The pace of aviation activities in Africa continues to gather speed, making the place of industry consulting even more crucial as operators seek to become more competitive in a fast-changing and more competitive operating environment. Alexandra Guillot, CEO of Hi-Fly Marketing, specialized in commercial strategy, project management, on-site support missions, and cultural translation, here gives an insightful picture of the aviation development trends in Africa. She spoke to Aviation & Allied Business Journal in Mauritius, recently.
Q: Airlines in Africa have several challenges including poor visibility in the market. What do you think can help address this challenge?
A: A marketing strategy must be carefully put together and reviewed to follow the life cycle of an airline. Following simple marketing rules can go a long way: Brand definition, consistency and optimised SEO are sometimes regrettably overlooked by African airlines.
In my opinion, to obtain a good visibility the most important is being present where your customers are.
The airline industry is highly competitive. The good news is that today with internet, mobiles and social media you don’t need to spend a lot of time or money to increase visibility for your business. It is,however, key to be smart and selective in your marketing efforts.
Q: Cost challenges among other factors lead airlines to grapple with things themselves. How do you think consulting can help small airlines in Africa?
A:I have spent 16 years bridging African airlines with OEMs and MROs to make sure the services and support provided was in adequation with the specific local needs.
It is not an easy task on either side of the fence because the environment in Europe and in the US is very different from what we experience on the African continent. Requirements airlines must comply with are extremely strict, regardless where you are in the world or your size. Keep in mind that most African airlines have less than 5 aircraft and their resources are limited.
Having expert consultants who can come and work on specific projects can be a good option to avoid work overload on the airlines’ teams and empower them at the same time.The experience gained with working in Africa on so many different operators’ projects allows me to be open to all the various setups airlines may have. I believe that listening and understanding is key to work with small African airlines.
Q: Cost reduction is an important objective for African airlines, in what way can effective consulting help airlines reduce cost?
A: As mentioned before, most African airlines are relatively small. The human resources are limited, and it doesn’t necessarily make sense to give a project to someone internally who will just not have enough time to take care of it or to employ an extra person full time. In that sense, we can say that having a consultant take on the project might allow the airline to cut cost. Also, the consultant is focused on the very specific task you give him and delivers within a predefined timeframe. This should guarantee better and faster results.Personally, my knowledge of the MROs, OEMs and IT providers also allows me to find the most cost-efficient solutions for the airline.
Q: What do you see as a key challenge to the penetration of consulting in Africa?
A: I do not see any specific challenge; there is always a need for expertise in the industry. We are in a fast-moving industry with high demand of support on the continent. There are more and more passengers travelling on the continent every day, technology is evolving constantly, stakeholders are changing, airlines are permanently reinventing themselves and wanting to better their operations, so there will always be a need for external consultants.
Q: Airlines are already looking to the future; what do you expect of airlines in terms of future marketing tools and strategies?
A: Looking to the future I expect airlines to develop new marketing tools and strategies due to the competition that will arise from the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) project of the African Union to create a single market for air transport in Africa. There is still a long way to go but this might lead to some interesting creative strategies.
This makes me believe that the digital marketing trend will definitely continue to grow on the continent: one-to-one digital conversation, big data usage for personalized marketing, mobile devices and app to facilitate customers experiences, on board connectivity services, etc.