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Formia: How an airline amenities agency can thrive in a global pandemic

CEO and Managing Partner of FORMIA talks about embracing a focus on sustainability and hygiene in an attempt to adapt to and anticipate the “new normal”.

It’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the travel industry has been dealt one of the hardest blows in the midst of this pandemic.  And yet, Formia’s CEO and Managing Partner Roland Grohmann remains optimistic about the future of travel and is raring to go.

Formia is a travel amenities brand that offers bespoke amenities kits, children’s kits and comfort items that aim to elevate the travel experience.  Over the years they have partnered with over 50 leading international airlines such as Qatar, Emirates and Singapore Airlines and now have presence in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok, Dubai and New York.

Grohmann talks to The Peak and elaborates on how Formia has taken the Covid-19 crisis in stride and adapted the company to the trends and needs of the world in its current state, as well as expounds on his thoughts on the future of travel.

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How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the aviation industry in the long term, and how do you think travel habits and trends will change because of it?

Although the travel and aviation industries may take a while to recover, we believe that there is appetite for travel which will slowly start to pick up again when bans are lifted, and travel is deemed safe.

Covid-19 has impacted and changed traveller’s habits and attitudes.  People are wary, and so our main goal is to instil confidence when travelling, supporting passenger’s health and wellbeing to ensure a safe, clean, and comfortable travel experience.

Seeing as Formia has been in the travel scene for several decades now, how would you say the travel scene has changed over the years?  

We have seen travel habits and trends evolve over the years due to global issues, trends and events which impact traveller’s attitudes. Journeys have become longer with individuals travelling further afield while still demanding a certain level of comfort as a part of the travel experience.

Technology has advanced and everything from the way we book a trip, to the way we check in and our experience in the sky is different to even just 10 years ago; planes have WiFi, check-in is now contactless and in-flight entertainment has become more advanced.

The rise of technology has had a direct effect on consumers’ spending habits and individuals are looking for the most competitive price for the best experience. However, in the post-pandemic world, travellers are expected to prioritise their health and wellness, as well as the preservation of the planet and so we’ve developed ways to adapt to this shift whilst offering a unique and integrated brand experience onboard and beyond.

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How have these changing trends affected the design of your wellness kits and other products?

At Formia we work with over 100 brands, with a particular focus now on enhancing our portfolio of wellness brands to prioritise the health, safety and wellbeing of each passenger. We are continuously adapting to keep up with travel habits and hygiene standards to make the traveller feel assured, protected and pampered while in the air. Earlier this year, we launched a Clean Kit range of sanitiser products and Personal Protective Equipment to offer relevant and timely solutions for passengers’ needs.

In addition, Formia has developed an innovative textiles solution using antibacterial technology for our masks, snoods and loungewear range. With the application of an advanced fabric treatment, these products have been developed to provide an effective, lasting and continual germ-resistant surface to protect and care for passengers.

To adjust to the growing demand of the eco-conscious, our amenity kits now comprise of a range of environmentally friendly materials and products, as well as responsible brands. All of this while never compromising on the element of pampering and delight.

What’s next for amenity kits? For example, Singapore Airlines has just changed up its inflight meals to more sustainably packed ones. Do you think sustainable luxury is the future?

Absolutely, the future of Formia’s amenity kits is all about sustainable luxury, and how we can make our products more eco-conscious. We have partnered with leading sustainability consultancy, GlobeScan, to help us move forward with our accelerated path to sustainability.

As a first initiative, we have decided to develop socks and eye masks made from 100% recycled PET material and we are continuing to review our end-to-end processes to identify any other areas where improvements and transformation can be made. Based on the quantities of socks and eye masks produced in 2019, transitioning from virgin polyester to recycled PET will save 1,500 tons of plastic waste, which corresponds to 79 million plastic bottles from going into landfill each year!

How has the pandemic changed your perspective about running a business?  

The pandemic has been difficult for most industries; but travel has been hit the hardest. Running a business in this industry during these times has been tough – we have had to quickly adapt and pivot to prioritise passenger’s health and wellbeing for travellers to feel safe, and we are continuing to ensure a luxurious and memorable travel experience.

Our focus has been on crisis management and solution-finding, in order to build motivation and maintain inspiration for our customers and partners, as well as our own teams during this difficult period. This challenging time has shaped us to become more understanding, prepared and anticipative as we move forward.

We have a global presence, with offices and staff all over the world and so we’ve had to really focus on our internal communication as we’ve been unable to visit employees in other destinations. As with most other businesses, this has meant a lot of online video calls!

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How can aviation, and by extension, a business like Formia, thrive in the post-Covid-19 world?

With the emerging trend of travel bubbles and health passports, travel in the ‘new normal’ will be different. 2020 has spurred us to re-evaluate and adapt to thrive when the travel restrictions are lifted. During this time, the passenger needs and desires have changed dramatically, as safety and security while travelling have taken precedence. Apart from launching our Clean Kits, we have used this time to design a more sustainable amenity kit and we will continue to work with our airline partners and charity organisations to be more environmentally conscious in our actions.

The future is less focused on the product itself and more about the experience that the consumer has with that product; after-trip usage, collectability, and forming extended connections with the brand.

The more valuable the kits are for the consumers, the more successful those kits are. As people choose to either gift the premium kits or reuse them in their day to day lives, this results in less disposal and waste for the planet, ultimately creating real added value.