The FINANCIAL -- An innovative vision of business class is being presented by flydubai, one of the world’s leading airlines. Comfortable seats, three options for communication with the company (by phone, text message or email), VIP transfers, home delivery of luggage in the event of a delay - these are the new services being offered to business class customers of flydubai.
Travel Agency Voyager, general distributor of airline company flydubai in Georgia, outlines the fact that airline is considering to add a fifth flight to its current schedule in 2014. The company is going to spoil it’s customers this year by offering a “1+1” campaign as well as “Kids Go Free”. In 2014 Voyager will be carrying out charity projects. From each ticket sold, GEL 1 will be donated to a shelter for homeless children.
In her exclusive interview with The FINANCIAL, Mariam Kvrivishvili, General Director of LTD Voyager, general distributor of flydubai, talked about the company’s activities on the UAE market to enhance people’s awareness of Georgia as a travel destination.
Q. Despite the lack of economic activity in 2013, the number of air passengers in Georgia increased. How would you assess the year 2013 in regard to your company?
A. 2013 was a very successful year. When the airline entered Georgian market it only operated two flight per week. Due to the level of high demand, a third flight was added and then in 2013 we started offering four flight frequency. The increasing demand from year to year is reflected in our onboard passenger load. We are not just attracting customers with our affordable ticket rates, but our activity is also contributing to the development of tourism in Georgia as a whole. The statistical data shows that there are a great number of tourists coming from Dubai to Georgia as well. Therefore, 2013 was not only successful for the company, but the increasing share of tourists from the UAE’s market is also a source of pride for us. Georgia had no advertising campaign set up in the UAE so the company Voyager dedicated its efforts to the promotion of Georgia. We are more optimistic about 2014 and the company is already considering the possibility of adding a fifth flight.
Our average onboard passenger load exceeds 80%.
Q. In 2014 flydubai started offering a business class service. What encouraged you to launch this service and what are the particular benefits that it offers?
A. There was a demand for business class from Georgian and other markets, as a result of that the company added this new service. flydubai can serve customers of any segment. Currently the cost per round trip of a business class ticket is USD 1,070.
The demand for business class is already quite high. Those who have already travelled and experienced business class service, have shared positive feedback. We are proud to hear that people have had a great service experience with us, which according to them, has no equivalent!
Our business team has a strict time-limit when it comes to replying to customers. They must respond to a phone call in 20 seconds; 10 minutes are allotted for responding to a text message; and 4 hours for an email response. Any problem will be solved in 24 hours.
Q. There are over 20 airlines present on the market in Georgia. What is the main advantage of flydubai in comparison to other airline companies?
A. flydubai pays great attention to what its passengers want. Even the tariff policy reflects this. We have a value-added service that distinguishes us from other companies. flydubai has started offering its business class, which has no comparison. Needless to say, the seats are wide and made from Italian leather. A special business team was established within the company for this very purpose. They work 24/7. They can guarantee the solution of any issue a customer may have. Passengers have three alternatives when it comes to communicating with the business team. The first is to call, to which the business team will respond in seconds. The second is to send a text message with either a specific question or to just text “please call”. Business class passengers are called 48 hours before their flight by a team member and asked if they want to eat anything special onboard the flight and if they want to complete check-in in advance. This is a very convenient service because it means that they can arrive at the airport just one hour before take-off. In Dubai, passengers are met and accompanied to a separate exit. Sometimes luggage is delayed for passengers who have transited somewhere. When this occurs, business team members call the passengers affected to inform them of the fact, and deliver their luggage directly to their address upon its arrival. All these details provided by the company create a large sense of comfort for passengers. In addition, there is a very tasty menu which is a fusion of international cuisines.
Q. What is the current number of flights you provide and which are the most popular destinations with Georgian travellers?
A. flydubai is developing rapidly and adding new directions every day. Currently the number is at around 70. Dubai is already successfully competing with Turkey as a transit hub.
From Tbilisi our passengers mostly fly to Dubai. The number of leisure passengers significantly increased in 2013. People have understood that Dubai is not just a luxury destination. Voyager proudly offers every type of travel package that can be adjusted to all types of travellers – both budget tours as well as luxury ones. Therefore, it is nowadays reflected on the customer’s level of demand for Dubai.
