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Wings Travel Management , a leading global travel management company providing business travel services to clients in the finance, construction, security, energy and marine sectors, has appointed Sonja Hamman to the newly-created role of Chief Operating Officer – Asia Pacific, based at the company’s office in Singapore. The move reflects the importance of the region and its potential for growth, since Wings established an operation in Singapore in early 2018 after acquiring Olympia Travels & Tours.
Sonja Hamman first joined Wings in 2001, and her impressive 18-year career with the global travel management company has spanned diverse operational, senior management and project-led roles in the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Nigeria and Angola.
Most recently, she has held the London-based position of Director of Global Strategic Partners & Yield Management during which time she has been instrumental in expanding Wings global supplier relations portfolio, focussing on supplier negotiations, NDC solutions and content..
Prior to this role, Hamman was Director of Global Projects, managing major initiatives such as the launching the Wings’ wholly-owned operation in Lagos, Nigeria; the acquisition and integration of Michelle’s Travel in South Africa; and establishment of Wings’ IATA and ticketing functionality in Angola – a non BSP region.
Her robust understanding and experience of Wings’ business has also been honed by setting up the company’s UK operation in 2002 in the role of Director – Operations – UK & Europe. This was Wings’ first office outside South Africa, where the company was founded in 1992. Hamman grew the UK business from the ground up, to a total of three offices. From here she moved to become Director – Oil & Gas Division with the remit to grow and expand Wings’ global energy business. While in this role, she also worked closely with the company’s Learning and Development team to establish the Energy Academy, a unique in-house educational programme giving Wings’ travel consultants an in-depth understanding of how the oil and gas sector operates, in order to service their clients more insightfully.
“I am delighted that Sonja has taken up this strategic role – her extensive experience in opening and operating new regions coupled with her Wings DNA, places her as the perfect candidate to consolidate our operations in Singapore, and build a platform to grow our business in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Tony Sofianos, CEO, Wings Travel Management
“Wings is strategically and uniquely positioned to service existing global customers, but also capitalise on the growth opportunities across the corporate, energy and marine sectors thanks to our unique value proposition and wholly owned global operations” added Sofianos
Sonja Hamman stated: “I am very pleased to be joining Wings’ Asia-Pacific region as it’s such an exciting market with many opportunities. As well as ensuring the Wings brand becomes a recognised market leader in Singapore, I also look forward to driving the development and execution of our growth strategy for Asia-Pacific.”
About Wings Travel Management:
Wings is an award-winning global travel management company which has carved a niche in the market as a trusted travel provider for clients in the finance, construction, security, energy and marine sectors where travel is an integral part of their business model. Founded in 1992, Wings’ global reach spans North America, South America, UK/Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, where the company has wholly owned and managed regional offices. Wings Travel Management employs over 400 people around the world and has a global turnover of around US$325M. Wings is known for its unique expertise in navigating complex and challenging business travel, as well as generating cost savings without compromising on traveller safety. The company’s advanced, customizable technology solutions are all seamlessly accessible over a standardized global platform. www.wings.travel
Scheduled to begin full operations in November 2019, an explorer class vessel will serve three new destinations with year-round departures. The full announcement on vessel name, facts, destinations and itinerary details will be released globally on May 8, 2019.
Boutique luxury cruise line, Aqua Expeditions, is set to enter the coastal cruise market in the fall of 2019, after operating as an Amazon and Mekong River cruise line for the past twelve years.
A month ago, Aqua Expeditions finalized the purchase of a long-range 200-foot explorer yacht originally built for Britain’s Royal Navy; the vessel is now undergoing a complete refurbishment designed to transform it into an ultra-modern luxury expedition cruise ship catering to affluent explorers.
The May 8 announcement will also unveil a brand-new, state-of-the-art, luxury river cruise vessel to consolidate Aqua Expeditions’ position as one of the leaders in the river-cruise market. Once this and the recently-purchased expedition vessel are in operation, Aqua Expeditions will have doubled its fleet from two to four vessels by mid-2020.
“Even as we grow, as an owner, I remain deeply involved in every aspect of the new vessels – from the minutiae of the design details to the intricacies of the itineraries — just as we did when we started out in 2007,” says CEO Francesco Galli Zugaro, “and, as with all Aqua Expeditions vessels, we are partnering both with renowned designers and critically acclaimed chefs to provide a world-class experience.”
Vista Global, a world leader in business flight solutions, announces that it has entered into an agreement to acquire JetSmarter, creating the global On Demand digital marketplace.
JetSmarter’s innovative marketplace technology will fulfil Vista Global’s digitization strategy, providing all customers with an unmatched end-to-end service and seamless booking experience. The acquisition will enhance Vista Global’s formidable position offering the largest suite of services and advanced technologies to every private aviation customer.
