Airport parking Q&A

Julian Sperring-Toy

Airport Focus talks to Julian Sperring-Toy, Managing Director, ADVAM UK about the need for convenience, value and loyalty in the airport parking sector.

Julian joined the ADVAM team in mid-2016. Julian was appointed to champion the UK and European region within the international organisation, driving innovation, efficiencies and to create a foundation for sustainable growth.

“In the 6 months or so that I have been with the organisation, we have already been able to achieve a lot. The main focus has been to establish the building blocks to continue to grow the business, in a sustainable way. We have been working hard to review our internal operational processes, with a focus on improving the service that we offer our new and existing customers. Of course, while we build the foundations, we can’t sit still. We have also grown the organisation through new clients, new partnerships and expanded the scope of solutions with existing clients such as Dublin Airport Authority, Swedavia and NCP to name a few”.

Before we start, please just introduce ADVAM and its involvement within the Airport Parking Sector.

ADVAM is a leading provider of payments solutions, with special expertise in parking payments and innovation for not only Airports, but with Parking Operators, Local Government and Shopping Centres. As an international business with offices in Australia and the UK, we provide payment solutions for some of the leading airports and operators including, but not limited to, NCP managed airports, Sydney, Auckland, Dublin Airport Authority, Swedavia, Copenhagen and Munich.

Our full suite of solutions including Unattended Payments, fully featured Reservation platform, ticketless account based solution, Staff parking and Ground Transport management enables our clients to maximise revenue, improve the customer experience, engage with their customers and create loyalty.

What do you see as the key drivers for innovation in the airport parking sector? Do you feel that innovation and technology are used to their optimum at the moment?

Innovation is used in different ways, at different levels across the airport parking sector. Some organisations are just starting to use a form of automation, whereas others are more advanced and delving into how they can use the data from these solutions, to understand their customers and drive loyalty.

For example, some of the airport clients we work with started with our AltitudeReservation platform. For some this is a simple booking engine, enabling customers to pre-book parking at the airport. For other clients, the solution is used to not only book parking, but other airport services such as security fast track, valet, or car wash services. For the more advanced users, it’s how they are using the customer data that makes the difference. For these clients, the AltitudeReservation platform is used to understand their customers, build profiles, create new products and develop pricing strategies to enhance the customer experience even further. The platform is used to engage with the customer along their booking journey and beyond. In some cases it can be linked to loyalty programs, third party channels such as airlines and travel agents, or simply offer a discount next time they make a booking.

In addition to the management of parking for customers or staff, we also work with Airports to help better manage their Ground Transport, providing a ticketless solution to better manage buses, limos and taxi traffic across the airport.  The new dynamic to this, is of course, Uber. Some airports we work with are embracing this and building it into their GroundTransport plans, others are trying to prevent Uber drivers from doing business at the airport, whereas the third group are refusing to accept Uber as a separate transport segment and don’t treat them any differently to private cars.

Technology and innovation is being used by all of our clients to enable their business to run more efficiently, but yes, there is definitely room for improvement and it’s not at its optimum level, or capacity yet – but some airports are definitely making plans to achieve this.

What are airports/passengers telling you about what they want from their parking experience?

Consumers (as anywhere, not just airports) are looking for convenience, good value and to be rewarded for loyalty. Ultimately parking is not the main destination of their journey (whether this is travelling overseas or picking up loved ones), so the easier it is and the higher perceived value, the better.

Whether it’s pre-booking their parking space, paying when they pick up passengers or being able to catch a taxi easily, consumers want the airport experience to be an effortless part of their overall journey.

