Until 2003, Autostrade per l'Italia service areas were managed through long-term sub-concessions. The beneficiaries of these contracts are major oil companies which provide fuel distribution and maintenance services to the commercial facilities. Catering activities are generally sub-contracted to third parties. Autostrade per l'Italia is thus only responsible for managing the contract for the invoicing of royalties and for ensuring the continuity of service. Operators wishing to enter the market or increase their brand presence on the highway network must acquire business branches from existing sub-concession holders in line with these terms.
TENDERS FOR THE OUTSOURCING OF FUEL AND CATERING SERVICES
December 2003 marked a turning point. Taking advantage of the expiration of over 70% of the sub-concession agreements, Autostrade per l'Italia implemented transparent competitive procedures, compliant with European regulations and antitrust directives, to renew service area fuel and catering services contracts. It was the first operation of its kind in Europe to open up the highway sub-concessions market.
The effects were immediate and marked the arrival of new commercial operators and a decrease in the market share of traditional, incumbent operators. The same decision was made in respect of 2007 and 2008 tenders, thus strengthening market access.
Autostrade per l'Italia's decision generated strong competition between operators, not only in financial terms but, above all, in terms of investment. Moreover, the innovative formats proposed lead to an improvement in prices and quality standards for customers.
THE ROYALTY SYSTEM
Autostrade per l'Italia was the first to introduce a royalty system, based on a fixed component and a marginal variable rate, to prevent price increases to the public and boost business volumes. This virtuous system makes highway service areas more economical than their "off-highway" counterparts. The predominant fixed component becomes negligible as turnover/sales increase, driving sub-concession holders to improve their offer to the public.
Moreover, the new system prevents the occurrence of "vicious circles" typical of the variable royalty system, where high prices result in high losses in terms of turnover and business volumes, albeit with substantial retention of profits, as occurs in other retail sectors in concession or with other highway operators.
The competitive comparison and historic growth trend of the service area market has led to many operators offering high royalties that are especially costly onerous, in the light of the current economic situation.
Although under no obligation to do so, in order to guarantee quality standards, competitive prices and business sustainability over the medium to long term, Autostrade per l'Italia unilaterally offered its contractors, in a non-discriminatory manner, a reduction in the fixed component equivalent to the drop in traffic recorded.
There were also innovations relating to the sub-concession agreement, which introduced new:
- technical standards (e.g. minimum number of toilet facilities, levels of maintenance, customer areas, etc.);
- operational/retail standards: minimum references, business square metres commercial, co-marketing activities;
- service quality delivered by introducing the detection system to service areas (KPIs) assigned to a third party service that visits each of the 216 service areas located on the Autostrade per l'Italia network 80 times a year, reporting any discrepancies and encouraging immediate corrective action;
- prices to the public by means of mechanisms for the containment and alignment to "off-highway" prices of both fuel and food and drink products
SERVICE AREA EXPANSION AND UPGRADING
Development and improvement is also based on radical upgrading of the service areas
|Service areas subject to intervention||3||202||-|
|Surface area (x000 m2)||5.100||8.128||59,4%|
|Business areas (x000 m2)||190||275||44,7%|
|Articulated lorry and bus parking areas||2.350||7.660||226,0%|
|Camper van and bus service||8||133||-|
|Hi-Point Information Point and free Wi-Fi||-||69||-|
|Children's play areas||-||49||-|
More than €800 million was invested in the 2002/2012 ten-year period to bring retail areas into line with consumer demand and concession business volumes. This involved introducing new retail formats (Malls) with multiple catering, shop-in-shop markets, play areas, camper service areas and innovative services such as free Wi-Fi internet connection. The Autostrade per l'Italia network thus became a benchmark retail model in Europe and around the world in terms of the services offered and the formats and trademarks implemented, thus showing that highways can also be innovative retail spots that meet the needs and expectations of customers on the move.
In the last ten years, 207 Autostrade per l'Italia network service areas have been extended, updated and upgraded and 9 new service areas opened.
Autostrade per l'Italia measures (generally implemented alongside and in sync with the expansion interventions implemented by fuel and catering sub-concession holders for the retail facilities) consist of civil and installation works that are part of the restructure and expansion of parking and turning areas for light vehicles and heavy, often including environmental adjustment activities
Expansion procedures for the parking and turning areas must follow the procedural requirements applicable to major highway infrastructure works (service meetings, compulsory acquisitions, grantor authorisation process, work procedures pursuant to public procurement regulations, and so forth). Such expansion has satisfied the need for quality parking for heavy vehicles, bringing Autostrade per l'Italia into line with the quality standards imposed by European benchmarks, as attested by the number of parking areas for heavy goods vehicles, up from 2,350 in 2002 to 7,650 at the end of 2012.
The most recent interventions scheduled will bring all service areas not subject to orographic or landscape constraints into line with the standards.