By Debby McElroy
Stars, politicians, literature, music, food, shopping and breathtaking anticipation over the industry’s highest awards! Yes, all that and more was on tap at the ACI-NA Concessions Conference Award Luncheon on Tuesday in Atlanta.
For the last five years, I have heard about the great speakers and informative program, as well as the networking opportunities that make this meeting a “not to be missed” event for airports, concessionaires and consultants. I was excited to attend my first Concessions Conference to see for myself what the buzz was all about. And so far, it has been lived up to my high expectations, with a great keynote speech from Jerry Wilson, SVP and chief customer and commercial officer with The Coca- Cola Company and lots of really useful information on the state of the industry.
But what I was really looking forward to was the airports’ version of the Oscars, especially the announcement of the Richard A. Griesbach Excellence in Airports Concessions Award.
Such an event deserves a fabulous MC and we had one! Robin Mead, star of HLN’s Morning Express”, which is also seen on CNN’s Airport Network from 6 to 10 AM, not only presented the awards but entertained the crowd with a great story about being the only journalist invited to accompany President George H.W. Bush on a tandem skydive to celebrate his 85th birthday.
Robin was clearly familiar with many of the airports celebrated at the luncheon and she complimented a number of the restaurants and shops, asking questions about new concepts that piqued her interest. She thanked Hudson News for carrying her book and joined the crowd’s enthusiastic response when Gerard Lim, Manager, concession leasing, from Vancouver Airport Authority announced that Nashville International Airport was the 2011 Griesbach winner.
Ironically Robin had just reported that earlier in the morning she asked her twitter followers for their favorite airport concession and the winner was Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge Bar at Nashville International Airport. Reminding the crowd that Nashville Airport pipes music into their restrooms, she suggested that Rebecca Ramsey, assistant director of properties, who accepted the award for the airport, make sure that her CD (a copy of which was given to all luncheon attendees) is added to the airport playlist.
Congratulations to all of the winners and thanks to everyone attending the conference. Thanks also to all the men and women who work diligently to provide great retail options, as well as food and beverage services to passengers and other airport users.