What can you tell us about your operations in Morocco?
SOFIANE BOUCHOUCHI Air Algérie has been operating flights to Morocco since the 1960s. We started flying to Morocco in order to help families on both sides of the border visit each other. This also helps preserve the ancestral links between the peoples of the two countries. Apart from our mission, just like every other airline, our goal is to improve our turnover. Air Algérie experienced a passenger growth rate of around 10% per year over the past two years, and we hope to reach 2019 numbers by the end of 2021.
HANS VAN DE VELDE With 70,000 employees, TUI Group is the largest travel company in Western Europe. We are a vertically integrated business. Morocco is a special country for TUI, not only because it is one of the main destinations in our portfolio, but also because it is the only destination where we have an airline. The other five airlines are all located in Western Europe, and they enable us to run relatively small outfits, like the one in Morocco. Consolidation and partnerships are key in aviation. Thanks to travel agents and tour operators selling our packages and seats in Morocco, our market share in Agadir is now 40%. Tourism is of the utmost importance for several other destinations in Morocco, including Fes and Marrakesh, where TUI plays an important role.
How do you see the future of the aeronautic world?
SB The aviation world as a whole is going through uncertain times. A good number of companies will not recover from this pandemic. Meanwhile, aircraft construction is being suffocated by the cancellation of orders, which means some companies are under threat, not to mention other players such as airport managers, air navigation, and partner and annex structures. We must not forget that the aviation world is directly influenced by the environment in which it operates: conflict, climate change, the price of oil, and now COVID-19. This situation has caused a crisis of confidence, which leads us to believe recovery might take several years. It will only be possible once confidence has been restored.
What makes TUI fly stand out in Morocco?
HVDV Since we are part of a major touristic group, we barely cancel any flights. It is in our DNA to always keep operations running, as our customers are often booking accommodations and transfers in addition to flights. Second, TUI played a vital role in personalizing the flight experience. For example, a passenger can choose to pay for an in-flight meal. In short, we allow passengers to pay for luggage and meals separately. I am surprised that it is still seen as a low-value product. The majority of customers are not willing to pay for an all-inclusive flight. They prefer to tailor their flight to meet their needs. For them, our product is a high-value product.
What are your plans post COVID-19?
SB It is difficult to answer this question because development and restructuring plans are decided by our board. Nevertheless, the company will have to review its costs and, above all, control its expenses. In addition, its operating network will have to be reviewed as a whole. In addition to the extension of the current network, the company will be able to focus on Africa, which remains a continent with great potential.
What are some of the key challenges for the sector?
HVDV I do not know of many markets where a large number of airlines are competing to gain market share. In Morocco, this environment cannot last forever. While infrastructure development is going strong in some regions, such as Taghazout in the south, some potential areas are being underutilized. Moving forward, Morocco should also focus on outgoing tourism. This will also reinforce Morocco as a destination.
What role will digitalization play in the near future?
SB Automation and digitalization will be key to optimize the various functions of an air transport company. This will differentiate the winners from the losers. In recent years, Air Algérie has been investing in updating various areas, but now it will have to make it a priority to strengthen its position regionally and globally.
What role does sustainability play in your business model?
HVDV TUI group is carrying out tests to become even more environment-friendly, for example, by separating waste on board and by doing away with all unnecessary plastic items. We have several initiatives in Morocco. We are part of the Pikala Project. We offer guided bike tours to help develop cycling tourism in Marrakesh. We also have another project in Agadir to tackle challenges related to education and the environment.