Following JetSmarter’s successful digital partnership with XOJET, it will now bring its digital capabilities to the entire Vista Global group. JetSmarter’s industry-disrupting platform will therefore be integrated into the back-end technology of Vista Global’s brands VistaJet, Vista Lease and XOJET. The integration will significantly improve the ease and speed of the booking process for the 150,000 passengers traveling with any of the Vista Global companies each year, building upon its impressive track record of offering customers the most technologically advanced solutions in the private aviation industry.
Vista Global’s Founder and Chairman Thomas Flohr said: “Today’s acquisition is an important milestone for Vista Global – accelerating and executing our vision of digitizing the entire private aviation offering. Customers today want speed, reliability and value, which in today’s world is only possible with technology. Vista Global’s reach and infrastructure will take JetSmarter to the global stage to fully realize its potential. JetSmarter’s technology will digitalize Vista Global’s market-leading customer offering to Program Members and On Demand customers.”
Since its founding in 2012, JetSmarter has become the preeminent provider of technology-enabled service to the business aviation market with two million downloads to date. Today, JetSmarter’s digital platform allows both Members and On Demand customers to book private or shared trips instantly.
Following the acquisition, JetSmarter’s customers will benefit from the reach, resources and operational expertise of Vista Global group. Its growing customer base will have access to a wider fleet, wherever they are in the world, and enjoy the highest standards in private aviation as they join the Vista Global family. They will significantly benefit from the group’s unparalleled customer service and an unmatched in-flight experience.
Steven Langman, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Rhône Capital added: “Vista Global is marking a new major milestone in its development. The acquisition of JetSmarter is fully in-line with the company’s mission: to transform the nature of the business aviation sector and offer its growing customer base a fast and seamless access to its services through digital innovation.”
Behdad Eghbali, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Clearlake Capital Group stated: “Vista Global is the undisputed market leader with unmatched vision to consolidate and digitally transform this fragmented industry. Vista Global’s worldwide fleet access, unmatched end-to-end service experience, and world-class management team will combine with JetSmarter’s digital technology leadership including digital bookings and On Demand crowdsourcing to further expand Vista Global’s leadership. We are thrilled to partner with Thomas Flohr and the talented management team at Vista Global and believe that, combined with Vista Global, JetSmarter will flourish and revolutionize the industry’s digital transformation.”
The transaction is expected to be completed in the second quarter, subject to customary closing conditions, including the expiration or termination of the applicable waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act. As part of the transaction, all JetSmarter investors, inclusive of Clearlake Capital and Jefferies Financial Group, will become investors in Vista Global, supporting its future growth. Jefferies LLC acted as financial advisor to JetSmarter.
In the last decade or so, tourism has positioned itself as a critical variable in the development planning space and the development discourse globally. Today businesses, governments, international organizations as well as NGOs have established, or are establishing programs, initiatives and programs to facilitate tourism for development. Academic institutions have also been introducing, organizing or reorganizing ‘tourism’ as an important element of their curriculum. The University of the West Indies is no exception. Through its many courses, centers and institutes, the UWI has been preparing our Caribbean nationals for the expanding opportunities and benefits being presented by the growth of the tourism sector. But we have much more to do.
Tourism and Development
According to the UNTWO, WTTC, CTO, PATA and several other regional and global institutions, tourism has been recognized as that force, which accelerates human development, social and economic inclusiveness, increased entrepreneurship and self-employment, the generation of decent work, environmental sustainability and also support regional integration.
Indeed, the contribution of tourism to both national and regional development continues to be enormous and I dare say unmatched. Firstly, tourism is linked to the notion of a sustainable economy in several ways. The economic indicators show that Caribbean is the most-tourism dependent in the world, tourism is the main economic sector in 16 out of 28 Caribbean states and the total contribution of tourism to employment in the Caribbean is estimated at 2.4 million jobs according to the World Travel and Tourism Annual Report for 2018. In Jamaica tourism employs one in every four persons.
Beyond direct employment tourism and hospitality there are vast indirect opportunities for supplying inputs to tourism enterprises catering to the visitor experience in areas such as accommodations, food and beverage, cultural and creative arts, entertainment and recreation, agriculture, manufacturing, banking and finance and foreign exchange.
Tourism is also linked to the preservation of heritage and culture through the concept of experiential tourism. Most tourists travel to have authentic experiences that require that they partake in activities and consume and acquire products/goods that are indigenous to the countries they travel. Tourism thus helps to preserve natural and cultural resources while generating revenues and incomes for local populations.
To unlock the potential of tourism to contribute to inclusive growth and development our main focus at the Ministry of Tourism is to find innovate ways to reduce economic leakage in the tourism sector and to improve retention. This mandate is already being executed through our Linkages Network which has been coordinating policies and strategies designed to strengthen linkages with other sectors of the economy particularly the agricultural and manufacturing sector, strengthen the benefits derived from the industry by local residents and communities and promote broader participation by nationals.
