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PASSENGER SERVICES Last modified on August 5, 2011

Fit and fabulous

Airports are tapping into the health and wellness trend by offering their passengers a huge variety of services and products, writes Lucy Siebert.

The global health and wellness industry is today worth billions of dollars and airports have finally realised that they are perfectly placed to offer services that keep their passengers healthy and happy, while also generating new revenue for their bottom lines.

From outdoor running and hiking tracks, to spas, salons, meditation rooms, dance classes, light therapy and medical centres with everything from dentists to midwives, airports are getting into the health and beauty action in a big way.

Probably the best-known health and beauty offering at airports today are spas and beauty salons. Asian airports, such as Singapore Changi and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, are renowned for their massage and touch therapies and now airports in the rest of the world are waking up to the benefits of these services.

An industry leader in the US is XpresSpa, which launched in 2003 and has grown to have more than 41 outlets. Over the 2011 summer period it had nearly one new store opening per week and has started its international expansion at Amsterdam Schiphol, where a third outlet was due to open in Lounge 3 this summer.

Moreton Binn, CEO of XpresSpa, explains how the chain got started: “We started the concept when we returned to the USA post 9/11 after living in China for a few years. Touch and massage therapies and reflexology are huge in Asia and all the big airports have them. When we returned and saw what a mess the US airports were in with the increased security and waiting times, we realised that airports had become the perfect place to offer this type of service.”

Initially it started out as the ‘Feet First Xpress Spa’ with a focus on reflexology but soon expanded into pedicures and then manicures, which require paraffin wax treatments. The natural step from that was into wax treatments and then into offering a full beauty service in an airport setting.

Binn explains why airport operators have been so supportive of the XpresSpa concept: “Airports want to work with professional brands that are airport savvy and we understand the dynamics of major gateways and how to make our services work best.”

He adds that XpresSpa is in the top 5% of all revenue generators at all its airport locations, which makes it an excellent proposition for airport operators.

“At JFK T5, the JetBlue terminal, our spa is generating $3,800 per square foot in revenue,” he says. “XpresSpa is in the top 10% of revenue producing concessionaires and the average spend at our spas is $42. That is a lot of money, and services generate higher spends. For instance, a customer can come in looking for a manicure but then we can offer them a back massage at the same time, so that generates more money. Airports love that because they take a percentage of the gross revenue.”

Binn adds that his customers continued to spend during the recession, which he puts down to the ‘lipstick’ effect – where people continue to treat themselves during a downturn – and the strength of the airside locations. “Inside an airport your selection is narrowed to what is in the airport, so more than price, time, becomes the key factor,” he says.

Now, XpresSpa plans to expand its offering into basic hair services, such as hair washing and blow dries for women and a wash and cut for men, with facial shaves also on offer.

Even with the XpresSpa expansion at Amsterdam Schiphol there is clearly space for even more players in the airport, with the new Airport Rituals Store & Spa having opened airside in Pier C in May. Operated by Kappé Schiphol, this offers a range of products for sale and express hand and foot care treatments in the spa.

Raising eyebrows (and glasses)
Specialist eyebrow salon Inside and Out at Edinburgh Airport in Scotland is in the business of ensuring that passengers and airport staff always look their best. The salon opened in December 2010, and while it specialises in eyebrow shaping and tinting it also offers a full-range of treatments including waxing.

The 17-foot long s-shaped Champagne Nail Bar sounds like the ideal way to start a weekend away or a business trip and best of all, the technicians can tailor a treatment to ensure that passengers get to their gates on time.

Director of Inside and Out, Lian McAdam, says: “The nail and brow bars are very popular. Lots of passengers like to pop in for a 15-minute polish and a glass of Champagne. Many men like to use the brow bar too, and that is in a discreet location so they feel comfortable. We are starting to get a lot of business passengers, as we are located next to the BA lounge, and they are now starting to book appointments in advance.”

Other gateways have also noticed the salon, with McAdams disclosing that five other UK airports have approached her company about looking at incorporating the salon into their gateways.

Edinburgh Airport’s head of retail and property, Fiona Ward, believes Inside and Out strengthens the airport’s retail mix: “We’ve recently spent €48.6 million on our departure lounge expansion, allowing us to double our retail footprint. Passenger research showed that they wanted their holiday experience to begin at the airport and within the theme of treating yourself, the idea of providing a beauty service emerged. Inside and Out is proving to be very popular with our passengers and staff.”

Airport lounges are also starting to embrace the spa and hair salon concept, which was initially championed by airlines such as Virgin Atlantic in its famous Clubhouse lounges.

The perfect airline lounge for aviation lovers has to be the Finnair Spa & Saunas at Helsinki Vantaa. The spa’s steam sauna and a traditional Finnish sauna overlook the airport’s taxiways, so passengers can combine plane spotting with sweating away some toxins. The spa also has a traditional hamam bath and a pool, and therapists are on hand to perform a number of express treatments.

