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MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Last modified on February 24, 2010

Great story

ACI director general, Angela Gittens, reflects on the importance of good marketing and communication and the benefits of the Airport Service Quality programme.

No one can tell our story better than we can. Usually airports are so busy doing their job that we neglect to tell anyone, assuming that what we do is obvious. After all, facilitating safe and secure travel has been a guiding force in airport business since the establishment of the Chicago Convention, which laid the framework for global air transport.

To that mandate, we add our commitment to minimise the industry’s environmental impact in the interests of a sustainable future.

At the same time, each airport contributes to the economic viability of the cities and regions we serve, as well as ensuring excellent customer service delivery to the passengers and shippers who count on us – day after day.

Nothing new in that for our readers, but communicating that to our governments, regulators, customers and stakeholders is a challenge. Business as usual is not an enticing message. So we must think seriously about how we market ourselves in order to convey the success we have had in fulfilling these mandates.

The past year has been particularly challenging for airports. Most suffered from falling business results, ailing airlines and shrinking business revenues. Yet we continued to serve our communities and to work with air traffic services and airlines to bring safe travel to 4.7 billion passengers in our airports worldwide. Bad news seems to make the headlines, but we have a good story to tell.

ACI’s Airport Service Quality (ASQ) programme has given us a way of getting the story out. When we announce the top performers in customer service quality, the media jump on the news. They want to know what passengers have told us, what they like and what they dislike and what airports are doing about it.

They want to know how their demands have changed and how this differs from one region to another and from one size category to another. It is gratifying to see that the media seeks the substance of passenger service improvement, not just a listing.

And the top airports use this opportunity to talk about what they are doing to better understand passenger preferences and priorities and align their service offerings.

Customer loyalty is a delicate and precious commodity.

What pleases a passenger today becomes tomorrow’s expectation. To maintain top performance, an airport must continuously refresh its offer and introduce innovations that delight the passenger on subsequent trips. We need to communicate this positive message to our stakeholders and the media using all the tools available to us – websites, airport magazines, press releases and open meetings with community and government representatives and local interest groups. We need to engage our staff in this effort, recognising that each staff member is an ambassador for our airport.

In the same way, many airports make excellent use of their environmental projects to demonstrate that they are fully engaged in addressing issues of carbon emissions, noise and quality of life around the airport. They build case studies that explain what they are doing, with whom they are working and the results they are attaining. In every region we have excellent news on progress being made. More of us need to invest in this reporting.

A positive image brings compelling benefits. It helps to attract and retain airlines; it helps to attract investors, to entice the best retailers, to build credibility with our municipalities and surrounding communities. In that way we build a stable business, get the best financing, develop diversified revenue streams and win their understanding and support of airport development plans. Those benefits are certainly worth the effort.

We may have tight budgets and limited resources, but it would be a mistake to miss an opportunity to tell our story.

On the following page you will see this year's ASQ award winners. We thank them for giving all of us a great story to tell!

Airport World 2010 - Issue 1

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