INTERVIEW INSEL AIR

p_inselCompany profile Insel Air:

In August 28th, 2006 InselAir based in Curacao operated its first flight with his only aircraft to by then its only destination Aruba. Since then InselAir has steadily added more aircrafts and more destinations within the Pan-American region, and currently has services to 22 international destinations in 15 countries using 17 aircrafts and developed 30 routes. In South America InselAir operates to 10 destinations being Caracas, Valencia, Barquisimeto, Maracaibo and Las Piedras in Venezuela, Medellin and Baranquilla in Colombia, Georgetown Guyana, Manaus Brazil and Paramaribo Suriname. The two destinations within the USA include Miami and Charlotte.
The ten destinations in the Caribbean are Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Kingston, St. Maarten, St. Domingo capital and La Romana, Trinidad , Cuba and Haiti. Destinations Miami, St Maarten, Curacao, Aruba, St Maarten and Miami are used as hubs; In Aruba Insel Air Aruba is organized as a separate airline with its own operating certificate.. In number of destinations Insel Air is the largest Caribbean based carrier. In 2015 Insel Air’s network will increase to 26 destinations.

InselAirs international destinations and hub service give it a great strength in creating connectivity within the Pan-American region while focusing on safety, on-time performance and great customer service. We’ve grown to be one of the best connecting airlines within this region, providing flexible connectivity to North- and South America and the Caribbean region. Also our interline and Code share partnerships with airlines such as, Air France, KLM, Avianca, Win Air, GOL, Air Berlin and others create even further this connectivity, connecting our passengers throughout the world. Insel Air operates 10 Jets (MD 80 – 152 seaters and F70 – 80 seaters) and 7 Turboprops (F50 – 50 seaters and EMB 110 – 15 seaters)

Why invest in Curaçao? and Why did you decide start an airline in Curaçao instead of any other island?

The founders and all the shareholders of Insel Air are from Curacao and all are active in other business sectors in Curacao and also in the other Dutch Caribbean Islands. In 2004 an opportunity was created for the private sector to invest in the airline Industry. The government of Curacao closed its government owned airline and opened the possibility for the private sector to fill in the void that was left behind. Curacao transport sector shipping and air transport are industries that have been around for a very long time. This lead to a good infrastructure for the industry including educated proffesionals. This is not a coincidence, Curacao is strategically well located for the transport sector.

Which sectors are you currently more interested in for new investment?

In general I think there is an opportunity in every business sector on the Island and possibilities to copy innovations that work on the island to the region. Off course you have to do right research a deliver quality. And very important you have to be able to scale your operations to the market size of the small markets in the region and be sensitive to different cultures and preference in the region. A complex exercise but rewarding. For Insel Air we invested heavily in heavy maintenance last 2 years. At the moment all heavy maintenance on the aircrafts are done locally, which gives the company a lot of flexibility by having highly trained specialist on the Island that support our operation. We created more than 100 high quality jobs on Curacao by doing heavy maintenance in house. In total Insel Air employs more than direct 600 Jobs. Indirect it is close to 3000 Jobs on Curacao.

What is your opinion about Curaçao as a product – that is, what does the island have to offer to its visitors?

Compared to other large tourist destinations in the Caribbean, Curacao offers a more adventurous experience. Curacao offers great possibilities to move around the Island and experience the different and full variety of activities, culture and nature of the Island. For younger tourist Curacao offers a good night live entertainment including good restaurants, beach parties etc. Having visited most islands in the Caribbean, curacao will be on the top of the list of adventure and variety. Another advantage of Curacao is that Curacao is Spanish speaking and therefore is a natural choice forLatin America visitors. Curacao however has still a long way to go to position itself in the Latin America market, but I strongly believe that’s the way to go.

What could we expect from Insel Air in the next 5 years?

Insel Air has been growing with 15% every year in the last 5 years; we plan to continue with this growth. At this rate we will increase to 40 destinations in the coming 5 years.

insel_linesWhich were (or are) the obstacles that you have found as an investor?

We have found that government policies are often not in line what a local investor needs to move forward. I think an export agency like the one you are leading right now could improve the relationship between the private and public sector, in a way that the public sector gives support to initiatives of the private sector. We experienced in several occasions that what the government was doing or not doing was not in the interest of growth in the aviation sector.

What information would be important to acquire before investing?

The most encouraging description of entrepreneurship I found in a Harvard business school book about venture capital Entrepreneurial behavior is marked by the pursuit of opportunity regardless of resources currently controlled; it requires finding, gaining control of and effectively utilizing resources as necessary. Prime entrepreneurial skill is the identification of opportunity – the ability to continuously scan the world outside oneself and identify gaps between people’s needs and what actually exists. Innovation is the successful implementation of creative ideas of an organization. This 3 skills and steps are needed by every investment.

What information did you use before your investment?

We gathered all information regarding traffic in the past in the region especially around Curacao. We than designed an optimal way to serve this traffic. We gathered benchmark information out of the industry to de sure we are keeping the highest standards in operation. Insel Air is for instance IOSA certified and meets the highest operational en safety standards (IATA Operational and Safety Audit). The most
important in the beginning is to have operational and financial projections that are realistic. Sometimes it will take you 2 to 3 years were you want to be at starting point. Be relaxed plan right and take the time that it takes to get you were you want to go. At the moment we have developed advanced traffic tools were we can forecast existing and potential demand and we still have the same operational and financial projection tools from day one, but they got more reliable in forecasting in time.

Where did you find useful information before investing?

Most of useful information we retrieved from different professionals in the industry that were willing to share valuable information with us. Suppliers usually have a lot of knowledge and willing to share information for free as they are interested in selling products to you in the future. And you will be amazed how much you can find on internet if you carefully think about the correct search words to use.

What advice would you give to future investors?

When we started we got great advice from Tula Jesserun who was an aviation fanatic that supported our plans and give us good directions. He pointed out 2 basics. The first: “Aviation is politics and politics is aviation”, pointing out the interest of politicians in getting involved in the aviation industry and the impact of decisions made by governments on the industry. His second advice was, since we choice to start small and grow in time in a market with large players and a lot of competition: “If you are small you have to learn to swim with the sharks”. Pointing out that we had to find a niche in the industry that was not in direct conflict with other interest of large airlines.