“We have more hugs, kisses and tears per square metre than any other place in the world”, was the comment by the CEO of Tampa International Airport, Joseph Lopano, demonstrating the role airports play in most of our lives.
The first panel discussion of Airports Council International (ACI) general assembly was one of clear optimism. It focused on they key measures to focus on in order to drive business growth at airports, namely retaining talent and driving an airport’s brand.
Working at an airport and having a clear role in its operations is like leading an orchestra, said Bongani Maseko, chair of ACI World and CEO of Airports Company South Africa. Like any orchestra, an airport is a multifaceted operation in which precision is key to ensure success. Success at airports is business growth.
But business growth is not simply managing passengers day-to-day: “it’s not just a job, it is a mission”, the panel concurred. Lopano, from Tampa Airport furthered commented on this by stating that a person must commit to a cause in their lives and a commiment to operating an airport is a worthy one as it allows people to meet one another and different cultures to be explored.
But retaining the talent needed is a challenge. More younger people, whom posses key skills needed to drive growth at airports, must be incentivised to attribute their value to airports in Europe and beyond.
“An airport is a cool thing to be a part of”, Lopano stated with Copenhagen Airport CEO, Thomas Woldbye agreeing that an airport is not a boring place that “moves suitcases around” but rather a place to be that is dynamic, exciting and attractive. “Airports are sexy”, Woldbye stated.
Feldman stated that more under-30 year-olds need to be represented in the industry to ensure their talent stays within the aviation industry.
Perfecting an airport’s brand can also be an important metric to evaluate growth. An airport’s brand is like a personality extension, said Lopano. For example, Tampa Airport’s brand is one of images of beaches, shorts and flip-flops. The airport reflects this image by offering an environment that is friendly, laid-back and welcoming.
Leveraging passenger data is something which can help an airport build a brand also. The panel conceded that passenger data has not been used to the extent it should have in the past but airports are rectifying this now as data-drive companies like Uber and Google take the limelight in industry.
Maseko stated that tech companies that rely on data should not be seen as competition but rather as partners that airports can work with on offering a ‘start-to-finish’ experience for passengers.
An airport is something which is visited by a vast number of people in the world and it forms part of our memories of travelling. The leaders whom sat on the panel at ACI’s event this week know this and is operating with that in mind.
ACI Europe’s general assembly runs until the afternoon of tomorrow, 20th June 2018.