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Airport Business & Trinity Forum draws 350 delegates

United Arab Emirates: Thursday, March 15 - 2007 @ 11:31

Focusing on the theme of “The Big Picture”, the speakers addressed an increasingly central role for the industry to ensure commercial success in the aviation sector and a better offer for the travelling consumer.

Opening Session
Martin Moodie Editor of The Moodie Report and Robert J Aaronson Director General of ACI confirmed that with such an enthusiastic turnout at the forum and unique networking opportunities offered to the attendees, this will become an annual industry event.

The customer experience is a leading factor at this conference, where customer needs and travel perceptions are perceived to be at the core of building better commercial revenues. With both passenger and cargo traffic increasingly steadily, Aaronson warned the forum that industry partners must work together to ensure adequate capacity so that the passenger has the travel experience he expects, as free of congestion and slowdowns as possible.

His Excellency Sultan Al Mansoori, Minister of Development for Government Sector, welcomed the delegates to Dubai, which he characterised as one of the most exciting aviation retail revenue locations in the world. Dubai is building for the future, making sure that existing and new facilities are in line with the vision of their city and region as a primary travel and transit destination, with the airport city planning on six runways and capacity to handle 180 million passengers. At that scale, he is confident that duty free sales will increase proportionately.

Keynote speakers
The first of day one’s keynote speakers Colm McLoughlin, Managing Director, Dubai Duty Free, challenged delegates to embrace a wider vision of retail development at airports and to invest in that vision to keep the business growing and improving. McLoughlin predicts sales of USD 1 billion by 2009 for his organisation that will continue to drive ahead with the booming aviation market. He warned the retailers to take account of city retailers’ techniques and that the industry should learn from them how to market itself more effectively and more attractively in order to remain competitive.

Mark Riches, Managing Director World Duty Free, emphasised that the consumer experience is vital for successful retail business, and he questioned whether the airport industry as a whole really treats passengers as true customers or if we are still in “passenger processing” mode. He called on his peers to be more consistent in their messages to passengers in order to build brand recognition for Airport Shopping that passengers trust – enticing them, not just processing them. When the industry begins to speak with one voice as a global industry, he added, that is when we start to change negative consumer perceptions.

Seizing Market Opportunities
Speakers from all branches of the industry continued to challenge attendees on the theme of getting participants to think outside the box, to introduce innovation and fresh approaches to the business. CEO of Dufry Group Julian Diaz gave a live on-stage interview and again underlined the high potential underpinning airport commercial business. Pointing to the sound fundamentals led by growing traffic and tourism, Diaz said the business was set to show rapid growth in the future. He predicted continued consolidation at operator level.

Sung-Joo Kim, President of luxury house MCM, gave an interesting perspective on women in the industry, as consumers whose tastes and preferences are rapidly changing and who need to be actively drawn into high ‘value for money’ offers. Mr Kjeld Binger, Chief Executive of Dubai Aerospace Enterprise’s Airports Division expressed the deep ambition of his dynamic organisation, and the enormous opportunities he identifies in the global airport market where we must translate what we observe today into new means of attracting and streamlining the airport experience.

Driving Revenues
Managing Director of Philip Morris Worldwide, George Farah gave a proposal for boosting duty free revenues and presented pioneering international consumer research that underlines the critical role of real partnership amongst the Trinity members Sarah Mettetal of JCDecaux tackled the questions of how the Trinity can and should better exploit the airport advertising medium. And there was a very well-received address by Inderjit Singh, Executive Director of Airports Authority of India, who spoke of the incredible pace of development in the Indian sub-continent.

Two workshops completed the afternoon sessions, with presentations and discussions on market development: the first dealt with promotional mechanisms, use of new and futuristic technology, the role of entertainment in the retail experience; the second addressed ideas on how to spark the traveller’s imagination through diversification of the offer, the combination of airport revenue streams and new commercial sectors that can expand the traditional take on airport retail.

Customer Service Excellence Awards
On Monday evening, DCA hosted a superb airport awards ceremony at the Dubai Aviation Club, honouring those airports that garnered the top Airport Customer Service Awards. The top three Best Airport Worldwide awards went respectively to Incheon (South Korea), Hong Kong International Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Abu Dhabi took top place in the category Best Airport Middle East and Africa. Abu Dhabi also won the Airport People Award for the Middle East region, which is a new award this year that recognises those airports that have been highly appreciated by travellers for courtesy and friendliness.

Host airport for the event, Dubai won a Special Recognition Award presented by ACI’s Aaronson. “This exceptional reward honours the long standing commitment of the Dubai airport to service excellence,” said Aaronson. “Dubai has consistently shown leadership, innovation and commitment to quality in airport service delivery over the past ten years.” The Managing Director of Dubai Duty Free, Colm McLoughlin was honoured by ACI’s Forum partner, The Moodie Report, with an Outstanding Career Contribution to Airport Commercial Business.

Investment and Partnership
The second day of the conference focused on investment and partnership: analysing and understanding commercial revenue streams and building profitable partnerships between retailers and airport operators to enhance revenue and profits. Three of the world’s leading brand companies, Diageo, Luxottica and Nestle spoke impressively about the great potential of the market but the equally compelling need to give brands space and the right environment in order to drive revenues. Another highlight was a short but superb impromptu presentation by Mr JH Lee, the CEO of Incheon International Airport Corp. Incheon had been named Best Airport Worldwide the night before at the ASQ Awards and Mr Lee was in ebullient mood. Again he reiterated that commercial revenues were an integral part of Incheon’s ambitions and he revealed that the long awaited duty free tender will take place this month.

The Security Crunch
A top issue on most delegates’ minds, the ramifications of new security measures for liquids, aerosols and gels were at the heart of the presentation made by ACI Security Director Craig Bradbrook. He reviewed the current situation, latest developments internationally and the need to push forward for a global solution. The tension between the industry’s absolute commitment to security standards and a strong commitment to improving the passenger experience at airports is driving a joint industry effort that has culminated in a proposal made to the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The industry has made its case for finding a universal and sustainable solution that can help limit the negative impact on airport commercial sales, in particular for sales of spirits to passengers who transit through Europe and are having them confiscated. Both the retailers and airports value this stable and important component of airport commercial revenues. If heavily impacted due to passenger confusion or fear of confiscation at transit points, the overall reduction in sales would have a notable effect on airport finances.

One of the best sessions of all came at the end of the Forum as airport leaders from all geographical regions joined a panel that underlined the increasing importance of airport commercial revenues.

The final afternoon session, carried out in a highly informal setting, looked at key consumer-related issues, such as consumer media, psychological impact of restrictions, the impact on consumer spending, stress-reducing ideas and consumer service judgement.

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Thursday, March 15- 2007 @ 11:31 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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