In order to overcome the unprecedented crisis in tourism caused by Covid-19, the FTI GROUP has taken various measures since 2020 to strengthen the position of the company for the post-pandemic period. The stabilisation packages focus on the core business, leaner structures in the operative sector and the initiation of a multi-year transition process as well as a broad-based liquidity hedge. To this end the FTI GROUP accepted offers made available to the industry by the German federal government.
The tour operator group is currently profiting from the resources granted by the German Economic Stabilisation Fund (WSF) in the form of a silent partnership and three loans to accelerate its transformation and, for example, to advance digitalisation processes.
The FTI GROUP is consistently pursuing its digitalisation strategy. The topic has been given additional weight with the appointment of CIO Karl Markgraf as CEO of the group. The experienced manager with expertise in IT and digitalisation has assumed the position of CEO and CIO in personal union as of 1 July 2023 and drives the change initiatives already underway even further. Two Tech Talk evenings led by Karl Markgraf in Munich with a focus on possible application areas of AI in the company and cyber security in April and July 2023 underlined the importance of the digitisation measures for non-specialist employees as well.
The Group is focusing on innovation, for example in machine learning (ML). In the flight sector, manual activities were significantly reduced and more effective processes introduced. Specifically, the exchange of data with airlines and spontaneously determined flight time changes was significantly improved. This enables better and more targeted communication with the traveller. In addition, the Group developed applications using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate manual processes - such as processes in Invoice Management, booking data maintenance in hotel management or scheduled flights. Furthermore, the FTI GROUP is involved in a tourism network to work on possible uses for blockchain technology.
In addition to innovation, IT security is also an important aspect of the digitalisation strategy. For this purpose, the group appointed a Chief IT Security Officer who leads an international team of six. Technically, endpoint security was optimised in order to detect threats even faster, implement targeted measures for protection and eliminate vulnerabilities. By means of a continuous vulnerability scan and a coordinated patch management, updates can be applied quickly and reliably. In the interaction between an in-house, professional IT security team with the latest software and a Security Operations Centre (SOC), an important next step was achieved in securing the widely ramified IT landscape for the entire Group. A comprehensive IT security policy framework rounds off the basic protection, and regular IT security awareness campaigns also sensitise employees.
With a view to developing a uniform system landscape for the Group, the introduction of Microsoft 365 was completed for all employees worldwide at the beginning of August 2023, guaranteeing seamless, secure collaboration and increasing productivity. The integrated telephony feature of Teams is being rolled out internationally, replacing a fragmented telephony system environment. The transition will be completed globally by the end of the year. In addition, a new e-procurement platform was implemented early this summer, standardising all ordering processes for staff worldwide, simplifying approval processes and reducing lead times. A new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is being implemented across the Group. The main objective of the cloud software is to consolidate all customer information in one place, taking data protection into account. Modern analysis functions enable better and data-driven decisions to be made that are relevant to the company. A global Human Capital Management (HCM) system will provide more transparency and faster data processing and is also in the implementation phase, as is a modern IT ticketing system.
A full relaunch of the group's own booking websites and apps with a planned go-live within the coming months is currently in preparation. Important milestones have already been reached: A specially developed Internet Booking Engine (IBE) was put into production for the first company in the group and the self-service portal "meinFTI" was completely revised. In addition to a technical refactoring, the adaptation to the new design language was carried out. These first building blocks form the basis for further innovation in the area of eCommerce.
Particularly sustainable digitisation measures in the current business year included the investment in an optimised network and new servers with corresponding storage capacity. Overall, it will be possible to reduce the number of physical servers in the data centre in Munich from 40 to 13. Among other things, cloud computing will be increasingly used to reduce the workload. In addition, all workstations will gradually be converted to laptops. This contributes to a better energy balance and enables more flexibility in the use of office space or in mobile working. A new, secure W-Lan enables employees to work together more flexibly and in a more mobile manner.
