25 years on, growing global ambition

Allen… trusted travel partner for trade

It was a landmark moment in the region’s travel landscape when Gerry’s Group in Pakistan and UAE-based dnata joined hands in July 1993 as Gerry’s dnata to provide ground handling services at Karachi Airport. The joint venture has since grown to become Pakistan’s largest cargo and ground handling company operating at seven major airports in the country. 

Today, dnata is one the world's largest air services providers and celebrating the 25th anniversary of its overseas operation. A team of 41,000 professionals who support more than 243,000 passengers, handle over 1,800 flights and move 8,450 tonnes of cargo at 130 airports every day.

Gary Chapman, president of dnata, said: “We are proud to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our first international joint venture. Our operations with Gerry’s dnata in Pakistan continue to grow from strength to strength.”

“Starting from Pakistan, we’ve successfully leveraged the expertise from our established UAE operations to become one of the largest and most trusted combined air services provider in the industry, operating in highly competitive markets across six continents. Nearly 70 per cent of dnata’s revenues today come from our international operations. Looking ahead, our strategy remains grounded in the same principles: continually enhance our operations to create more value for our stakeholders, while ensuring service excellence and the highest level of safety all around the dnata network.”

TTN spoke to Steve Allen, senior vice-president Corporate Travel, Middle East & India at dnata Travel, who revealed the brand’s success formula and future plans. Travel consultants across the region will be interested in the newly launched Yalago brand that dnata created as a global leisure bedbank to serve third-party customers in the leisure travel segment with their accommodation bookings.

Allen said: “We’ve also invested in our processes and created new travel reservation systems for both the B2B air and leisure segments. The new systems provide enhanced functionality and a more efficient way to serve our partners and customers. We are investing in expanding the air consolidation business to enable more of our travel partners to access competitive air content.”

Over the past 25 years dnata has expanded its overseas footprint through acquisitions, partnerships, as well as organic growth. Today, dnata is a truly global player that ensures the aviation industry operates smoothly and efficiently in 84 countries providing service excellence to over 300 airline customers.

In airline catering, dnata made its first international foray in Singapore in 2004. This was followed in 2010, by a major global acquisition of Alpha Flight Group which brought nearly 6,000 employees across 11 countries into its fold. As the world’s leading culinary caterer, dnata currently operates 63 catering facilities in 13 countries producing over 320,000 world-class meals every day. dnata also provides inflight retail for leading airlines and operates more than 40 cafes, restaurants and lounges around the world.

dnata’s travel division has also expanded to meet its customers’ growing and diverse travel needs. By developing its own brands and acquiring interests in other established travel companies, dnata Travel today operates 20 travel brands, offering comprehensive travel services for individuals, companies and the travel trade across 77 countries, booking over 21,000 hotel stays every day.

A brand such as dnata that has grown through decades, serves as a great example of success in travel management. So when TTN encouraged Allen to forecast the future, he had but a positive outlook. “Travel is a healthy growth sector, and we expect both our TMC and Leisure businesses to expand and evolve to meet the changing needs of ever more customers.

“We will invest in ways to better manage our customers’ experiences. We will do so quickly and efficiently, using relevant technology to enhance our service and imaginative developments to provide customers with richer and memorable leisure travel experiences. At the same time, we will work to deliver great service for our business travellers and their companies to ensure that their business prospers, and we deliver on the promises our customers make.

“We will invest in our businesses across the globe, to strengthen our position in each market - we are actively involved in a number of investment discussions to bring in new companies and service new markets, both in this region and beyond.

“dnata will continue to expand its airport operations, cargo and catering services around the world, servicing a wide variety of airlines and customers. IATA reports positive growth in passenger travel and cargo movements over the last 12 months, and with the global economy growing, international trade and travel is the enabler of future prosperity. We plan to make the most of these opportunities in each of our businesses,” he said.

dnata has its eyes on Expo 2020 and the positive implications for business. Allen added: “We are planning for growth in both our TMC and Leisure operations. We will also build on our expertise in managing excursions through Arabian Adventures and our meetings & events capabilities.

“We are expanding our travel businesses quickly in KSA and India, and we are also seeing good growth rates in Oman, which is starting to reap the rewards for investment in infrastructure projects such as the new airport and Conference Centre. KSA has real potential, and India is the third largest travel market in the world.

“Looking further afield, there are exciting opportunities in the UK and Europe, and in Asia. We have recently invested in a destination management company that operates in 8 countries in Asia, and this will be a good platform to build on. We also expanded our footprint in Australia for our cruise business.”

So what is the constant that moves toplines and sustains bottom lines in travel management? Allen reveals: “Trust. We want to be the trusted travel partner for our trade partners as well as our customers who buy through one of our travel brands. Trust is earned over time, and through how we look after our customers. dnata is a company that takes pride in a job done well, and going the extra mile. So wherever we grow, we will ensure that we put our customers at the heart of the journey.”