Plaza Premium Group interview with ANT team

#Email Interview

Asia News Today managed to get an e-mail interview with Plaza Premium Group.  The interview with Jonathan Song, Global Business Development Director of PPG.

Below is the Q&A format shared for our readers.

1. When the Covid-19 situation started last year, how did PPG manage to face the unprecedented situation where there is a lack of travellers movement at the major airports around the world?

Covid-19 quickly escalated into a global pandemic, and the speed at which it accelerated was the greatest challenge, not only for us but the aviation and travel industry as a whole. Crisis management followed by planning for long term sustainable growth is what we have been focusing on, seeking opportunities along the way.

Observe new travellers needs and expectations under new travel era

On Trend Digitalisation to provide seamless services with a better value & comfort

 After normalization, we see the importance of touchless, contactless and self-service technologies to offer a safe airport journey. Digitalization has been accelerated during the pandemic. The new normal now equals to contactless alternatives which help encourage safe, secure and hygienic travel – so to stay close to customers’ heart.

Over the last two years, PPG has invested over USD5 million on technology and data management capabilities and will invest double that in the coming two years, enabling enhanced customer experience, product creation, operation efficiency and commercialization for both partners and the Group.

We have developed an ‘Airport Hospitality Technology Platform’ that allows us to manage our business from operation, commercialization to customer engagement effectively and seamlessly. The solution is one digital platform that connects the full team working in an airport, to provide employees and travellers with one seamless experience. It’s also a solution we offer to our global strategic partners like airports, airlines, financial institutions.

2.Now what are the plans for PPG to come out from this tight situation and how have they sustained with any new programmes?

Focusing on the potential and opportunities in the future of travel is key. As the world’s largest independent airport hospitality company, we aim to grow through anchoring strategic partnerships. The plan is to expand PPG’s footprint to create a bigger global network that is built via strategic consolidation and alliances with industry players through a diverse distribution of markets, as well as positioning PPG within the top 100 busiest airports worldwide. Creating a more open, more innovative, more commercially favourable trade environment is the goal.

Business consolidations and remodelling

As an industry leader, we understand the importance of concerted effort – we called upon other businesses in aviation and hospitality to collaborate and drive business transformations and identify ways we can support the travel ecosystem as a whole.

Establishing strategic partnerships through consolidation is one of our key objectives in driving business growth – in the past months, we have been working closely with our industry partners including airports, airlines, financial institutions, travel benefit programmes and even other airport service providers, who were previously considered competitors.

Through the partnerships, we aim to consolidate resources, expertise and re-model our operation, sites and distribution approaches to achieve better cost effectiveness and revenue optimization as the travel industry has changed. We have showcased our resilience during the industry downturn through expansion and service enhancement.

Over the year, despite the pandemic, we managed to open and extend our service offerings into new locations, e.g. Plaza Premium Lounges & ALLWAYS meet & greet services in Turkey Istanbul (Sabiha Goken) & Rome, our flagship Plaza Premium Lounges in Sydney, and Dallas Fort Worth.

On the observation that domestic travel in China was booming, we identified an opportunity for business diversification and opened our first Plaza Premium Lounges for land travellers at Changsha, Guangzhou and Shenzhen High-speed Railway Stations.

This month we have introduced our first land-to-air premium airport experience which features exclusive, integrated services and facilities, including four Plaza Premium Lounges, one Aerotel and a suite of VIP services at China’s newest airport Qingdao Jiaodong International Airport. It is the first time we have offered such a holistic service in one airport, but we have plans to work on projects of similar scales in the future.

We target to expand from over 180 lounges to over 500 lounges by 2024/2025 through growing both Plaza Premium Lounge branded lounges & affiliate lounge network.

We are targeting to expand approximately 50 locations including lounges, hotels, dining concepts and meet-and-greet services in the next 12 months, covering regions including Americas, Australia, EMEA, Greater China, India and Southeast Asia.

Across the business distribution, we expect more than 30-40% will be around Americas and China. The rest is across key airport hubs e.g. Europe, India, Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

Introducing new producing offering to provide a seamless airport hospitality

Understanding the digitalisation is essential to consumer product and experience development, in Q2 2021, we launched Plaza Premium Pass (PPL Pass) which is a digital means of enabling travellers to purchase airport lounge access and save on standard walk-in rates.