In the area of sustainability, the FTI GROUP is pushing ahead with measures adopted in accordance with its agenda, taking on new projects and intends to present its strategy by the end of the financial year. The strategic focus is primarily on measures for climate protection, sustainable travel, the protection of resources and social responsibility. The FTI GROUP's own hotels, for example, are sustainable across the board. Numerous hands-on initiatives and creative efforts contribute to the environment and local communities and enrich their own working environment as well as the guest experience. This deep sustainability conviction is also reflected in Travelife for Accommodation for hotels and accommodation. Since September 2022, the approximately 50 representatives of the FTI GROUP's own hotels have been awarded the "Travelife GOLD" sustainability certificate by Travelife for Accommodation - a sustainability standard recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. New hotels will also be certified according to Travelife for Accommodation. In addition, polycarbonate cups were introduced in the Group's own Greek hotels in 2022 as a pilot project to eliminate single-use plastic cups. Due to the successful results, the project is currently being rolled out to all company-owned hotels in the eight destinations. A number of sustainability initiatives are planned to make sustainability a tangible experience on site - one of which was the waste collection campaign on World Environmental Day 2023. At the Munich site, the waste separation system was revised and will be rolled out to other sites in the future. In addition, the group is striving for Travelife certification for its Destination Management Companies as well - already ten incoming agencies are currently in the certification process. On top, the Group is establishing various guidelines and standards for more sustainability and environmental protection that will apply to our companies and partners worldwide. For example, the animal welfare policy was revised in the current financial year with a view to certification according to Travelife. Likewise, a code of conduct for business partners was developed, which includes standards for environmental aspects and social responsibility.
In the tour operator business, the FTI GROUP has also launched a pilot project to promote Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) in partnership with Eurowings as a contribution to climate protection. The project, which is related to flights from the DACH region for Mallorca package tours in summer 2023, tests customer acceptance of supporting more environmentally friendly flying for a small surcharge and is currently a unique initiative in the industry. Another way to promote the use of SAF is being tackled by the FTI GROUP with its German consolidator, the FTI Ticketshop. Within its booking IBE, the B2B air ticket retailer identifies all flights that travel with SAF or promote SAF refuelling with its own symbolism in order to improve the visibility of these offers for travel agents and to facilitate sales.
At the Munich model location, the topic of eMobility was also advanced in the current financial year. For example, 42 e-charging stations were installed and put into operation in the underground car park of the FTI GROUP headquarters. The use of the charging stations is free of charge for the employees of the FTI GROUP for company cars and private vehicles. In this way, the tour operator group promotes both the use of e- or hybrid vehicles for its staff at the model location and the use of public transport to get to work. For the latter, the company subsidises monthly tickets up to 47 euros.
The FTI GROUP continued the digitalisation strategy that was already initiated in 2020. After the transfer of the email servers to cloud solutions was completed in 2020/21, the migration of the filing drives used in the company started in 2021/22. In addition, the Group primarily relied on Robotic Process Automation to realise manual work through automated data processing throughout Human Resources, Customer Service, the Flight Segment, eCommerce, Tour Operating, the Service Centres, the globally represented Destination Management Companies, RedSea24 in Egypt and Youtravel in the UK. The processes include, for example, check logics, comparisons and validation logarithms in invoice processing, prepared data exports for product feeds, relief mechanisms in B2B communication or the automation of various scheduled flight processes in the booking systems commonly used in the German speaking region.
The FTI GROUP also focused on upgrading its communication tools for the benefit of its employees: the relaunch of the Group's intranet took place in the summer of 2022, and at the same time the management announced an expanded mobile working policy. In this context, the Group purchased around 450 new laptops in addition to the existing ones in order to enable all employees to work flexibly regardless of their location and with the appropriate equipment.
At the same time, the group invested in security: leading cyber security software with automated endpoint threat detection and response technology, and a VPN client protected by security software guarantee secure working. The FTI Payment website was also upgraded with the latest fraud detection and protection technology.
Along with these investments in the digitalisation of the company, which have an immediate impact on the everyday life of the employees and the success of the company, the group also pays attention to looking further into the future. For example, it is investigating how blockchain technology can be used in tourism. Besides that, in early summer 2022 the Group signed a cooperation agreement with UnternehmerTUM, the award-winning start-up incubator of the elite TU Munich University, to develop AI projects via the Munich Urban Colab.
Karl Markgraf has been responsible for the management, further development and protection of the digital system worlds of the FTI GROUP since July 2022. He was appointed Chief Information Officer of the Group and joins the company from TeamViewer, where as CIO and COO he was responsible for the IT landscape, IT security, digitalisation, eCommerce and procurement processes, quality management including certifications and global technical support over the last four years.
