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Jean Claude Bessudo

COLOMBIA - Tourism

Jean Claude Bessudo

President, Aviatur


Jean-Claude Bessudo received his education from the Solvay Mathematics Institute in Brussels and completed the high company management program at Los Andes University. He has spent his entire professional career with Aviatur, starting in 1967-1970 as a personal board assistant. He was promoted in 1970 to president and director general, a position he has held ever since. He authored a book in 2009, Improvised Strategy, and is the recipient of numerous honors and distinctions, including the Tourism Deserve Order, the French Government Deserve Order, and the Simón Bolívar Democracy Deserve Order.

With tourism expected to contribute to the economic reactivation of the country, Aviatur is laying the groundwork for new services and more sustainable projects across the country.

Aviatur is known for being a customer-focused company, always being close to customers in airports, hotels, and so on. How have you managed to stay close to customers in this digital market environment?

We sell the concept of all the advantages of online with personalized face-to-face presence when required. In essence, customers have someone to speak to on the phone, 24/7 booking centers, and a place to go in case of problems. In addition, we have excellent technology that enables us to guarantee extremely efficient attention to customers.

How do you encourage the professional growth of workers, and how have you navigated the pandemic to retain job posts?

Because of the pandemic, we had to furlough 1,500 people, though we have already reinstated 850 of them, and we have another 650 still to join is. In order to integrate the latter, we have created a company called Avia Est, a temporary services company. This company has been extremely successful because of the pandemic, and many companies in general opt for this solution, which helps to place these people. We have established another company called Avia Tecnologia, where we use the 100 staff of the technology department and put them at the service of many companies, particularly in the tourism sectors. In addition, furloughed employees are paid health insurance and pension contributions. All vacancies are advertised among the company’s staff to see who wants to apply for these positions. We never offer positions to people from outside if there is someone within the company who can fill that position provided that they are given the best training.

A tourism company requires sophisticated logistical arrangements. What is the strategy to build strong, reciprocal relationships?

We choose the right service providers so that we have confidence in them, and they have confidence in us. Moreover, we implement with them our policies of quality, service, and smiles.
In order make the right choice, it is necessary to carry out trips to test the circuits. You can predict everything, except what will happen to you. Strategic improvisation is a theme I have dedicated myself to exploring, and it means being aware of everything that happens in an environment, being prepared for any unforeseen events, and solving it as quickly as possible. In this way, customers are not affected. In other words, the strategy is the capacity for real-time adaptability. We had connectivity problems for six months because of the pandemic. Today, it is 35% of what it used to be in 2019, and we must adapt. Fortunately, we had a large amount of real estate and lease back operations with the financial sector. In other words, we adapted financially. Even so, we tried to maintain salaries, even if employees were not working, though we realized we had to suspend some contracts in order to be able to stay afloat.

Colombia has a great deal of potential for tourism. What characteristics does the country need to have in order to develop and increase the flow of tourists?

We have strongly recommended mapping prior consultations of those who wish to receive tourism. They should be asked how much they are willing to accept so that we know where that tourism investment can be made. We have also created a company called Avia Hotel Solutions, precisely to provide hotel technology services and create new projects. The whole balance is between the interests of shareholders; partners, national, departmental, the professional association, municipal government; clientele; socio-economic, environmental, and human resources. With all this, a balance can be struck in order to develop sustainable projects in the different sites where there are opportunities. Success is about sustainability and balance so that the clientele, population, and suppliers are happy. In addition, our company generates work, as we need staff to be able to offer an optimal service. For example, for a hotel with 56 rooms we have 200 employees, plus the environmental guides, the village suppliers, and so on.



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