by Sanjay Malik
Is it time for Airports to transform into mini Cities to cater to the changing environment of air travel?
There are more and more travellers every year and correspondingly an increase in the amount spent on food and retail at any airport; then why is it that offerings remain the same at most airports in North America.
An ACI-NA report states that in 2012 over $550M was spent at North American Airports on food items and another $630M on retail; great news, however, there is still a potential for tremendous growth. Passengers will pay for accessible choices, just as people still go to the malls, they want their shopping experience even though they are avid online purchasers.
With increasing security, extended closing time for check-in counters, fear of missing their flights, more and more travellers are arriving early to the airport and here is where the opportunities arise to get their attention and meet their specific needs.
With time on their hands, sitting in an enclosed building, most people as I do, resort to tapping into WIFI and concentrating on screen time. Can this time be utilized to provide an exemplary journey to the traveller by providing better accessible choices than just the standard fast food and coffee places that most places offer?
A majority of people, particularly the 25 to 34-year category that statistics show spend the most, will purchase a food item be it a snack or a drink prior to their flight. The primary interest is in availability and accessibility of good healthy options at affordable pricing. If the food is good and there are more accessible and affordable choices than a cold turkey sandwich or a burger and fries, people will pay for it.
The next important aspect to consider is the ease of availability of a service or a product. Most leisure travelers may forego the hike at large airports to go in search of a dining experience that is a considerable distance from their gate. A few airports have kept pace and offer an iPad ordering station right at the gate for food without taking up valuable gate area real estate. Moving forward and keeping pace would be mobile carts that bring the experience and choice to the travelers right at their door or in this case their gate. Kiosks and vending machines options are growing in heavy foot traffic areas; however, do they catch the traveler’s attention to the same degree as they would within the gate area.
To transform from an airport, a building that is the gateway to the aircraft, to an airport-city where you have accessible choices of food outlets, retail, and entertainment, a new thought process requires to be explored.
The focus needs to be on “Accessibility, Availability and Affordability” in the choices available for any consumer related service or product. Most airports have the infrastructure and financial aspects in place and now need to attract the right vendors to provide a seamless service.
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