The FTI GROUP also remains committed to sustainability and even strengthened its personnel in July 2022: Caroline Steimle has since been responsible for the group's sustainability activities as Head of Corporate Social Responsibility. Before joining the FTI GROUP, the CSR manager worked for more than three years at the German Committee for UNICEF e.V. and before that as co-director of Futouris e.V., a sustainability initiative known throughout the industry. Until the end of the current business year, the focus will be on the establishment of a CSR department and the development and coordination of a holistic FTI GROUP sustainability strategy.
Along with this, the company is striving to have the FTI GROUP's own hotels awarded Travelife For Accommodation as one of the world's most renowned certificates for sustainability. The cooperation between the approximately 50 accommodations from the group and Travelife was already decided in April 2022. As a result, the properties will go through elaborate documentation and optimisation processes as well as individual audits by the end of the tourist season in order to achieve "Gold Certified" status by the end of the financial year.
In the area of destination management, individual environmental and climate initiatives were also launched in summer 2022. Employee workshops, improved waste disposal concepts at the agency locations and clean-up campaigns with employees were implemented among other things.
In Tour Operating, the FTI GROUP offers webinars and e-learning about sustainability for sales partners in Germany and Austria. In addition, the Group is undertaking a test on the topic of CO2 offsetting with its tour operator WINDROSE Finest Travel: The luxury holiday provider has been automatically offsetting trips in the individual and group travel sector in cooperation with myclimate.org since January 2021 up to and including October 2022. The results of the test will be incorporated into the further development of the strategy.
(Status: August 2022)
In order to advance digitalisation, the FTI GROUP focused on several major projects. These included the cloud migration of the FTI GROUP email servers, which was completed at the end of 2020 and the global rollout of the Arkadia merchandise management system for more automation and efficiency in the Destination Management Company Segment. An equally important project was the likewise global rollout of Atcore as software for the automation of hotel contracts and better Time2Market performance in data exchange with the i5 booking system. Another milestone was the conversion of multilingual travel information for 136 countries from printed customer documents to pdfs or links with the help of the cmi24 content management system - to name just a few. The modernisation steps of workflows and IT landscapes that have already been implemented and are still planned create synergies, increase efficiency and enable resource-saving work. They hence contribute to cost reductions and greater competitiveness in all areas of the company.
The FTI GROUP presents itself as particularly innovative with the introduction of the eMag in January 2021. The group is the first major tour operator to largely dispense with printed seasonal and annual catalogues, demonstrating its contemporary understanding of the customer and reaffirming its commitment to more sustainability and climate neutrality. This measure saves paper in large quantities, as up to now around 1.6 billion catalogue pages were produced per season in Germany alone, but also avoids the corresponding emissions from printing to delivery. Instead, the FTI GROUP provides with the eMag a digital medium with daily updated data, numerous additional information and features, picture galleries, video material, useful cross-links and much more for travel agencies and customers.
The eMag is thus a showcase project, decisive as part of the digital transformation as from an ecological point of view. In the same spirit, the FTI GROUP is also driving forward the Green Travel Transformation of the GTI in cooperation with other industry representatives. After researching and qualitatively validating all globally circulating sustainability certificates for hotel facilities, a uniform label was implemented in 2020 in the most widely used booking system in Germany, Amadeus/Bistro, in order to better include sustainable hotels in travel advice.
The FTI GROUP continues to uphold its ecological and social responsibility in the course of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, even in challenging times: the FTI main location in Munich for example has been awarded a LEED certification as particularly sustainable. The group also demonstrates a passionate commitment to biodiversity with the active adoption of several bee sponsorships and a social engagement to local charity projects. With the help of the WSF funds granted, the Group continues to pursue its corporate policy in this regard. For example, in addition to the aforementioned major projects eMag and Green Travel Transformation, an automatically calculated offset contribution per tonne of CO2 has gone to myclimate for every WINDROSE Finest Travel booking since 2021. A mobile working policy introduced in 2021 and a licence for MS Teams implemented for all employees also reduce travel distances and the need for business trips, thus contributing to the reduction of emissions. Further projects under the banner of ecological and digital transformation are being planned.
(Status: August 2021)