The PPL Pass is fully integrated with Smart Traveller, PPG’s global membership programme and the world’s first programme built for air travellers and airport users. Although Smart Traveller launched pre-pandemic, we spent much of the past year enhancing and developing the programme to provide travellers with a digitally driven experience in a single platform.

Now, the Smart Traveller marketplace houses more than 1,000 specially curated travel and lifestyle products and we’re working towards integration with duty-free shopping and airport hospitality experiences by collaborating with travel retailers using O2O commerce. We see it as a holistic seamless way to enhance airport hospitality in the future of travel.

Jonathan Song, Global Business Development Director of PPG.

3.During the Covid-19 situation, how did PPG maintain staff in terms of whether they are given any upskill or re-skill training or re-designate their jobs?

 We have supported our staff throughout the pandemic both professionally and personally, working together to get through the challenging times. “Teamwork”, “Innovation” and “Excellent service” are our core values we treasure, we join hands and unite as one team to enhance customer experience via technology and innovation.

As a service provider, our Learning & Development department has been introducing various training and culture workshops, to reinforce our company values, as well as offering services with “Comfort, Convenience, Value, Love & Care”.

“Customers are at the heart of everything”, being a service provider, our business grows as customers’ needs are evolving, we understand travellers’ pain points, address and exceed the expectations. We are confident in bringing our culture: “TRIP” as Trust, Respect, Integrity and Pride together with our service.

We’ve had to scale back our operations globally when pandemic hit us, yet, “crisis brings opportunity”, it was and continue to be a pivotal time for us, communication is crucial in every way both internally and externally.  It was a challenging time, but indeed we are thankful to our efforts that our global staff have contributed.  When business resumes gradually, we are also organizing various cultural workshops in our Hong Kong Headquarter, and Town Hall to gather our global staff to come together with our business growth.

4. How do you foresee the travel industry business for next year? Can it be recuperated and the plans PPG has crafted to come out from this situation?

 We see the revival of travel this year with the help of travel corridors, and a positive vaccination rate has been important to the industry. This year is a process of pandemic recovery with vaccination roll-outs. Every stakeholder in the travel industry is slowly stepping back to normality.

Next year we believe the busiest airports will be located in the USA, Europe and China as domestic and international travel is resuming swiftly in these parts of the world. We are of course optimistic about the resumption of travel globally in due course, which is why we are on track to expand from over 180 lounges to over 500 lounges by 2025.

As we step in to the new normal of travel, PPG has reassessed its value proposition, service offering and customer experience journey to meet the new demands and expectations of travellers.

At the same time, the leadership team has been working closely with airport authorities and long-time corporate clients to solidify our product proposition. Additionally, reshaping customer experience offerings and products to ensure a comforting, peace-of-mind airport experience in the future is of top priority.

To address the evolving travel trend of a seamless, comforting, worry-free airport experience, we have expanded our capabilities in offering an end-to-end airport hospitality experience. On top of PPG’s flagship brand Plaza Premium Lounge, we see a rising need to refine customer offerings and the airport journey to connect airport hotel accommodation, wellness services, meet-and-greet services and high-standard airport dining concepts.

PPG strives to offer the entire ‘curbside-to-gate’ spectrum of airport passenger services. In doing so, a proactive approach has been taken to expand a united and seamless offering by reviewing and reformulating current product and distribution offerings.

We have reshaped distribution dynamics through strategic partnerships with industry partners including airports, airlines, financial institutions, travel benefit programmes and even other airport service providers. Specifically, in regards to B2B and B2B2C, our anchor approach is to formulate collaborations to create a more open, innovative and commercially favourable trading environment. For next year, we anticipate that corporate brands and financial institutions will seek attractive travel benefit programmes as a tool to acquire and engage their customers.

5. How have your lounges survived this tough period?

Global team joined hand-in-hand to come over the challenging time

Throughout the challenging period, our team across the globe united to find solutions and continue serving our customers with the highest quality care. Without their professionalism, we would not be in the healthy position we are in today. We appreciate our team, especially our frontline staff around the world standing by professionalism. Although tough, we are slowly seeing the recovery in certain regions like US, Canada, Europe, Hong Kong, China with 30-40% of our operations resumed slowly.


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