Hub Transition
Business Traveler|February 2017

Airports have become destinations in their own right. Here are some of the top contenders around the world

Clement Huang And Tamsin Cocks

Strolling through the departures terminal at Hong Kong International Airport is a shopaholic’s dream. Gleaming storefronts house luxury designer goods, the latest tech trends, premium luggage and unusual souvenirs. DFS Duty Free tantalizes travelers with high-end cosmetics, perfumes, wines and spirits, and there’s a wide range of dining outlets ready to replenish you after a shopping frenzy. Add in a diverse number of leisure options, and you could almost forget why you’re there in the first place. It’s a phenomenon that’s being replicated at international hubs worldwide.

The relationship between airports and retail is a natural fit; after all, brands have a captive audience of affluent customers with idle time on their hands. Sparks first flew in 1947, when businessman Brendan O’Regan introduced the revolutionary idea of duty-free shopping to Ireland’s Shannon Airport and the concept spread like wildfire.

“What started as a relatively smallscale activity, meeting the immediate needs of travelers, has emerged as both an important aspect of passengers’ travel experience and a major financial contributor to the aviation sectors,” says Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Without duty free and travel retail revenue, airports would not be able to provide the facilities and services they do.”

A recent study by Credence Research found that the airport retail market was set to grow to $48 billion globally by 2021 – and what retailer could say no to a slice of that pie? “Once passengers step through the security scanner a ‘golden hour’ begins. Most are relatively prosperous; all are briefly at loose ends,” says Saba Tahir, vice president of purchasing at Dubai Duty Free. Meanwhile, Italian sunglasses manufacturer Luxottica calls airport sales “the Formula 1 of retail.”

Emerging in tandem is a trend to introduce more leisure facilities at airports – happy passengers make for happy sales reports. Common themes include a focus on F&B options, lounge facilities, relaxation areas and technology, while more innovative solutions have led to things like Airbrau, an on-site brewery and beer garden in Munich, and a museum of classical paintings in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

Singapore Changi Airport

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