AUSTRALIA. The Australian Airports Association’s inaugural Airport Retail & Commercial Forum took place last week in Gold Coast, and will be long remembered as the first significant gathering of the airport commercial industry in the region after the restrictions caused by the pandemic.

That sense of a return to normality helps to explain the positive mood among airport, concessionaire and other service representatives, almost 200 of whom showed their faith in the future of the sector by attending the conference at the QT Hotel. Strong sponsorship support and a high-class speaker line-up attracted by organisers the AAA, The Mercurius Group and The Moodie Davitt Report also underlined that sense of business on the rebound.

Australian Airports Association Chief Executive James Goodwin welcomes close to 200 guests to the inaugural Forum

While upbeat, the tone was also realistic. Like their peers worldwide, airports and their partners continue to struggle with labour shortages, stock issues and debt and these will all take time to work through for a still troubled aviation eco-system.

The partnership model remains a challenge, as an engaging panel discussion about risk on day one showed. Positively though, the fact that so many airport tenants have made it through the crisis shows that a spirit of cooperation has prevailed – and as we heard, that relationships in many cases have been strengthened.

The consumer, who they are and how they want to engage and transact, was another key talking point, one brought to life by customer and service experts, as well as industry representatives. The digital agenda and ambitions of many companies on display during the week showed a sector grappling with the questions of how to interest and convert consumers, and investing financial and other resources in trying to find the answers.

The event also offered something for everyone, with a refreshing blend of topics spanning duty free and dining to ground transport, property and hotels, as well as themes that resonated with large and small airports alike.

Here we present a pictorial summary of a memorable event.

19 JULY

The Australian Airports Association’s inaugural Airport Retail & Commercial Forum began on Tuesday evening in Gold Coast with ‘a taste of Australia’ networking event sponsored by WHSmith.

Queensland Airports Ltd General Manager Commercial Revenue Isabelle Yates, representing host airport Gold Coast, greeted guests to the Networking Evening, and reflects on the importance of meeting in person once more after more than two years

The Mercurius Group Managing Director Ivo Favotto added his welcome, noting that this inaugural event puts retail and commercial front and centre of the airport conversation

WHSmith Managing Director APAC Carl Hargrave (centre) led the hosting of a fine Networking Evening at the AAA event alongside colleagues Tamara Larkin and Karen Taylor. Below, some more images from a memorable opening evening. 

20 JULY

The Airport Retail & Commercial Forum kicked off with a strong first day of conference sessions on 20 July, featuring a blend of insightful presentations and robust debate on the way forward for the regional industry.

Association CEO James Goodwin saluted the often under-recognised role of commercial activities to airports

Gold Coast Airport Chief Operating Officer Marion Charlton on the ambitious terminal expansion that is nearly complete

Trade & Tourism Minister Don Farrell said that the new Australian government is listening to industry concerns. Below, the Minister with James Goodwin (right) and The Mercurius Group Managing Director Ivo Favotto

Robust debate: Ivo Favotto (left) led a discussion on contractual risk in the system post-COVID featuring (from second left) Mark Zaouk (Sydney Airport), Costa Kouros (LagardereAWPL), Alex Pyrlis and Shane de Wit (Airport Development Group)

Jaquie Scammell spoke eloquently on customer service in a new world

The future of duty free in the region, featuring topics including the new consumer, the category mix and the challenge of labour in the channel, was discussed by (left) Auckland Airport Head of Retail Lucy Thomas, (centre) DFS Oceania Vice President Retail Operations Prashant Mahboobani, (right) Perth Airport Chief Commercial Officer Kate Holsgrove and Heinemann Australia Managing Director George Tsoukalas (below)

A fascinating session on the world of ground transport and the opportunities for airports featured (left to right) Melbourne Airport Head of Commercial, Ground Transport Lena Zaltash, Hertz Vice President Eoin MacNeill, Uber Airports & Travel Lead, Mobility Operations, ANZ Simon Schenkel and Skakra EV Solutions CEO & Founder Sam Khalil, with The Mercurius Group Senior Consultant Diane Owens (right) asking the questions

Todd Handcock: An excellent individual contribution on the changing world of hospitality and experience by the Collinson President, Asia Pacific

Insights into the New Zealand duty free Collection Point system from Christchurch Airport Manager Park to Plane Craig Dunstan

GALA DINNER AND AWARDS

Airport Retail Enterprises Assistant Site Manager – Gold Coast Airport Verity Eddy, Lagardère AWPL Area Manager Maiko Sheppeard, Sydney Airport General Manager – Commercial Leasing Mark Zaouk and Airport Retail Enterprises Chairman and Owner Peter Butts were all recognised at the inaugural Retail & Commercial Awards on 20 July.

