By ECS Group’s Adrien Thominet, executive chairman, and Robert van de Weg, chief commercial officer
With global economic growth expected to fall significantly and while inflation is tapering off – albeit at high levels still – 2023 is shaping up to be complicated. We have already seen a slowdown for several months. We forecast a 15-20% decline in volumes in Q1 of 2023, which will lead to an even sharper drop in industry revenues. These projections are confirmed by the analysis of new export orders as well as other indicators often significant for the industry’s evolution.
We therefore expect a rather subdued start to the year, especially ex-Asia to the US and Europe. However, subject to macroeconomic and geopolitical developments, we expect a relatively strong rebound in Asian exports once ‘restocking’ takes place, hopefully in the second half of 2023. We expanded ECS Group’s footprint in this region last year with the opening of two Globe Air Cargo offices, one in Korea and one in Japan. Indeed, we see markets re-emerging with the end of Covid, and Asia is one of them, as well as the Levant and South America. From a service perspective, the return of passenger flights and the increase in ‘leisure travel’ will generate further need for ‘total cargo management’ services in these regions, as the airlines involved seek to optimise cargo revenues from belly capacity.
Other export markets such as Europe and the United States are expected to be ‘flat’ at best compared to 2022.
The changes that are impacting the market are opening up many opportunities. Indeed, in every difficulty, an opportunity can emerge and I think that as a GSSA, we have the possibility to attract new customers and to provide the market with our new services by demonstrating their necessity. ‘Cost control’ will be a general issue for airlines, and ECS Group has the right tools to help them deal with it.
Challenges and opportunities
Airlines are increasingly looking for organisations that can manage end-to-end air cargo operations and have a technologically competent infrastructure. GSSAs have evolved from agents who arrange cargo bookings for airlines to strategic partners who help airlines develop their business objectives. In this sense, technology solutions play a key role. They enable greater efficiency, speed and transparency. Innovation is certainly a major driver.
ECS Group has already, for some time now, integrated this fact, offering and using technological solutions – within the ECS Group with the Cargo Digital Factory, or those developed within CargoTech, of which ECS Group is a founding member – and by having innovation at the heart of the development of our abilities.
Through our ‘Augmented GSSA’ strategy last year, we reinvented the traditional role of a GSSA to empower ourselves with the tools, strategies, and means to face the challenges of 2023. Our abilities will continue to be developed and positioned in a way that is tailored for both the current and the future market transformation. Furthermore, we plan on developing new digital tools, thanks to CargoTech, and integrating more and more CSR into our processes, as sustainability is also one of the main challenges of tomorrow.
How can air freight stakeholders work more effectively in 2023 and beyond?
The key word here is ‘digitalisation’. We are witnessing a real acceleration of efforts in this direction, and for the better. Better efficiency, more transparency and fluidity, the benefits are numerous. Therein lies the solution for the air cargo industry to get through this period in the best possible conditions, in cooperation.