"The industry needs to move for more productive operations, to give space to this consultancy process."
In this first edition of the year, we had the pleasure to sit down and discuss with Daniel Schaurich de Oliveira, Owner and Partner Director at A1 Viagens, for our Leadership Corner.
With over 25 years of experience in providing world class services, A1 is a business travel and expense management provider with a focus on customized solutions that connects Brazilian customers to the best solutions in travel and expense management, automating processes and controlling corporate programs.
If you would be presenting your company, how would you pitch A1 for the travel industry? What are the strong points of your company? How A1 is different?
I think the best way to describe A1, and, definitely, this pandemic proved this – is our concept. I think that our company is focused on the traveler. We invest in technology, we automate a lot of processes, but the thing that makes the difference is the way we handle people. We take care of our team, and I think we have some travel agents here with more than 15 years in our company, probably, our average is 7-10 years. And this culture continues towards our customer, to a customer-centric organization. Our fulfillment is to really be careful about the travelers. This is why I think that this pandemic proved our point and philosophy. We really go extra mile to solve the problems, challenges and issues that these crazy times bring to us.
What would be the main take-aways from this period – what have you learned as managing a travel agency during Covid-19? How did you react when everything started?
Our first actions were related to our customers, to bring them back home, so we have spent the first month doing everything to make this happen. This was quite challenging because sadly, the borders were shut down. Then, we have started to think about our cashflow, which I think was really important, and looking back, I think companies that survived this period, they managed the cashflow in a right way. This was like a marathon, you need the gas and the energy to run till the end, and for a company, the cashflow is vital. Of course, we needed to downsize the company, which affected our business, because as I was saying, we have team members with lots of years in the company, so it was really hard to downsize the company, but it was vital. By the end, it was a hard time, but we have learned a lot. It was like a whole universe course, a lifetime experience in a short period, but it showed us that travel is a good business, because we are here, and a lot of travel agencies survived and came stronger.
I believe that the pandemic showed us that we have a good business in our hands, and we need to move further, to change the way that we do business frequently, and come up with a new business model.
What opportunities were out there for your company, during this period?
We say here that is challenging to change the wheels of the car during the race. We had time to think about our business and look for improvements and new ways to do business. The time that the pandemic gave us, was priceless for a reset.
What do you think is the game changing or revolutionary improvement that you have done in A1?
Our strategy is focused on technology and to do business with dcs plus. We are looking to improve and upgrade the customer experience, like we are looking for new way to reach our customers. We try to achieve being present in a simple way to the customers. We are looking for dcs plus to improve our connectivity with others. We look for a strong search engine and a strong booking tool (NOVA) – new ways to connect with artificial intelligence. The travelling persona is changing, like if you were a frequent traveler in the past, now you travel once, twice per month. At this moment, a frequent traveler will travel less. This new type of traveler will acquire the travel agency that is omnipresent. He can touch and talk with the travel agent on different channels. Having dcs plus technology helps because it is open to have integrations with any other solutions, and is a way that in the near future brings the possibility to provide services through different channels. We aim to create our ecosystem having dcs plus platforms as a foundation of the business.
How do you see the role of the travel agent for the corporate traveler? How it will change, or how has shifted lately?
During the pandemic, I saw my team looking to capture rules and new documentations about COVID. Our challenge was to bring reliable information about how you can travel abroad, and it was quite challenging, so we invested and developed a system to automate this information, so our client is always informed about new changes about their next destination. We think that this will be a trend in the future based on information and safety.
In Brazil, we are currently facing a flu that is not related to COVID and I think that we will never get back to the old times again. We will have another issues, facing another challenges about diseases or anything related to it. The travel agent will be like a safety net, he will be prepared to make changes quickly, bring reliable information and make interventions when the traveler needs it.
The industry needs to move for more productive operations, to give space to this consultancy process. Because it is not viable to do what we did in the past, like traditional way of corporate travel and, also do this safety, documentation and rules consultancy. We need to automate this hard work, this operational work and to focus on the consultancy.
Do you think that the pandemic exposed weaknesses in the corporate world?
I think the business model was challenged, because the transactions have gone, but we still do our consultancy job, so this pandemic showed to us and to our clients that we need to rethink the business model. The corporate traveler doesn’t need someone to issue an air ticket or sent a voucher, they need this secure way to move their employees and this safety net when something gets wrong. The business model that was practiced in the past was challenged and is changed by the pandemic.
What are the priorities for 2022?
My main goal is to automate and to find a way of freeing my team of redundant work and bring them to this consultancy by solving problems of the travelers. I want to offer them tools and applications that give them this time to think about the customer. Basically, the main goal is to restructure the entire concept of how you are servicing the corporate customers in the upcoming year. I think in the past was easy just to hire more people, to issue more tickets, but at this time we need to do things different and better. This is why we are investing in technology in order to give this power to our people.
How do you see the forecast in the next 24 months? How was on your side a corporate travel in the last couple of months, regarding the recovery, the total number of bookings? What are your expectations for the next 1-2 years?
In these last 2 months we had this boom in international flights, so things started to run, but we saw that we have less transactions. Zoom & Microsoft Teams came strong to replace some face to face travelling needs. I really think that Brazil market grow strong, because we have passed bad times, everybody is vaccinated here, so things are going smoother and we are not expecting any turns in the future. As you know, travel is affected by every country in the world. I do think that we will face a lot of instability in international market, but our domestic market will grow strong in the next year. The whole reality of our business is that we will do in the short term less transactions, but these ones will need more from us because of this instability.
How have you chosen dcs plus as a technology partner for your company?
We were looking for a strong search engine with this connection's possibility. The thing that claimed our attention was the user experience of NOVA. We have looked for the whole market and we were used to see those OBTS that are made by developers to developers. They are not user friendly, and NOVA was designed to be bring a better experience and upgrade the entire experience for the traveler.
What is the technology adoption from your corporate customer portfolio? Or how do you plan to make a smooth transition on the online side?
If you have a good tool, you don’t need to train your clients. This is a thing that we have been looking for in the solution. This is the point that makes the adoption good or not. If you need to schedule a train course for your customer, then this is not a good option, and you will not achieve a good adoption. People won’t use your app if they need to stay 1 hour in front of the computer to know how to use the application. This is the way to know if the app is good or not.
What advice do you have for any CEO from the travel industry?
If they are still here after the pandemic, they are doing a good job. We need to look for ways to make our industry more productive. It is weird to talk about productivity in 2022 like we are in the future. We are still talking about it, and I think that these are really important: look for your team and make your team achieve good results. The persona of a CEO is the guy that pushes the things to be viable, make the team bring results and make things happen. You have to support this by thinking about new ways of making their lives easier and to make them work better.
Other editions of #LeadershipCorner can be read here:
- Pasi Latva |CEO of Elämys Group, Reed and Mackay, Finland
- Daniel Ponzo | Zahid Travel, Reed and Mackay, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
- Tzafrir Ben-Avinoam | General Manager of Btravel Online, Israel
- Javier Garcia del Valle | Chairman and Group CEO of Happy Tour, Romania
- Lucian Boronea | CEO of Accent Travel and Events, Romania