Creating Destination Airports

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By Eli Rassi
While most airports have traditionally focussed on efficiently moving passengers through the curb-to-plane experience, today some are working to make the airport a venue for conferences, art exhibits, community events, and even birthday parties. The final session at ACI-NA’s Annual Conference was geared towards how airports can increase non-aeronautical revenues while building stronger relationships and business ties with their communities.

Seattle’s Olivia Ingram outlined the benefit of having a facility attached to the airport. It’s all about convenience: this branded corporate meeting space allows for clients to fly in and out of the city without having to leave the airport. The conference center has seven meeting rooms, and 8,000 square feet of meeting space, all generally located in the same area. With all inclusive pricing rates that include “plug and play” capability to A/V, built in screens, and complimentary parking, Ingram said these benefits help attract a variety of clients from the community. The corporate meeting center has grown since first taking off in 2005, and has grown to contribute roughly 30 percent of non-aeronautical revenues.

In Denver, Stuart Williams explained that the airport’s capital projects include a 519 room Westin Hotel (owned by the airport, but operated by Westin), a commuter rail station that will connect to downtown Denver and an open air plaza. In total, the project will occupy over 700,000 square feet.

And to show how much a simple event can increase non-aeronautical revenues, attendees heard from Rahel Kindermann Leuthard, from Zurich Airport, who joined the conference via teleconference. Birthday parties are a big attraction at the Zurich airport.

To give you an idea, 750 children’s parties for children between 5 and 12 years old have been held since 2008. They last about three hours and feature entertainment and an adventure bus tour. Due to the success of marketing the program to the community, the airport is currently booked for birthday parties into 2014.

In 2012, 77,075 visitors took part in guided tours and bus tours (up 19 percent since 2011) and the observation deck saw 422,530 people. Together, guided bus tours have seen an increase from 2007 to 2012 of over 70 percent. All of this, though, is attributed to the strong reputation that the airport built with the community for over 60 years. They have come to know and expect great service from the airport, and the airport delivers.

During the conference, guests heard that airports exist to serve their communities. There is no greater evidence than the efforts airport make to create emotional connections with their communities.