How has the last year panned out for NASA?
In the last year NASA has achieved a lot. We have rebranded completely. If we have to look back, the last five years, have been turbulent. The first unpleasant task was to select the right staff for the right job. This was well-achieved and the team we currently have is among the finest, if not the best. We also have a lot of new people on board.
This staff strategy was coupled with expansion plans. The latest being our travel marine division. We also looked at enhancing our holiday unit and the latest development, is the fact that we have received our inbound license by the DTCM. This gives us an inroad into new markets and we will certainly looking at developing this segment.
Could you elaborate on the expansion plans?
In the first year of working around the inbound division, as we not ready to invest as a full stand alone division would take. We will be using third party suppliers. Come 2015! We will look at having our own fleet, buses and a complete stand-alone division. It is also of common knowledge that the NALG Group is building a tower at Sheikh Zayed Road, this should be completed in early 2016. Once completed, we are looking at a much bigger holiday retail space there within the premise.
Further, it is a given that Expo 2020 has created a buzz. However, in my opinion, we will only see the true fruits emerging in 2018-19. Right now people are doing and will do ground work. There will be a lot of people mushrooming up but the main factor is sustainability, which will matter. This is good for the industry but we have a very competitive market with no synergies. This could be a hurdle.
Why do you think there are no synergies in the industry?
The industry needs to understand and commit to the fact that we are not going to under-cut our agent. The concept of charging a service fee needs to sink in. Agents need to charge clients for their time. However, it is no good if only a selective few agents adopt this attitude, while the rest do not comply.
Do you think poaching is a big issue and do agencies really invest in their staff?
It is a fact that retaining staff is a big issue. This is because investment in staff is short-term. People do not enter this industry as a last resort or that it is considered a dying industry for a career. People get into any industry with a view to sustainable growth. When one begins their career at the counter, they look for an opportunity to grow and learn. However, this does not happen in most cases. There is not much growth opportunity in this industry.
What has NASA done to address the staff issue?
From the time we have redefined NASA, we commenced a quarterly incentive program for our staff. We recognise what they bring to the company. Every three months, we take a monthly report of staff deliverables. Based on performance, we give three prizes to the highest producer. This is a cash reward coupled with a certificate. Further, there are three categories of prizes all paid – a family holiday international, a family holiday to their home country and a family holiday within the UAE. This is to give back to the staff the family time they give us.
Building on this idea, next year instead of a certificate, we will continue with the cash reward plus a star – a bronze, silver and crystal. This is more like an award that they can showcase on their desk. We believe in the fact that if you keep your staff happy, they will keep you happy.
Could you elaborate on the profits NASA attained in 2013?
We have just about broken even last year. However, this year we are very ambitious. Our targets given to our staff is taken on the net income but is looked at being achieved in a weekly pattern. This makes it more understandable. Based on the fact that we have broken even last year, we are looking at a growth of 120% this year. This is coupled with diversifying into new avenues and exploring their potential.
What other segments would NASA consider?
We see ourselves diversifying into representation of hotels. We also work with different partners to cater well for different-kinds of travellers. We would also be looking at expanding our GSA business. We have put in our intentions for at least eight new carriers looking to enter this market. By April end, we should have a couple more GSAs.
Do you see the holiday division offerings new destinations?
The European sectors will always be a favourite. Keeping this aside, we have got ourselves into another niche- outbound school and weeding groups. We are also into a lot of off-beat holidays like well-being holidays as well as into adventure tourism. We believe there is a lot of potential in niche products. Further for the schools, we are also looking to tie-up with two more speciality companies that deal only with this segment. The corporate segment cannot be ignored especially for incentives. This will also form a big part of our offering.