Dubai is followed by the Maldives and Sri Lanka as the top destination for Georgian travellers.
Q. It was released that the UAE is going to launch a “Tourist Dirham” fee for visitors. How will this impact on travellers’ interest in the country?
A. For a tourist-active country it is the right decision. As a result, the country’s economy will receive a huge sum of money per year. The implementation of something similar to this in Georgia would be good too. As for the tourists, it is not a big sum and will not significantly increase travellers’ budgets. For 5 star hotels tourist fee equals to – 20Dhs, 4* - 15Dhs, 3* - 10Dhs, 2* - 10Dhs, 1* - 7 Dhs. From the tourist’s point of view, I consider it a right decision.
Q. Demand is steadily increasing for buying airplane tickets online. How active are your customers in this regard and can you predict any impact that this might have on the business of travel agencies?
A. Buying things online has more or less increased on Georgian market. But the share is not so high as to have an impact on travel agencies. Developing online services is very important as it brings huge comfort to customers. On our website the scheme is so simple that anyone can purchase a ticket in just two minutes.
Q. What is the main difference between Georgian and foreign travellers?
A. The interests of foreign travellers vary by nation. Travellers from the UAE prefer nature, sightseeing and leisure trips as the sea, sun and heat are a part of their daily life. We have many visitors who visit Georgia annually and book the same trips each year. Wine tourism and religious tourism are less interesting to them. Georgia is a country of four seasons, which is a great advantage for us. We can provide trips specific to each season.
As for Dubai, the travel season lasts from January to April. Accommodating next to the beach and the shopping mall is the most popular thing with Georgian travellers.
Q. Did prices increase in 2013?
A. Prices did not increase in 2013. Due to the high level of demand during the peak season there was a shortage of accommodation in Dubai. It was almost impossible to get a room in a hotel in January. We have very good partners however, and so did not encounter such problems.
We have tours starting from an average of USD 500 per person. This includes airplane tickets, visa, accommodation and transfers. Dubai is an affordable destination for people of any budget.
Q. Georgia spent USD 1,000 on the country’s promotion in 2013. In your view, how important is advertising expenditure?
A. There is no alternative to investing in a good advertising campaign. A visa free regime, and the entrance of more and more airline companies, is making it easier to travel to Georgia. However, this information needs to be delivered to people. Only marketing activities and campaigns can inform potential customers why they should visit Georgia. Georgia has sufficient resources to attract any kind of traveller. flydubai together with GNTA initiated several activities for the promotion of Georgia on the UAE market. These includes: advertisements, press and fame trips, which will lead to a rapid growth of awareness about Georgia as a travel destination in UAE. We will participate in the International tourism travel fair – ATM which is held in Dubai in 2014. However, simply participating in such exhibitions is not sufficient. It is important to continue promoting the country more actively.
Hosting 5 million international travellers was a result of the hard work started several years ago. The number of tourists to Georgia has increased not only from target markets, but also from new emerging markets. The level of awareness about Georgia has been increased significantly. This inertia will go and 2014 will deliver better results. The success of the country’s tourism is evident not only in the bookings of hotels in Tbilisi but also in those from the regions. 5 million figures could not have been achieved with just a 6 month campaign. The current promotional campaigns will yield results in the coming years.
Q. What are your plans for 2014?
A. This year we will have a lot of activities. I would highlight the campaign 1+1 in particular. In the event of purchasing one airplane ticket, customers will get a second for free. The second is Kids Go Free, meaning that kids of a certain age will be free of charge. Social activity will be one of our priorities. We completed negotiations with the NGO Social Partnership. From every ticket sold GEL 1 will be donated to a shelter for homeless children. We want to continue this campaign in the future. We want to contribute to supporting socially vulnerable people. In addition, as a result of our campaign with GNTA we will enhance Georgia’s awareness on the Emirate’s market.
As a general distributor of flydubai in Georgia, Voyager offers a full package - air ticket, visa, hotel and trips - in one place. We will start offering trips to our customers to any point in the world from the third or fourth quarter of 2014.