Plaza Premium: Curating Touchless Experiences with Minimal Human Contact
- 17 Mar 2021
Plaza Premium Group’s Brand and Product Transformation Director, Ms. Mei Mei Song, recently caught up with Jeannie Wong, our head of communications and events, and shared how they reinvented the wheel and transformed their business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
JW: As your title aptly suggests, you probably had to transform your brand and product significantly. Can you give us an example of what you transformed successfully and what you weren’t able to do due to COVID restrictions?
Transformation is not instant and you need to exercise a lot of discipline and grit to see it through. There are non-tangible internal pieces, how we communicate across teams, how we approach our commercials, thinking and culture changes. We need the external and the internal support and mindset to align during our transformation.
Our transformations, for example, include digitalising the experience and agility within the global teams to execute it. As travellers prioritise hygiene and safety now more than ever, we have gone beyond convenience and are providing standard hygiene protocols by offering touchless experiences that minimise human contact. This includes implementing Smart Order, our digitalised food ordering system for guests to enjoy fresh made-to-order meals. We’ve also revamped Smart Traveller, our airport membership programme, to make offerings suitable for “reward now, travel later”. We have continued to engage with our guests even if travel is on pause. Currently, we are studying how to improve our experiences based on comfort and safety, to be contactless yet not compromising human touch.
Our expansion plans to extend our network of experiences have been impacted and new projects, while delayed, will gradually take shape as travel picks up again. Travel will come back and in our new projects you will see that we have evolved our offering in more detail to anticipate the kind of traveller, their purpose and their pain points when travelling. This is already evident in our recently-opened lounge in Dallas Fort/Worth (USA), as well as new locations such as Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (Turkey), where a commitment to end-to-end customer journey, to offer travellers a safe and seamless airport journey was combined with Meet & Greet services.
Supporting the airport community is important during these unprecedented times.
JW: What are some other transformations in the various airport communities which Plaza Premium serves?
Sometimes these disruptions force us to look a little deeper and be more meticulous given the pressure it exerts. We have chosen to embrace this. Supporting the airport community is important during these unprecedented times. We launched India’s first airport COVID-19 testing facility at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport in partnership with Genestrings Diagnostic Centre, a Delhi-based laboratory, which is currently associated with the state government to test samples.
In addition, our Lounge in Helsinki (Finland) has provided a dedicated lounge space for Finavia airport and Qatar for business meeting purpose. This January, we opened two new F&B outlets in Changi (Singapore) and we built our business strategy putting the airport community in the forefront.
JW: What was the biggest challenge for Plaza Premium in 2020?
COVID-19 and how quickly it escalated into a global pandemic was the greatest challenge, not only for us but the aviation and travel industry last year. Managing the crisis and then planning for long term sustainable growth is what we are focused on, seeking opportunities along the way. It was and continues to be a pivotal time for us. Communication is crucial in every way both internally and externally.
On an operations level, communicating with teams on the ground to plan for the gradual re-opening and understanding how to align our service offering with the changing needs of guests is important. More immediately, our new wellbeing procedures and training is paramount, we have developed the We Care For Your Wellbeing programme to ensure hygiene procedures and protocols are in place and reviewed regularly.
We have been reviewing and remodelling our business, working closely with our partners and the airport community to support one another. Through strategic partnerships and collaborations, we can offer more innovative experiences that cater to new customer segments in the ‘new norm’ of travel. For instance, we recently partnered with YQ Now, a leading global meet and assist specialist and Marhaba to sell and bundle lounge and hotel access with meet and greet services across different airports. It is a challenging time for our industry, but how we respond today and take on this major disruption will be pivotal to our long-term growth.
JW: How have you adapted your leadership and day-to-day interactions with the Plaza Premium team, given the different degrees of travel restrictions globally and not being able to visit your properties?
With travel being on pause for close to one year now, we are connecting with our global teams virtually and staying in touch even more so than before. Using Teams and replacing day-to-day interaction with Whatsapp, candid but honest conversations are fundamental for communicating. Also, we are not thinking out of the box, we are thinking with no box!
Promoting entrepreneurship and agility is key for growth in a business where there is no set precedence and only relevant industry practice. As market leaders, we navigate with business acumen and a degree of disciplined trial and error.
Plaza Premium Group, one of ACI Asia-Pacific’s World Business Partners, is an industry leader and pioneer in airport hospitality, servicing 180+ outlets across 49 international airports.