Alpitour, a leading European tourism company with 76 years of history, employs around 4,000 individuals across seven locations in Italy and several subsidiaries in 16 countries. The organization consists of five internal divisions: Tour Operating, with seven brands and over 4,000 facilities worldwide; Aviation, featuring its airline Neos and the most innovative fleet in Europe, with 15 state-of-the-art aircraft; Hotel, managing beach tourism hotels, luxury residences, and international resorts through the brands VOIhotel and VRetreats; Incoming division, focusing on holiday destination selections in Italy and several foreign countries; and the Travel Agency division, Welcome Travel Group, a 50:50 joint venture between Alpitour World and Costa Cruises, operating a network of owned and affiliated travel agencies.
Fabio Olgiati is the Head of RPA and AI under the IT department and joined the company in 2015. Olgiati and his team embarked on their automation journey in the second half of 2019 with the launch of a strategic innovation project called Innova. The project aimed to drive business change by investing in technological innovation and process simplification. Robotic process automation (RPA) proved instrumental in achieving these goals by providing a technological solution to replace low-value, repetitive human tasks such as data entry.
With numerous manual activities that could be automated, RPA addressed cost issues caused by scalability and human error while accelerating processes that were previously done by humans. Importantly, Alpitour had no plans to reduce headcount, as RPA would only replace repetitive tasks, not entire roles. This approach allowed employees to focus on more value-added activities, improving the quality and speed of services.
Following a selection process, Alpitour decided to work with UiPath. The UiPath Business Automation Platform offers a low-code development solution that can be applied to various processes and software platforms, enabling integration with a wide range of programs such as Chrome, Microsoft Excel, Outlook, and many others. This versatility set UiPath apart from other technologies in the market.
Our work with UiPath truly embraced the concept of 'lavoro a quattro mani,' which translates to 'four-handed work' or working side-by-side.
Fabio Olgiati Head of RPA and AI
Alpitour's collaboration with UiPath led them to establish a center of excellence (CoE) that allowed for parallel development on various projects or tasks within the same project. Embracing the Italian concept of 'lavoro a quattro mani,' which translates to 'four-handed work,' or working side-by-side, the CoE and UiPath fostered a strong partnership.
Before UiPath, Olgiati disliked the ‘black box’ approach, where suppliers developed solutions without transparency. With UiPath, however, all code is visible and versioned (GIT), fostering a clear and transparent development process. The CoE currently consists of three members, including the head of RPA, a project manager, and a developer. Additionally, four members from external teams, such as Neos IT, Data Office and Test Automation teams, are being trained in RPA development, further expanding Alpitour's capabilities in RPA.
Alpitour currently deploy 33 robots and have already seen significant success. For instance, in the aviation industry, airline companies often require passenger name lists, catering details, and IATA codes for special guests, such as those needing cabin wheelchairs. Prior to the implementation of the UiPath RPA solution, a dedicated team would manually copy passenger information into Excel spreadsheets and verify each IATA code.
Now, two UiPath robots have been deployed to streamline this process: the first operates on a daily schedule, automatically sending the required information, while the second is accessible as a web app for colleagues to generate passenger lists for any flight.
Our experience with RPA serves as a testament to the power of embracing automation and innovation in driving business growth and enhancing employee engagement: it is a key goal of the strategic inNOVA program and is helping it become reality.
Francesco Ciuccarelli CIO & CTO
The development of these RPA solutions took 42 days, with a key challenge being the generation of airline-specific Excel templates containing unique columns and ordering. This issue was resolved by creating a configuration Excel file that the robot reads during each run. Colleagues can update this file directly, allowing them to easily accommodate any changes requested by airline companies. As a result of this automation, the robots can now handle up to 15 flights per day, achieving 100% automation. While it used to take an hour for a human to process a single flight, a UiPath robot can complete the task in just 30 seconds, significantly increasing efficiency and productivity.
At the outset of Alpitour's RPA implementation, there was initial distrust and skepticism among employees, who feared the technology would replace their jobs. However, as the company emphasized, the primary goal was never to reduce headcount. When the first project in 2020 demonstrated significant results, employee opinions shifted dramatically.
One deployment in particular highlighted this change in opinion. Faced with the challenge of reworking 12,000 flights in the mainframe, a task that would have required 10 employees working through the weekend, a robot was developed in just an hour and a half to complete the task efficiently. This positive outcome not only alleviated concerns but also made those 10 employees very happy with the benefits of RPA.
Alpitour's adoption of UiPath robotic process automation has led to significant improvements in efficiency, productivity, and employee satisfaction. By streamlining repetitive, low-value tasks, the company has allowed its workforce to focus on higher-value activities, enhancing the quality and speed of their services. With a strong partnership between the CoE and UiPath, Alpitour has fostered a transparent development process and expanded its RPA capabilities by training additional team members. With 33 robots deployed to date and more potential applications for automation on the horizon, Alpitour's experience with RPA serves as a testament to the power of embracing automation and innovation in driving business growth and enhancing employee engagement.