Set up in 1996, Planit Travel Services started out simply as a transportation company, and over the course of four decades, has grown into a fully-fledged travel management company employing over 35 people, that offers an array of services to clients both locally and worldwide.
Throughout that time, the landscape in which the company operates has encountered numerous challenges and undergone significant transformations, primarily propelled by digital advancements, and shifting consumer behaviors. To navigate this ever-changing landscape effectively, Planit recognised the importance of investing in cutting-edge corporate travel technology that focuses on sustainability, duty of care and peace of mind – a strategic move that has enabled the team not only to endure the challenges but also to stand as a competitive force against larger international travel management companies.
Formerly managed by Charles Stivala, today, Planit Travel Services is headed by siblings and joint Managing Directors Aaron and Elexia Stivala, who spent their childhood immersed in the family business, alongside recently appointed General Manager Simon Rossi.
Aaron started working at Planit when he was just 16. “My father was adamant that we learn the business from the ground up, so we started our careers with very mundane and routine tasks,” he recalls, noting that through collective efforts, “we underwent steady growth, expanding our expertise over time to transform into the accomplished travel management company that defines us today.”
Elexia also started working at Planit from a young age, venturing into the travel industry after graduating from ITS and gaining work experience abroad. “Securing my IATA certificate, I immersed myself in various departments within the company, gradually ascending the career ladder. Through hands-on experience, I’ve learned that a thriving career in the travel sector demands passion, collaborative teamwork, unwavering perseverance, and an insatiable thirst for knowledge,” she maintains, adding that recently completing an MBA has added another dimension to her knowledge base, enabling her to make enhanced contributions within the dynamic landscape of Planit.
Simon’s career journey, meanwhile, has been an exciting and dynamic one, encompassing over four decades in various service industries including shipping, financial services, and travel. “I’ve been privileged to contribute to large corporations like Thomas Cook and Amadeus IT Group, which has equipped me with a versatile skill set. Recently stepping into the position of General Manager at Planit, I am excited to be part of this team and eager to contribute to its ongoing success,” he shares.
Delving into their individual areas of expertise, Aaron begins by describing his role in relation to the technical aspect of the business. “In my pursuit of organisational excellence, I strategically focus on key areas that include the implementation of advanced travel management software, incorporating artificial intelligence, and optimising resources,” he explains, affirming that utilising cloud-based solutions enhances real-time collaboration and data accessibility.
“To fortify our brand, we ensure a consistent image aligned with our values, employing effective brand communication, and forming partnerships for enhanced credibility. Holding a customer-centric approach involves providing seamless multi-channel communication and gathering feedback for continuous improvement. We strive to maintain a competitive edge by fostering continuous improvement, innovating services to offer a unique value proposition, and holding regular competitive analysis,” Aaron adds.
Elexia’s focus, meanwhile, lies in the administrative side of the business. “In my role, I bear a multifaceted set of responsibilities aimed at creating a thriving and progressive work environment. I am dedicated to enhancing employee well-being by prioritising work/life balance and cultivating a positive atmosphere,” she affirms, pointing out that, with a multi-national team, cultural inclusivity is a cornerstone, so fostering diversity and equity within the team is crucial.
“Continuous learning and adaptation are imperative aspects of my approach to ensure our organisation remains competitive. This involves investing in training programs to keep our workforce updated on the latest industry trends and technologies,” she continues, also emphasising her focus on cultivating a positive workplace culture that encourages innovation and collaboration, contributing to both employee satisfaction and overall productivity.
Finally, Simon’s area of expertise lies in operations. Having obtained a Diploma in General Management, his professional focus centers on operations, with a specific emphasis on business development and change management. “I focus on empowering teams for growth, emphasising the importance of balancing business decisions in consideration of the organisation’s customer base, prospects, and human capital. This philosophy, crucial for both short and long-term strategies, underlines my commitment to holistic operational efficiency, optimising both people and processes,” he says.
A key aspect of his contributions is an impartial perspective, offering a fresh and objective viewpoint that enhances decision-making. “Drawing from diverse industry experience, I strive to elevate business practices, challenging traditions and assumptions prevalent in family businesses. My goal is to enhance offerings and create a comprehensive travel experience for our corporate customers. With over two decades of external observation, I have cultivated trust with Planit’s leadership, contributing significantly to overall strategic planning for the long-term success of Planit Travel Services,” the General Manager affirms.
Since joining Planit Travel Services in late 2023, Simon’s collaborative efforts with Elexia, Aaron, and the management team have been dedicated to shaping and implementing strategies across various business areas, he maintains, highlighting a significant focus on a technology and automation strategy. Simultaneously, he is actively involved in refining the company’s business strategy to enhance Planit’s adaptability to external changes, addressing shifts in customer preferences, navigating regulatory adjustments, assessing supplier positioning, and staying abreast of technological advancements.
“In terms of technology integration, our strategic approach emphasises leveraging technology for seamless operations,” Aaron adds, noting that this includes implementing cutting-edge travel management software to streamline processes and automate routine tasks, incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning for predictive analytics to optimise travel planning and resource allocation, and integrating cloud-based solutions for real-time collaboration and data accessibility across the organisation.
“Alongside technological advancements, our commitment to brand enhancement is evident. We strive to develop and maintain a robust and consistent brand image aligned with our company’s values, exceeding customer expectations,” he continues, highlighting effective brand communication strategies to ensure a positive and memorable customer experience, along with fostering partnerships with reputable vendors to bolster the brand’s credibility.
“Our customer-centric approach revolves around the implementation of customer relationship management (CRM) systems, enabling personalised services and a better understanding of customer preferences. Gathering feedback through surveys and analytics is crucial for continuous service improvement, while offering seamless multi-channel communication options, including chat support and mobile apps, enhances the overall customer experience,” Aaron says.
Elexia goes on to point out the company’s commitment to sustainable development, noting, “we integrate eco-friendly practices into our operations, promoting sustainable travel options and actively reducing our carbon footprint. Collaborating with environmentally conscious partners aligns with our sustainable development goals, and we aim to educate both employees and customers about our dedication to sustainable practices.”
Indeed, she affirms, maintaining a competitive edge involves regular competitor analysis to stay informed about industry trends. “Fostering a culture of continuous improvement enables adaptation to changing market conditions, while innovation and differentiation in our services ensure a unique value proposition compared to competitors.”
Delving into their plans for the company moving forward, the leadership team says that their primary focus revolves around delivering comprehensive business travel management solutions, ensuring the optimisation of costs while prioritising traveller safety.
“We are committed to transitioning from personalisation to hyper-personalisation, offering tailored travel recommendations that align precisely with individual preferences. Our dedication extends to providing continuous customer service and support, including emergency assistance, while adhering closely to our clients’ specific needs and upholding privacy and ethical standards,” they say.
Sustainability is a key pillar of this approach, they add, both in terms of the team’s own practices at Planit and the tools provided to clients to manage their travel sustainably. “In navigating the dynamic landscape, we acknowledge the challenges posed by the constant changes in the industry, heightened customer expectations, and the evolving landscape of the online travel industry. Our commitment remains steadfast in addressing these challenges proactively to ensure our clients receive cutting-edge, sustainable, and client-tailored solutions that meet the demands of the modern travel landscape.”
This interview forms part of the Digital 50 Business Leaders project. These high-profile interviews are exclusively featured online at MaltaCEOs.mt, highlighting 50 distinguished conversations with business leaders, CEOs, and emerging entrepreneurial talents. Through these discussions, we aim to showcase the remarkable journeys, achievements, and successes of Malta’s business leaders.
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