To accommodate this and to combat increased competition from off-airport parking operators, airports need to look at how they can improve the holistic experience and it’s beyond just competing on price. Without going into too much detail on each aspect, Airports can;

  • Make a difference to those picking up loved ones or staying in the short term car park by providing the convenience of paying by card (or mobile device), rather than cash
  • Provide regular customers with a way to pay via an account/ewallet. This can be linked to their loyalty program and perhaps one account could be shared with a household so that it doesn’t matter who, or which car is parking at the airport
  • Allow customers to pre-book their parking. This can be integrated with a third party such as a travel agent or airline, or direct on the airports website. Airports should look at additional services that can be offered through the booking journey, adding extra value and convenience to the customer as well as helping the airport to build a greater profile and level to engage with the customer
  • Reward regular customers for loyalty, whether its linking with third party programs such as EON to get Tesco Clubcard points in the UK, or to claim Velocity Award points in Australia, or simply by offering a discount for another service at the airport or for their next trip.

You are an international company. Are all airport parking markets the same or do they vary from country to country? If so, how?

Airport parking markets do have some similarities across the globe, but there are also differences in terms of how technology, such as those solutions I have outlined, are adopted in different countries. However, there can also be differences within the same geographic market, depending on the airport, its structure, long term plans, passenger traffic and overall size.

ADVAM works with many different airports of various scale across the globe. They are all at different stages of their innovation journey. As mentioned earlier, some might have a simple reservation platform, others are using this platform to really understand their customer profiles, and others are yet to begin the journey to implement a reservation platform.

Differences don’t necessarily mean that one market (or airport) is more advanced than another, but just that each uses technology in a different way or works in line with different business models. For example, the use of third party integrators is a lot more prevalent in the UK market, working with travel companies to offer parking services. This market dynamic isn’t really seen in the Australian market. However, clients in Australia may be more advanced in owning and understanding their customers.

Regardless of geographical or cultural differences, there are some common themes – managing occupancy, pricing management, improving the customer experience and the value of each customer.

Passenger numbers are expected to continue to rise significantly in the next 20 years. This will put a strain on an airports infrastructure. How does the parking piece of this jigsaw cope with future demand and will it require a different business model?

Parking and transport management is key to an airport being able to manage long term growth. As the number of passengers increase, so does the number of cars and buses to transport these passengers to, around and from the airport. As mentioned already, it’s often the first and last part of a customers’ journey, so the experience needs to be a positive one.

A lot of our clients have seen significant growth in the last five years and the majority, if not all have long term strategic plans on how the airport infrastructure will handle continual growth with a 20 year vision. Many of these plans include both physical growth through the development of new runways, terminals and car parks as well as the use of technology to better understand passengers, travel patterns and to improve the flow of traffic around the airport.

We work with clients to understand the physical infrastructure changes and any new parking requirements, but we definitely work very closely with them on how the adoption of technology can support this growth.

I have already talked about some of the automated solutions where we assist clients with managing growth, but one area to focus on is how those solutions can be used to not only streamline the flow of traffic around the airport, but build a profile of what that growth will look like, what areas the airport needs to focus on and what the timescales are likely to be like.

By understanding the data linked to the parking and ground transport environment, for staff as well as customers, airports have a basis to intelligently forecast for the future and build plans accordingly.

A simple data touch point such as knowing who is parking, when, duration and frequency allows for improved forecasting. Not just for managing relatively short term price and product changes, but to assist with future planning for both physical expansion and to evaluate alternative models/methods of doing things.

In addition, by understanding how changes outside of parking (i.e. an introduction of a new airline, or new terminal) will change the dynamics of who parks, when, duration and frequency can help to plan for future growth. As an example, one of our clients had an airline introduce a new route, which in turn increased passenger numbers by the thousands. The airport expected general traffic and parking to increase as a percentage of the increase in passenger numbers. In reality, parking didn’t increase as much as expected, but Taxi traffic increased by a higher percentage rate. Insights into this kind of behaviour enables an airport to plan for changes in parking requirements, ground transport and ancillary services.

