Airport World editor, Joe Bates, reflects on the growth and development of retail/F&B concession offerings at the world’s gateways and looks forward to 2017.
Airports are clearly in my blood because my very first job was as a trainee journalist at Heathrow Airport back in the early 1980s.
The company that took a chance on me was called Brenard Press and it was fronted by two former WWII spitfire pilots who, to an impressionable 18 year old, were larger than life characters from a bygone age that I admired and was petrified of in equal measures.
The only reason I mention this really is that within a few days of starting work there one of them told me to think upon Heathrow as being like a city in its own right, as it effectively had everything you would find in any metropolis, plus a couple of runways.
Its population was its workforce and like most other big airports across the world it had its own police force, fire brigade, tenants, restaurants, bars, shops, car parks, taxi stands, bus garage, train stations and a church (religious building).
About the only thing it didn’t have was someone living there, although there used to be a pig farmer whose house was literally a few hundred feet from the runway and a resident photographer spent so much time in the old Control Tower Bar that we used to joke that he never left the place!
Realising that the then operators of Heathrow, BAA, couldn’t do all of this on their own I quickly discovered the importance of concessions and concessionaires for retail/F&B operations and other services such as managing airport hotels and operating car parks.
Today, most airports use concessions to provide the bulk of their non-aeronautical activities and many airports themselves are operated as concessions.
Arguably the most high profile concessions at airports are the retail/F&B offerings, and these have undergone somewhat of a transformation in the last few years as airports have realised the importance of concessions offerings to the bottom line and customer satisfaction levels.
Indeed, shops and restaurants now generate significant non-aeronautical revenues for airports and it feels like an ever-increasing number of gateways and concessionaires have recognised that providing better facilities, more varied offerings and a new focus on the passenger experience can yield remarkable results.
It is certainly no coincidence, for example, that almost without exception all of the top performing gateways in ACI’s annual Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Survey have impressive and, in some cases, award winning concessions programmes.
The once bland and dull airport shopping and dining experience has increasingly given way to bold, innovative and sometimes unique facilities that more often than not express a ‘sense of place’.
More and more airports, for instance, are bringing popular local restaurants into their terminals that often provide a traveller’s only chance to visit them on a short trip to the region.
It’s true that, outside of duty free sales, airport shopping isn’t really that cheap, but it isn’t generally that expensive either, which is some achievement considering that airports are capital-intensive assets to operate, maintain and develop.
We put the latest retail/F&B trends, innovations and visions under the microscope in this ‘concessions’ themed issue of Airport World and also consider the appeal of airport hotels and on-site advertising opportunities.
Elsewhere in the magazine we have features about beacon technology; baggage handling; and Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport’s soon to open new terminal.
In our final airport profile of the year we talk to Oslo Airport’s managing director, Øyvind Hasaas, about the gateway’s new capacity enhancing facilities, retail/F&B innovation and pioneering ‘green’ initiatives.
I hope you have enjoyed our global coverage of all the aviation industry news, views and events of 2016 and look forward to doing it all again next year both in print and online at www.airport-world.com