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AIRPORT DESIGN Last modified on December 7, 2017

Illuminating experience

Creating the right ambiance, like Zurich Airport did with its 2016 Christmas lighting, holds huge positives for airports, writes Thomas Mark.

Architects know it, so do psychologists, health care specialists, educational establishments, retail/F&B operators and the leisure sector – the ambiance of a place is all-important.

When you get it right it can create a welcoming atmosphere and even a sense of wellbeing that boosts customer satisfaction levels and subsequently passenger spend on shopping and F&B.

People simply feel more positive when they are exposed to the right ambiance and, in this respect, lighting makes a significant contribution to their overall experience.

This was not lost on Zurich Airport when it came to deciding on its 2016 Christmas lights, the Swiss gateway opting to go for some unique displays in a bid to surprise and delight visitors during one its busiest times of the year.

Its partners for the project were Zurich-based marketing agency, AROMA, and Austria’s MK Illumination, a company with over 20 years experience of creating festive lighting in locations ranging from city centres to Tyrolean villages and local government offices to shopping malls.

The latter is particularly relevant as Zurich Airport is one of Switzerland’s busiest shopping centres and one of the few places in the country where people from the region can shop on a Sunday.

By their very nature airports tend to be big buildings with oversize facilities, and Zurich is no exception, so MK Illumination focused on using rich showers of warm, golden light points to bring out the best of its architectural design.

They created multiple large centrepiece chandeliers suspended from the ceilings and introduced “brilliant carpets of warm light” spilling over balconies on the upper and mezzanine floors as well as on escalators.

The bedazzling mix of lights meant that wherever passengers were in the terminal they were met with a warm, and unmistakably inviting Christmas atmosphere.

“We really wanted to put our passengers and visitors in a Christmas mood and Christmas lighting, and some beautifully decorated promotional areas, was integral to achieving this goal,” says Andrea Etter, Zurich Airport’s head of advertising and promotions.

“In this respect, I suppose, we can be compared to a big shopping centre. The aim was to make our visitors feel comfortable and have a positive experience of their stay at Zurich Airport, and based on their feedback, we know they felt very comfortable
during the pre-Christmas period.

“They also confirmed that the beautiful decorations had a positive effect on them. As a result, we can recommend upgrading the shopping areas with lighting, decorations and music over the Christmas period.”

In today’s ultra-competitive operating environment where passengers have more choice of which gateways to use than ever before, airports are more than aware that they need to become almost destinations in their own right to attract passengers.

Indeed, market research from companies like AT Kearney claim that airports need to transform themselves into distinct brands to standout from the crowd and differentiate themselves from their rivals.

In Zurich Airport’s case, there is no denying that last winter’s distinctive Christmas lighting helped it in this respect, and it is planning something similar this holiday season.

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