RAÚL REVUELTA

Mexico 2022 | TOURISM | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Raúl Revuelta, Director General of Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico, about air traffic trends in 2021, growth over the past year, and the organisation's key successes.

What trends have you observed in terms of air traffic in the country at the moment?

Our industry was one of the most affected globally by the pandemic, as most airports, airlines, and the tourism industry were hit extremely hard. We are starting to see a gradual recovery, though we are still far from our pre-pandemic figures. For example, the group used to manage around 48 million passengers in 2019, and in 2020 we ended with less than 28 million passengers. That recovery will likely take some years, perhaps until 2024. In general, there has been a huge impact on numbers, though we are also seeing a complete change in the trends of our passengers.

Despite the pandemic, the group was able to grow in the last trimester. How was it able to achieve this?

In 2020, we had to work heavily on costs and the digital transformation of the company. In airports, there are two main businesses: aeronautical and commercial revenues, which have changed completely. In the past, in the areas of food and beverage, people spent a few hours at the airport eating and drinking. Now, despite the slow return of passengers, their behaviors have dramatically changed; for instance, there are passengers that do not want to remove their masks, so they do not eat at the airports. Another trend that changed was e-commerce, which has opened the door for the use of apps. On the retail side, there has been a huge impact. In May, we will launch our mobile app, and through it you can order food and beverages and even retail products that will be delivered directly to the passenger gates. We are changing the layout of our different commercial areas to minimize crowded zones. We are trying to improve the customer experience, rather than just provide a big offering of products. The new reality of airports is that we need to compete more in terms of retail or food and beverage. We are in the middle of transforming our business. At the end of the day, a happy passenger is a larger consumption ticket for the airport. We want to transform our airports in the quickest way possible to adapt us to this new reality.

What have been Grupo GAP's biggest achievements over the past year?

One of the most important aspects was working with this new reality; as an airport operator, we needed to adapt all our biosecurity procedures to inspire confidence among our passengers. We worked with Tec de Monterrey to develop all the procedures for passengers. The Airport Council International, which is the association of airports, gave us a certification to our safety procedures. We were the first group of airports in the world to obtain that certification. Our airport in Los Cabos was the second in the world to obtain it, just after Istanbul. We are working hard to restore confidence in flying. We have worked with airlines and the tourism ministers of the different states we operate in. One of the biggest learnings from this pandemic is that everything can change dramatically from one day to the next one, and as a company you need to be extremely flexible. We know we have to carry out a digital transformation, not only for our passengers but also for the internal processes of the company. We have thermal cameras that measure temperature, do facial recognition, and assess the risk that passengers have.

What are some of the main projects and investments that Grupo GAP will develop this year?

We are starting the construction of the second runway at the Guadalajara airport. This is important because we currently only have two airports in Mexico that operate two runways: Mexico City and Cancún. Guadalajara will be the third airport with a second runway. We are also developing a huge building at the Tijuana airport. In Tijuana, we have the cross-border express, a unique bridge that connects Tijuana with California. We are developing a building that will be a game changer to capture additional markets. We are trying to attract the Asian, European and Latin American markets and make Tijuana an important hub in the area. We also seek to be an secondary airport for San Diego. We have many different projects, and in the next five years we will invest more than USD1 billion. We will also begin the construction of a hotel in Guadalajara this year and we are expecting to replicate this project in Tijuana in the coming years.

What strategies are you using to make sure the airport remains competitive as others around the world?

The experience of the passenger is at the centerfold of our strategy, first with the app and also with technology to clean the different areas of the airport. One of the big points we noticed in this pandemic was that passengers are more conscious of the cleanliness of the airport. We needed to invest in additional technology for all the cleaning processes. We began the acquisition of plenty of steam machines for toilets and installed sensors on the toilets that count the number of passengers that go into the restrooms in order to better manage our cleaning process and make real-time decisions. The idea is to have a contactless process for passengers at the airport.

What are your long-term goals?

As a company, we are trying to be greener. In the last year, we have installed solar panels in 11 of our 12 Mexican airports and in the Montego Bay airport in Jamaica, and six of our airports are fully independent in terms of energy consumption and they only consume solar energy for their daily operations. The new terminals in Guadalajara and Vallarta will be the first net-zero terminals in the Americas, which means the terminal has zero carbon emissions. It will also have a system to recapture water and return it back into the buildings. One of our key objectives for the coming years is sustainability. We did a tender for the engineering part of the solar panel system, and we have multiple suppliers. Our carbon footprint has been reduced.