INTERNATIONAL. Today’s choice features Clive Jones, the forward-thinking CEO of inflight duty free and retail buy on-board F&B specialist Tourvest Retail Services.

First featured as a LinkedIn post in late December, the short but insightful video sees Jones touch on three key issues – the company’s transition towards digital customer engagement; the sustainability benefits of that transition; and how Tourvest is responding to the challenges posed to the travel retail industry by COVID-19 and particularly the Omicron variant.

Digital transition critical

“In terms of our digital transition we recently introduced our ecommerce platform, allowing customers to pre-order and pay online for their retail food & beverage as well as duty free products, for these to be conveniently then be delivered either onboard or at home,” Jones comments.

“This allows us to increase the size of the range, engage with our customers pre-flight, as well as, critically, gaining valuable data insights regarding their personal preferences based on historic purchase data, and the manner in which customers engage with the platform.

“Another way in which we transition digitally, is through the introduction of our at-seat order service where customers through the use of their own mobile devices connect to the onboard wifi and place their order via an app. This is integrated with our devices in the galley for crews to deliver the selected products to customers in the cabin, and conclude a payment onboard.”

Jones notes that these “first-to-market” digital solutions are a step closer to realising Tourvest’s vision of disrupting the traditional in-aisle retail trolley service of the past, ultimately delivering personalisation.

Key sustainability benefits

“In terms of the sustainability benefit of this transition, we have been able to mitigate the fresh product wastage; significantly reduced the weight and quantum of product being loaded – therefore reducing fuel burn – whilst at the same time eradicating single-use plastics and introducing compostable together with sustainable packaging. All in all, this digital transition aligns to our passionate commitment towards the sustainability of our retail offer.”

Controlling the controllables

Commenting on how the company is responding to the myriad challenges offered by an ever-evolving pandemic, Jones says: “We are resolutely committed to working with our customers to further enhance the safety of passengers and crew. Thankfully, our transition to a digital customer engagement limits the time that crew spend in the aisle, limits the retail product touchpoints, allows for online payments for pre-order as well as contactless payment onboard

“COVID-19 is not in our control. What is in our control is the manner in which we react,” he says. “We have chosen to react proactively, be it internally in protecting the safety of our teams, or externally the safety of our customers and in turn their customers onboard.

“In conclusion our digital transition has enhanced our ability to meet the personalised needs of our customers, deliver onboard retail in a sustainable manner, as well as critically doing so safely during this challenging COVID-19 period we are all living through.”

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