Winning smiles: Maiko Sheppeard, Verity Eddy, Mark Zaouk and Peter Butts with their AAA awards on 20 July in Gold Coast

The awards, made by nomination and selected by the organising committee, paid tribute to career achievement and industry contribution as well as the key role of customer-facing and back-of-house team members.

They were presented by Kym Meys, National Chair of the Australian Airports Association, and Executive General Manager Planning & Infrastructure at Adelaide Airport.

Eddy was recognised as Team Member Recognition in Food & Beverage for helping to carry the business through the pandemic and out the other side, while still ensuring her team offered superb customer service.

The awards were presented by National Chair of the Australian Airports Association Kym Meys (right) to (from top) Verity Eddy, Maiko Sheppeard, Mark Zaouk and Peter Butts

Sheppeard won the Team Member Recognition Award for Retail, having risen through the ranks of the company, starting in the store, becoming a location manager and now an area multi-location manager.

The Moodie Davitt Report President Dermot Davitt announced the awards

Zaouk, who won Career Achievement Award Airports, has overseen the retail transformation of three terminals and been a key influence on the delivery of strong revenue growth at Sydney Airport, as well as helping introduce a range of first to market concepts to the location.

Butts is among the pioneers of the industry in Australia, with a career of over 50 years, and ARE the biggest F&B operation in Australia by number of outlets.

During COVID, he decided to show his support to his airport partners by keeping at least one outlet open at each airport, even if it was losing money, to support and provide a service to passengers as well as airport staff.

He won the Career Achievement Award Concessionaire at the awards evening. Other images from the evening are featured below.

21 JULY

Themes such as digital innovation, the future for food & beverage, property opportunities and the way forward for regional airports were discussed on the final day of the Airport Retail & Commercial Forum.

Adelaide Airport Landside & Digital Business Manager Christina Selvanayagam took delegates on a journey through the ambitious investment drive behind digital at the southern airport, including the introduction of the ADL Order Now platform in partnership with Servy

A strong food & beverage panel discussed the challenge of growing passenger spend rates and sustainability, respectively from Kieran Fitzpatrick, Chief Operating Officer at Delaware North (second right), Shane Beyer, Chief Operating Officer APAC at SSP (right). Guests also heard inspiring success stories from two F&B operators at smaller airports, Katelyn Aslett, Founder of Taste Whitsunday (second left) and Nerida Baker, Owner and Manager of Beach Grill & Salt Bar at Ballina Byron Airport (left).

Driving digital innovation across the airport marketplace was the theme of a panel featuring (from left) oOH!Media National Commercial Director Elise Taylor, First Parking Managing Director Daniel Hitchcock, Wilson Parking Chief Technology Officer Paul Sidwell, CPI Partner Jeremy Corfield and Plaza Premium Group Regional General Manager Poh Kiat Lee

Margy Osmond, CEO of Tourism & Transport Forum Australia, outlined the role of tourism in the economy as travel returns, as well as the challenges faced by Australia’s tourism sector from labour to market reputation

Design with a human face: DesignInc Director Cathryn Drew-Bredin

Think Global Managing Director Kristy Ihle: Better understanding the traveller and translating data into commercial outcomes

The all-important voice of regional airports was represented by (from left) Sunshine Coast Airport General Manager – Operations & Commercial Kate McCreery Carr, Newcastle Airport Commercial Development Manager Andrew Warrender and Ballina Byron Gateway Airport Manager Airport and Commercial Services Paul Tsikleas

The customer experience in a changed world was the focus for consumer expert Claire Donnellan

The opportunity to develop airport property featured in a session that included (from top) Sunshine Coast Airport General Manager Property Development Andrew Hay, Kevin Murphy, who heads investor relations at hospitality consulting brand Horwath HTL and Lecturer, Researcher and Consultant in Aviation Dr. Mirjam Wiedemann

The event sessions were chaired by The Moodie Davitt Report Dermot Davitt with support from The Mercurius Group Managing Director Ivo Favotto and The Mercurius Group Senior Consultant Diane Owens

SOCIAL NETWORKING

By AKDSEO