Sergio Carin of SWISS Americas is the project leader for Sales and Marketing in connection with San Francisco. He shares insights into the selling of San Francisco as a new destination.
Sergio, can you tell us what your job involves?
My main task is to represent the markets at Head Office, make sure that the voice of Sales is heard and that we get the support we need for the local organisation. This means having the necessary Sales & Marketing tools and setting up activities that will help to drive sales.
Does this apply to all of our intercontinental routes or just the Americas?
My area of responsibility is the Americas, which covers North and South America. Specifically the three markets where we have a presence: USA, Canada and Brazil.
What was your role in connection with San Francisco?
I started working on San Francisco two or three years ago. Firstly by analysing the market conditions, then estimating how well we could sell this destination and what kind of revenue it would generate. The basic question was: what would it take for a San Francisco operation to become economically viable. Sales and Network worked hand in hand in calculating the various options: six flights weekly versus daily flights, schedule etc. That was the planning side of the project. Once we knew that we would indeed begin serving San Francisco, the organizational and communication phase started This meant making sure that we have the right people in our Sales Team to cover all the requirements, as well as working with local agents in San Francisco, who now have Zurich to market as a gateway to Europe. I also had to make sure that agents worldwide are aware that we now offer San Francisco as a destination in North America. At head office, I had to make sure that the entire partnership was working smoothly, initially leading up to the inaugural flight and then later for regular day-to-day operations. This job involved a lot of coordination. And how does your assignment look now that the flight is up and running? Is your task finished at this point?
No, certainly not. We now have to make sure that we meet, or exceed, our sales targets. The stress involved in the preparation phase may be over, but I now have to make sure that we reach our targets, just like for all other destinations.
What was special about San Francisco for you?
It was the first destination that I opened. So it was very special for me for that reason alone. It has not been a new experience for SWISS but it was for me. It was a huge challenge and I enjoyed taking it on. There has been a great deal of work involved, with many new elements to deal with. A real learning experience.
Were there any particular difficulties or really challenging points?
The fact that we had never had anyone based in San Francisco was a major challenge. We have Sales colleagues who cover the entire USA but we didn’t have anyone based in San Francisco. This meant having to organise everything from a distance, which was very challenging and often difficult. You just can’t hop across the ocean. I have been to San Francisco a few times. In the meantime we have two local Account Managers recruited.
To what degree were your ideas incorporated into the overall project?
To a considerable degree. I consider myself as a very creative person and try to contribute as much as I can. We also worked as a group, which also produced many additional ideas. Of course, not all of my ideas were implemented, but quite a few things were my suggestions.
What was your personal highlight in this project?
My personal highlight was on June 2, when all the preparation paid off and our SWISS aircraft landed at SFO Airport for the first time. Having had the opportunity to launch this route was certainly a highlight in itself. The second highlight will be when everything functions as intended on a routine daily basis.
Do you have any anecdotes or experiences you wish to mention in closing?
Not really, except to say that San Francisco is a fabulous city and I am very glad that it is now part of our route portfolio. It is a very cool, very trendy city, not a normal place at all but yet still Zurich’s partner city. We value that point greatly and hope to make something out of it by promoting Zurich and Switzerland to American customers.
This new non-stop service should give the civic partnership a boost, wouldn’t you say?
Yes, that is certainly true. By establishing a non-stop air service between the two cities; a very important milestone to promote the cooperation at the municipal level; promoting cultural understanding and stimulating economic development has been accomplished.
This confirms a commitment on all the parties involved, including ourselves, SWISS. Now I am looking forward to the positive results.