In The Spotlight – Ian Linaker – Galileo Watermark


Amenities puts Ian Linaker CEO of Galileo Watermark in the spotlight.

Amenities caught up with Ian on his return from Galileo Watermark’s first annual staff conference in Hong Kong to ask him about the last 12 months since surprising the market with the purchase of Watermark.

You surprised a number of players in the market with your purchase of Watermark, 12 months on how has the integration of both companies gone?

The purchase of Watermark certainly catapulted Galileo into the spotlight. I think a lot of people were probably asking who on earth Galileo Products was? It hasn’t been easy – aligning two companies’ people processes and technology was always going to be a mountain to climb. However, we have a fantastic team, and twelve months on, I am delighted with our progress, and what we have achieved in such a short-time. I do have a few greyer hairs now though!

We recognise that transforming a business such as Watermark, to make it innovative, current and relevant in the market again is a longer-term roadmap. Our clients are very receptive that in such a dynamic, hyper-competitive industry, change is a good thing and have welcomed the emergence of GW.

We are now the right size and shape to bring the best brand collaborations to the market and really make a difference in the on-board world. We have a fantastic design and brand partnership team that are working on some extremely exciting innovations and brand launches, re-establishing our commitment to be a world leader in the on-board guest experience arena.

GW now has a truly global presence, with offices in New York, London, Hong Kong, and Sydney. We are a balanced team across the globe. Whilst headquartered in London, the results are that we are able to better service our clients with brand, design, and operations capability across all continents. No doubt, the challenge will be keeping up with the pace of change still to come in this industry.

What did you pay for the acquisition of Watermark?

Let’s just say it was less than the original asking price of £25 million. There were quite a few who tried to block the acquisition complete, not to mention how ‘challenging’ Private Equity can be. That said, we paid a price that works for both sides and is acceptable to all.

Despite this, we were determined to complete, and have the full backing and support of our Private Equity partners. We knew that the acquisition was going to establish a much stronger, healthier combined design business with a vision of competing with the best. Merging the great infrastructure and history of Watermark with value-added management and investment in design and brands will hopefully deliver results.

In exhibiting for the first time at WTCE earlier this year, what has been the initial industry response?

As the new guys on the block, we certainly created a lot of interest and I believe it is fair to say that both airlines and suppliers looked closely at what we are bringing to this market. Many people were still joining the dots of what Galileo and Watermark meant together and what this would translate into. I am certainly excited by the prospects of exhibiting at WTCE, bigger and better, in 2018.

The current trend for airlines and suppliers is partnering with exclusive brands, how is GW positioned with regards to this?

I believe we are unique in the fact we have our own product range in Scaramouche + Fandango which we have already successfully supplied on-board to a number of airlines. We have experience of bringing a skincare brand successfully to the retail world, with listing in some of the world’s most prestigious department stores. This experience allows us to directly relate to brands that we work with. We know their ambitions and concerns, as well as the struggles that they go through to build and protect brand equity.

Consequently, we take a different approach to working with brands, ensuring that there is a strategic fit on both sides of the equation – airline, as well as brand side. As such, we a rapidly establishing ourselves as a trusted partner in the brand world, aligning partnerships and collaborations that truly work for both brands.

We believe that caring for our brands is just as important as the airlines we work with. We have a growing brand team, that have the capability to source specific brands on request of the airlines. This is recently demonstrated in working with Erno Laszlo for the new Premium Economy kit for Eva Air.

Nevertheless, our industry’s characterisation of being in a ‘race for brands’ is getting close to its sell-by date, and I believe the personalization of kits will dominate the future of amenities.

Our recent launch of OCN and the fantastic work of our operations team to build an industry first supply chain for the use of Ocean Recycled Plastic for cosmetic packaging is a testament to our commitment to sustainability. This undoubtedly will start to feature more heavily in our industry in the coming three years.

When you refer to personalization, what do you mean?

Airlines already have the capability to provide a more personalized offering to their passengers and I predict that in the future that, especially in Business and First Class, passenger’s will be able to pre-select the amenities they wish to be gifted with. We will see a greater integration between airline systems and back-end IT, that will deliver customer-facing benefits. I foresee a world where one brand in a class is a thing of the past, and customers will be able to ‘choose’ their own amenity kit (and its composition) from a range of options to suit their tastes and interests. The question will be whether airside logistics and loading will be able to support this?

What do you think will be the future for suppliers in the on-board amenity industry?

Already I see airlines looking to suppliers to provide the full range of on-board amenities, not just individual items. It is vital that we understand the full design criteria of cabin interiors and I feel GW is now ideally positioned in the market to do so.

We take strength from our capability to deliver across not just amenity kits but also meal service and textiles. Our partnership with Sheridan for Qantas Business class earlier this year is an example of GW working to deliver the total ‘in-seat’ experience for our airline partners. We are taking a more holistic approach to the design and delivery of on-board guest experience, considering all of the other factors and touchpoints that make up the journey onboard.