusive hospitality arm of the whole [ADP/TAV/GMR] group”

– Güclü Batkin

The Moodie Davitt Report: Can you tell us about the significance of the Milan-Bergamo Airport opening for TAV Operation Services, for your new partnership and for the airport?

TAV Operating Services CEO Güclü Batkin: First, we are very excited. It’s a joyful experience to open up a new lounge during these times. It also shows our contribution and commitment to the city and to the business, and our strong relationship with the airport operator SACBO [the lounge was opened by Barcelona-based airport hospitality service company GIS, a division of TAV Operation Services -Ed]. It’s a very good example of how you can partner during the pandemic. We had to do our part, but they really were accommodating in terms of understanding our constraints in the situation. So we end up with this wonderful new lounge, on time and on budget. The end product is incredible, and this is only possible with the stakeholders’ commitment and support.

What are the major highlights of the Hello Sky lounge and how will it elevate the consumer experience?

One of the main elements is the use of Italian design aspects. We were heavily influenced by Italy in terms of furniture, products and services. Bergamo Airport ranks very highly for customer service satisfaction, only second after Rome within Italy, so we really want to help increase that. One of our biggest ambitions for this partnership is to grow into other parts of hospitality with premium services. And maybe we can also increase our presence in different airports in Italy. This just the beginning for us.

A showcase for TAV talent: The GIS/TAV Operations Services team celebrate the Milan-Bergamo opening

We understand you are taking a ‘one company’ approach to building the services business under TAV, with ADP and ultimately GMR – can you tell us more about this strategy and what it involves?

The one company approach has been established now for a couple of years by Groupe ADP, as they took a controlling stake in TAV and later with their purchase of a 49% stake in GMR. So this makes us the largest airport platform in the world with three major brands, which are each very important. But now the mindset is shifting towards a ‘one group’ mentality. Within that TAV OS is the only hospitality company and we are working with the top management to become the exclusive hospitality arm of the whole group. The plan needs to be formulated and completed, which is what we are doing now, looking through our brands and ensuring we have the right brand architecture for the future. You can even expect some new brands from us. This is all being aligned right now and we will have some big announcements to make in the coming quarters. We have a mandate to expand, just as TAV has done beyond its own airports in recent years. Now we have 62 lounges in 34 airports in 20 countries. The ‘one group’ strategy will support that growth even more.

Greeting a new experience: Senior executives at Bergamo Airport management company SACBO, along with partners from TAV OS and GIS, mark the HelloSky inauguration. Left to right: Deputy Mayor of Orio al Serio Marilena Spada, TAV Operation Services CEO Guclu Batkin, Councillor for Infrastructure and Transport of the Lombardy Region Claudia Maria Terzi, SACBO President Giovanni Sanga, Atalanta BC the President Antonio Percassi, Italian actor Giorgio Pasotti, President of the Province of Bergamo Gianfranco Gafforelli and alpinist Simone Moro

Beyond the ‘one group’ approach, are there opportunities in other ancillary activities, to embed TAV OS into the travel chain much more? For many the airport is still a fragmented experience with so many different touchpoints – can TAV OS play its part in remedying this?

Definitely. We are very familiar with the one-stop-shop approach. We have pretty much every service under our portfolio so we love that view of the whole customer experience and journey. But we still have a lot to do to create the seamless journey. From the door of your hotel or home until the aircraft and vice versa, we need to be in every aspect of the customer journey. And we are very grateful and happy that the group has that mindset as well. We are now working to make this a reality. We need to be involved in the meet and greet, the fast track, the spa experience. After the pandemic we know that people want safe zones, one of which is lounges, but they are not the only one. They want a personalised and mostly touchless experience. That leads us to be more digital as well. We are working on a digital project with our group company that will span the coming five years. This will be a continuous investment and journey for us because we need to be automated and we need to be digital.

Reassuring and safe zones: A new world of hospitality (primeclass pictured left and right)

Do you think the airport eco-system has done enough to combine the physical and digital tools at its disposal to change the consumer experience?

It’s important to repeat that our spaces are seen as reassuring safe zones. Our brands underline our strong commitment to building trust around customer behaviour. The customers are inspiring us with their demands and purchasing patterns and we are ready with our people and technology to satisfy their needs and serve them beyond their expectations. We are underlining this purpose in all aspects under our brand architecture.

We like to talk about the offer at airports being differentiated from other channels, notably digital –can hospitality be a vital part of differentiating the airport channel, even enhancing its reputation?

If you look at the airline industry all over, we have put in a lot of effort to take responsibility in terms of safety and hygiene during the pandemic, to build trust and make our places safe in the eyes of customers. We have to do a lot more to do but we fully believe the industry will create the right synergies. We believe that the post-pandemic recovery process will happen faster than expected, in sync with other players in the industry.

Clearly there is a lot of competition now in the airport services market – how does TAV OS stand out?

One of our biggest advantages is that we have a unique understanding of the airport operator, because we are part of one. I have had crucial responsibilities in all aspects of airport operations and commercial management as well as being CCO of the group before my current post. So our group and the team have great experience in the market. Further investment in the experience and outside knowledge of our existing teams will bring agility and flexibility to our organisation. Our global presence includes Europe, Middle East, Africa, US and of course Turkey. That leverages our risk because different markets will recover at different paces. In terms of looking ahead, we are very interested in growing in the US market and in Africa. And India is a must for our company in the short to mid-term. We want to grow responsibly and profitably, and on a sustainable basis. We are keen on exploring the opportunities, which by the way can also include strategic partnerships. TAV has an incredible culture of partnerships where we work on a mutually beneficial basis. I also believe we need to be open minded here, because hospitality does not end with just the airport. We also are interested in different parts of transportation infrastructure and in exploring opportunities.

Let’s look at the immediate and planned investments – what’s next for TAV OS?

Bergamo is of course key, and in Paris CDG and Orly we will offer a range of services from late 2021. We will open in Bermuda in coming weeks and even continue investment during the pandemic period. Our group [a consortium led by TAV -Ed] recently acquired Almaty Airport and we will begin to provide hospitality services at the new terminal soon, so we have many projects coming up.

Premium service: The primeclass brand has extended its reach to new markets over recent years

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The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 298 | 6 July 2021

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 15 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit www.moodiedavittreport.com and to subscribe, please e-mail sinead@moodiedavittreport.com

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