Fish therapy pedicures
Now the likes of No.1 Traveller, operator of luxury airport lounges at a number of London airports, as well as JFK in New York, are beginning to incorporate spa offerings into their lounges.

A new No.1 Traveller lounge opened in Gatwick’s North Terminal in May, with the big draw being one of the newest and trendiest treatments to hit Europe’s shores – a fish therapy pedicure, which is hugely popular in Asia and is also available at the Refresh Bodyworks Fish Spa & Reflexology outlet in Singapore Changi.

The No.1 Traveller spa also offers quick hair washes and blow dries, manicures, pedicures, facials and massages, all available at an additional cost to entrance to the lounge.

A new No.1 Traveller Lounge will open in London Heathrow in August featuring 12 new bedrooms (opening in September) where transit passengers can catch up on their beauty sleep.

Mediation and mindfulness

Now it is all well and good, looking your best on the outside, but you also need to work on the inside. Port Columbus in central Ohio is proud of its Meditation Room, where travellers can pause to catch their breath and meditate. This is an interfaith facility, with a collection of holy books, sacred writings, and prayer books for use by guests of the airport.

Exercise junkies
Once you have worked on your mind then it is time for your body. Exercise has been proven to be one of the most effective ways of combating the side effects of jetlag and many airports now offer their passengers a range of exercise options. These range from Singapore Changi’s Balinesethemed swimming pool and poolside area in Terminal 1 to Baltimore’s BWI Trail, which is a 12.5-mile hiking-and-biking path that circles the airport and goes through wetlands and forest areas.

Airport hotels have been quick to get into the health trend, with many offering excellent gym facilities for weary transit passengers and guests. A city that prides itself on healthy living is Vancouver, and at The Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel passengers can get refreshed and toned in the health club and Absolute Spa day spa. There is a mechanised lap pool, state-of-the-art equipment in the gym and relaxing saunas.

And if visitors are peckish after all of that exercise, The Fairmont Vancouver Airport offers a number of healthy eating options. This includes its Carry on Cuisine programme, which allows travellers to take delicious, fresh meals onboard with them, including smoked British Columbia salmon and a ‘Jet Lag Recovery’ offering. People with special dietary requirements, such as vegans, are catered for through the hotel’s Lifestyle Cuisine and Lifestyle Cuisine Plus and there is even a honeybee programme where visitors can buy honey produced by the hotel’s own bees to take home with them.

Dance classes and light therapy
For people who don’t like conventional exercise, Paris’ airport operator Aéroports de Paris (ADP) took the unusual step of offering free dance classes during the peak summer travel period in 2008. This saw passengers at Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports taking part in one of 15 dances, which depended on their destination – from salsa for Cuba, hip hop for New York and Sirtaki for Greece. The lessons lasted between 10 and 15 minutes and were conducted silently with cordless headsets.

This is not the first time that ADP has taken a foray into alternative health and wellness offerings. For 10 days over the peak Christmas travel period in 2007 passengers at Paris’ two busiest airports were able to try free light therapy, which helps with the winter blues and the effects of jetlag. ADP ran the initiative with partners Be Relax and Philips, which included a ‘cocoon’ rest area with light therapy screens and relaxation chairs where experts gave passengers an introduction to light therapy and massages. They also invited passengers in boarding lounges to try light therapy glasses.

Medical matters
It is not unusual for travellers to require a quick appointment with a doctor or nurse, and Munich Airport has ensured that its health and wellness offerings have a strong focus on the medical side of things. Besides the airport’s grooming services, which include a hairdresser, Nap Cab sleeping cabins and even a shoe shine service, there is the Ärztezentrum or medical centre in the Munich Airport Center, which has doctors from 13 different specialisations including a dentist, dermatologist, gynecologist and orthopedic surgeon. The most recent addition is a midwife’s practice – Christina Ullrich’s new midwifery practice offers new and expectant mothers seeking expert advice, support, services and care.

Recently another European gateway, Prague Airport, threw its weight behind a Europe-wide campaign to raise awareness about skin cancer and the simple steps people can take to prevent the disease. The ‘Tent to Fight Melanoma’ event in May saw specialist doctors from the Kralovske Vinohrady teaching hospital’s dermatology clinic examining passengers free of charge in a specially equipped mobile clinic just in time for the peak summer travel season. The examinations used both manual and digital methods of dermatoscopy, which allows images to be analysed and archived for future monitoring, and the results were immediately available to patients.

There is no disputing that the health and beauty industries will continue to grow, particularly in the emerging markets, which we have barely touched on here. Now is the time for airports to find that special health or wellness product or service that will set them apart from the rest and keep their passengers coming back for more.

This articles in features in Airport World 2011 - Issue 3

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