Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, delivered the keynote presentation at the opening session of SIAL Middle East 2012 conference yesterday, highlighting its support for the International Travel Catering Association (ITCA) and the importance that Etihad places on the quality of its in-flight food and beverage offering.
Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) – who visited the Etihad Airways stand during his official tour of the exhibition – and in strategic partnership with ADFCA, the third edition of SIAL Middle East runs from 26-28 November at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC).
During his keynote address, Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways Chief Commercial Officer, said: “We at Etihad Airways are delighted to sponsor the largest gathering to date of the International Travel Catering Association, the travel industry’s pre-eminent Food & Beverage event in the region.
“We do not benchmark our product and services against our airline competitors, but rather against the top restaurants and hotels around the world. This is what inspires us to introduce innovative concepts such as our First Class Chefs and our Food and Beverage Managers in Business Class, bringing a restaurant-quality experience to our premium passengers. ITCA is an embodiment of this spirit. It not only promotes forward-thinking and excellence, but also provides huge opportunities.”
Etihad has an in-house team of culinary experts – all classically-trained chefs – designing and managing new menus for every route every two months across all classes, an approach which Etihad claims sets them apart – putting culinary professionals in airline jobs, as opposed to airline professionals in culinary jobs.
ITCA has entered into a co-location partnership with SIAL Middle East, the region’s fastest growing trade exhibition for the food, drink and hospitality industry, as members target new business opportunities in the region as aviation sector forecasts indicate exponential growth across the GCC through to 2020, buoyed by up to US$90 billion investment into infrastructure expansion.
“Etihad’s strategy for growth is based on the quality, consistency and five-star service levels of its food and beverage offering. This is becoming a global trend with many of the leading airlines, as it becomes increasingly difficult to set your airline brand apart through technology alone,” said Stephen White, ITCA President.
According to IATA reports, the Middle East will process 400 million air travellers by 2020 as state-of-the-art airports come on line, major carriers expand their route networks and aircraft orders from the Gulf region further boost capacity. The UAE is also the single biggest market for Airbus, with total orders valued at US$223.9 billion over the next 20 years.
ITCA is also bringing the Mercury Awards to the region for the first time. Mercury is the most prestigious award in travel catering worldwide, sought after by the best and most pro-active companies in the industry.
ITCA will also reveal the winners of its annual Mercury Awards at a gala event during the exhibition. These prestigious international travel catering awards cover eight categories including recognition for excellence in On Board Service, Skills Development, Equipment and Innovation.
For more information, please log onto http://itcaabudhabi.com/
Photo caption: Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways Chief Commercial Officer, speaks to ITCA delegates during his keynote address.
ITCA, the International Travel Catering Association, grew out of IFCA which was formed in the United Kingdom in 1980. IFCA was established as a forum and representative body for all companies involved in the inflight service industry. In 2005 with the formation of ITCA this was opened up to include both the rail and shipping industries as well as inflight. Membership is divided into three categories – caterers, suppliers of products and equipment, and airline/sea/rail operators.
Initially IFCA had only 40 member companies under Founder-President Willie Seeman but it has always been a global association. It has grown over the years to over 700 member companies world-wide. The first conference and trade show was held in 1982 and the event has been held every year ever since, usually in a different European location each year, attended by over 2,000 industry executives from all continents of the world.
The association also organises regional conferences, arranges education and training seminars, publishes a magazine, and has a number of active committees dealing with issues from marketing to environmental concerns and regulatory issues. Additionally it organises the premier international industry award competition for innovation and development – the Mercury Award.
The association is governed by a board of directors elected by the membership. It consists of a number of representatives each from operator, caterer and supplier members. The board has a president, two vice-presidents and a treasurer. Board members also undertake additional duties, such as chairing committees, e.g. the Mercury Award Committee, the Communications Committee and the Research & Development Committee.
Today ITCA is truly global, with member companies on every continent. Virtually all large airlines are members, as are many regional carriers, and the vast majority of inflight catering companies of all sizes. Sea, rail and supplier companies continue to join as more and more of them see business opportunities in this market segment.