TRUnblocked.com, in partnership with London design firm Portland, is staging a ground-breaking travel retail/airport webinar on
16 September. Here, Mark Lane asks Portland Director Lewis Allen about what we can expect from Future Airports: From Here to Where?, which aims at reimagining the future air passenger journey, as great thinkers converge in this webinar to kick-start a travel retail revolution.

Mark Lane (ML): You claim your event is not just another ‘talking shop’, or a copy of what we have already seen in terms of webinars for the travel retail/aviation industry since COVID-19 started to change the landscape forever. So, what can we expect instead?

Lewis Allen (LA): Previous conversations around the future of airports since COVID-19 struck have been fragmented. In my opinion, they have played into the idea of people staying in their silos.

What we wanted to do was assemble stakeholders from different disciplines and experiences who, by being in the same conversation at the same time, have got a lot to learn from each other, and a lot of new insights for our audience.

Our principle aim is breaking down any barriers in conversations surrounding airport and travel retail. And, of course, we wanted to introduce people who were previously on the extremities of the conversation, or were not even there at all – in doing so bringing some great, and very relevant, new thinkers to the debate.

ML: How would you sum up the quality of the line-up for the event that you’ve assembled? What was your criteria in selecting this particular set of individuals?

LA.: There is one common theme running through all the individuals. We think they have got something in their experience, in their vision, in their ideas, that is future-focused. They understand that future, they understand the opportunity for airports and travel retail, and they can suggest the right kind of changes to make revolution happen.

Of course, we have some very well-known people and very talented people from inside the business in our event line-up. But, importantly, there are also some fresh voices from domestic retail contributing to our event who are doing excellent things around the way brands and consumers are behaving now, reacting to those different behaviours and different mind-sets, and coming up with real, actionable solutions.

Lewis Allen, Senior Director, Portland Design

” Our principle aim is breaking down any barriers in conversations surrounding airports and travel retail”.

ML: Your event previews talk about growing the future asset values of airports. What do you mean by that exactly?

LA: We understand that ultimately the value of an airport as an asset can be attributed to lots of factors, and of great importance among those is the commercial success of the non-aeronautical parts of the business. Primary in this is retail, which makes a huge contribution to the value of the asset.

We are not here just to talk about nice design and fine experiences for consumers. Everything we do is geared to understanding that it has a purpose, which is ultimately to enable that asset to sustain itself as a bare minimum, but also to grow its worth in terms of its financial value and also its value to the communities that it serves.

In understanding the asset value, it’s not just the airport and the physical infrastructure base and the amenities that that provides that we need to concentrate on. It’s also about the journeys that we are creating before, through and beyond at the airport. Airport owners and brands need to connect and engage with consumers through the entire length of that journey.

Traditionally in travel retail, we have looked at converting passengers into customers; how can you take somebody who is focused on getting from A to B and say come and shop or come and dine? The narrowness of that approach needs to change – we need to go beyond that to a wider perspective, focusing on audience expectations.

And it’s a valuable audience with wider, more sophisticated needs; it’s not just a passenger that we want to sell something to. It’s an audience that we want to engage with, that we want to be fascinated by our explanations, by our brands. We want them to follow us and we want them to see us as an influencer in their lives.

Audience is one area of asset development that needs to be thought about more clearly because it has an opportunity to be developed and adds to the value of the asset going forward.

What we mean about audiences, and capitalising on the full length of the passenger journey, is that we need to focus not just on what happens when customers physically set foot into a store or an airport.

This is where domestic retail is headed and this is where we think travel retail should also head because it has been too focused, in our opinion, on the idea that we can make a lot of money from a small number of people and we can make a lot of money from luxury. Therefore, for the majority of shoppers and travellers, the offer is irrelevant. And it’s not for them because it has not been thought about for them.

That cannot be allowed to continue if our industry is to get back to its feet and thrive long into the future.

ML: Will this be a view and listen event or will there be opportunities for attendees to interact and ask questions and contribute to the debate?

LA: It is one of our success criteria that we want people to be sufficiently challenged, sufficiently intrigued, sufficiently interested, sufficiently inspired to say: okay, I have an opinion. So, yes there will be tools in our webinar set up for our audience to contribute to the debate. Our panellists will respond to any specific questions addressed to them.

ML: What is going to be your style in moderating? What do you hope to bring to the debate yourself?

LA: To summarise, my job, alongside Peter Marshall, is to help people see the future more clearly and to make the audience understand that it’s less risky to evolve than it is to stay standing still.

Peter Marshall, Founder, www.trunblocked.com

” You can expect some bold statements and some very healthy exchanges”.

Peter will be very much taking the lead on the presenting and moderating front though; he has an uncanny knack of being able to extract from any panellist exactly what the audience is looking to hear, and needs to hear. You can expect some bold statements and some very healthy exchanges.

ML:  Your tasters for the event were mentioned that there will be ‘surprise segments’. What are you referring to here?

LA: Yes, there will, but it would be no surprise if I told you now, would it?! Enough to say that there will be a few video vignettes that take an irreverent look at some of the stakeholders and current conversations. They should certainly resonate.

ML: We are a global industry but will a global audience be able view your event? How will you overcome the challenges presented by different time zones?

LA: We’ve had high demand from people from both East and West. Reacting to this, we have decided to change our original schedule from two UK time afternoons, to a single day on 16 September, so that we have a morning and an afternoon. This way, it is more friendly to more people in different time zones.

For those delegates that can’t be available for our schedule, or can only realistically watch a portion of it because of time zones, there will also be on-demand access to all of the content post-event.

ML: How will the success of your event ultimately be judged?

LA: I think there needs to be a number of take outs. Firstly, that we ignite a genuine change of mindset that is applied sooner rather than later across the key industry stakeholders. We shouldn’t kid ourselves – the industry has changed irrevocably and the management in companies need to realise that looking back is no way forward.

Secondly, that we are offering genuine new principles and guidelines for operating in this business. And not just guiding principles across the board, but viable solutions that can be applied right now and ones that will work for the benefit of the business community and, most importantly, the consumer.

Finally, this industry has a habit of copying. It will just take one airport to enact a new model and for that model to work, that a domino effect will apply. In this case, copying is arguably a damn good thing.

To register, please go to:  www.fromheretowhere.co.uk. Registration closes on September 11th 2020

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