Finally, the use of automation to create ‘zones’ has enabled many of our clients to handle growth and maintain a constant flow of traffic. For example with the combination of the AltitudeReservation platform, ParkCharge, StaffPark and GroundTransport clients can automate the flow of traffic to key areas, enabling key customers to easily enter premium parking, staff parkers and ground transport to not flow independently to general drive up traffic.

How is technology changing the airport parking market? What future developments are likely to impact on the sector e.g driverless vehicles/robotics/automation?

Like everywhere, technology is changing how we buy goods and services and how we interact with each other. Parking is not unique in this, but needs to keep up with customer expectations and to provide a seamless experience in order to increase the value of and retain customers.

Driverless vehicles, robotics and automation are already in our airports. London Heathrow uses a version of driverless vehicles to transport passengers to the terminal. Dubai airport also uses driverless vehicles (although in a different guise) to transport passengers between terminals. Robotics aren’t used so much in airport parking at the moment, but definitely in the wider parking sector where multi-tiered parking bays are stacked and essentially use robots to ‘store’ the car.

The biggest impact as whole will be automation, in whatever way is relevant for the airport and their customers. The focus will be on convenience for the customer.

In the not so distant future it will possible for an individual customer to prebook their parking at the same time as booking their flight. As they’re a regular customer and it’s linked to their loyalty program, they automatically earn points. They don’t need to enter their personal details as they are already stored within the system. As they have used their loyalty card before to upgrade to Valet parking, the reservation platform sends them a message (via their preferred method) two weeks before their departure date, inviting them to take advantage of a special offer on valet parking. This whole process will be automated, based on the profile of the customer.

Once they arrive at the airport, they are recognised through RFID on their car, or simply the presence of their smart phone, resting in the console. As they proceed through the airport, they can collect more reward points with additional purchases (maybe even a free cup of coffee) and the airport knows how they could reward them in the future.

Next time the same person is just picking up a friend from the airport, so only parks in the ‘passenger pick up’ car park. They tap their phone (or watch) on the payment terminal, payment is automatically deducted from their online account and if eligible, more reward points are added. This makes it easier for them to not think about paying for this parking, incentivises them to pick up a friend and gives them a positive experience of the airport.

These things are possible now, but many work in isolation. I see that the future will connect the solutions to the individual consumer, enhancing their experience and the airports understanding of their customers even more. The experience will be personal to that customer, based on their profile that is developed each time they visit the airport.

What is your definition of a really great airport parking experience? And how easy is it for an airport to change its parking offering to provide this great experience

A really great parking experience is going to be different for every consumer. For some it will be valet parking as close as possible to the terminal, for others it will be finding a great deal for the duration of the holiday. For me, it is what I have outlined in the previous question. Making it as easy as possible for a customer to park, travel and pay for parking – all while receiving some kind of loyalty bonus.

Regardless of the type of ‘experience’ there are common factors.

  • Convenience in finding the right parking product and being able to pay for it easily. This can be through an ewallet or simply paying by card instead of cash
  • Availability/access to the parking, including the ability to reserve parking, have a ticketless/cashless solution or through easy access for premium parking
  • Encompass all services and not just parking to improve the overall journey. This includes the ability to add additional services such as security fast track, or linking to a relevant loyalty program
  • This is paramount across the airport experience, but I don’t just mean physical security of the car, but security of the payment processing. Whether it’s by card, mobile or online.

Airport readiness is based on a number of factors, however our experience in working with airports of different sizes and readiness across the globe is to implement any change in incremental steps. It is too much for an airport to implement all solutions at once, or even if they are just introducing one solution such as a reservation platform it makes sense to do this incrementally.

Start with a reservation platform that enables the airport to accept bookings for parking and additional services. Once established, the airport can then look at integrating with loyalty programs and revenue management solutions such as those offered by one of our partners, IDeaS.

It is best for an airport to work closely with their service provider, using their expertise of how other airports have implemented such solutions, what will have the largest impact for the airport and what complements existing services in order to define the best strategy and implementation plan for them.

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