We however recognize that the competitiveness 0f the Caribbean destinations will significantly rely on how well we prepare our people for the emerging opportunities. If Caribbean destinations are to remain globally-competitive and increase their share of the global tourist market, we must find ways to unlock new sources of competitiveness and comparative advantage.
Traditionally the tourism sector has enjoyed one of the highest rates of labor mobility of any segment of the economy. However, many of the opportunities taken up by our citizens are those that require low skill and offer limited prospect for economic mobility. This fact is largely attributable to the fact that the majority of the tourism-related jobs are deemed to require low to medium-level technical skills. The global tourism market is however becoming increasingly differentiated and segmented. Consequently, the continued growth of Travel & Tourism in the region will depend on the right people with the right skills being available to meet this demand for additional human capital. And we at the MOT have been working to create a paradigm shift in the local tourism space which will see our citizens accessing more substantive jobs and I will discuss this some more in a minute.
Many trends are impacting the skills needed to perform competently in tourism-related jobs such as digitalization and virtualization, the need for sustainable behaviors & practices, the growth of non-traditional segments, the changing demographics of international travelers (more youthful, more specific), changing lifestyles and consumer demands and the need for data-driven policies. Technology has had a significant impact on tourism-related employment as well as supporting and changing how services are delivered. While technology has downgraded certain skills in the tourism sector it has upgraded other skills, particularly in the areas of marketing, information and communication. Caribbean destinations must recognize the differing preferences of a new generation of younger travelers and the growing importance of online services and marketing, especially through mobile internet. The future of tourism lies in the manipulation and exploitation of ICT capabilities such as big data, big data analytics, machine learning, blockchain technologies, the Internet of Things, robotics etc. We thus need to urgently capitalize on the opportunities for high-skilled employment that are being generated in the ICT-related fields in tourism.
The growth of non-traditional markets in Europe, Asia and Central America will require increased focus on cultural studies and the development of competencies in various foreign languages. The increased focus on data-driven policies to better understand the emerging needs of markets, to analyze trends and to predict future patterns means that tourism development strategy must increasingly emphasize research-based skills. The evolving tourism market will require modern managerial skills that can drive performance improvements in the sector by raising productivity through better staff planning and scheduling, employing new technology and improving employee motivation, thereby reducing staff turnover. Most importantly , we must equip our citizens with the competitive business management and marketing skills that are required to operate successful tourism enterprises in this globalized era.
In the current dispensation, the hospitality sector has to contend with negative perceptions of low wages and the lack of career opportunities beyond entry-level jobs. Studies have found that many university students have a peripheral view of tourism. There is oftentimes scarce information and misconceptions about the skills required as well as the opportunities for career development. National governments must take a lead in developing a long-term workforce development strategy. Ideally, such a strategy would be developed within the broader context of improving the industry’s competitiveness and sustainability, since the increasing demand for skilled labor will continue to present a major challenge in all countries. It is highly recommended that strategies and their implementation should be carried out with the private and education sectors and embrace agreed-upon commitments from the industry.
A robust institutional framework is needed to determine the education and training policies and programs that will support a more attractive labor market and business environment in tourism which will allow the industry to maintain a sufficient and highly-qualified workforce and hence support the enhancement of productivity in the industry. My view is that while formal qualifications are not always required in tourism, their existence, and a widely available opportunity to obtain qualifications and competency development in tourism may contribute to raising the prestige of the occupation and the sector in general.
A study by the WTTC revealed that Travel & Tourism’s human capital challenges are significantly higher than those faced in other sectors with most countries in study projecting to face a talent ‘deficit’ or ‘shortage’ in Travel & Tourism over the next ten years. Talent development will also prevent many high-skilled positions from being filled by migrant workers. Both public and private sector are thus encouraged to act now to address the anticipated talent shortage.
Given the robust nature of UWI’s tourism portfolio which was recently expanded with the recent launch of the region’s first Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre, here at UWI, changes in the tourism space, new instruction technologies, the ever diversifying nature of tourism, it is time for the UWI to reimagine its tourism portfolio and consolidate its programs, courses, institutes, centers, etc. under one roof here in one of the Caribbean’s mecca of tourism (Montego Bay) with the establishment of a school or a faculty of Tourism.
Indeed, UWIs global recognition as a powerful intellectual institution will position the UWI to make an even more substantive contribution to the development of the region through such a Faculty or School. Certainly, this effort would have my support, and, although I cannot speak for my Caribbean counterparts, I am more than certain it would also have the support of the government of the region. More specifically, in keeping with the mandate of the administration that I am apart of, I reiterate my commitment to promoting a sustainable tourism product that advances the well-being of local communities and that incorporates more local talent in the delivery of tourism services.