Comment: What does the new traveller want, and how can airports give it to them?

The new travelling consumer is seeking hyper-convenient, contactless, mobile services, says Airport Dimensions

Airport Dimensions Global Strategy Director Stephen Hay assesses how the industry should be adapting to new traveller profiles and behaviours. 

Stephen Hay: Concern that customers are now less satisfied with the range, quality and value for money at airport retail and dining outlets

As passengers continue to return to travel in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s very clear that what they want from their airport experience is very different, writes Stephen Hay.

The past two years have seen dramatic changes in the way consumers lead their lives at home, and they expect things to have moved on when they travel too. While most airports appreciate this, many are unsure of how they go about adapting their offer to meet the needs of this new generation of traveller.

We at Airport Dimensions have been conducting research into the evolution of the traveling consumer for a number of years now. The latest edition of our survey offers some helpful pointers as to what airports need to do keep that consumer happy in the post-COVID world.

How to adapt to changing traveller profiles

The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards the dominance of Millennials and Gen Z. Going forward, airports will need to consider their level of understanding of these types of traveller and how effectively they are currently engaging with them. The post-pandemic airport experience can then be designed around meeting these emerging demands.

As the world continues to digitally develop, so too must its airports. With a seamless digital experience now at the forefront of many travellers’ expectations, it is imperative for airports to provide hyper-convenient, contactless, mobile services.

Collecting data and understanding the preferences and behaviour of the post-pandemic traveller will benefit airports and enable them to make the right changes in the right places. Community and focus groups will also be key to discovering what travellers currently enjoy and engage with at the airport, and where they feel it could be improved.

How to raise satisfaction with the airport experience

Our research showed that while the percentage of satisfied customers is slightly up over the past two years, that satisfaction dips at the worst possible time. Travellers are relatively satisfied when arriving at the airport and when boarding the plane but satisfaction drops as low as 52% in the period in between, which is of course where the money is spent. Customers are much less satisfied with the range, quality and value for money of retail and dining outlets.

Key messages for airports include investing in digitalisation, targeted promotion convenience and greater flexibility for travellers

The central elements which need to be addressed in the near future will include digitalisation, targeted promotion convenience and greater flexibility for travellers when using airport services.

Airports could consider implementing a single mobile interface in which travellers can access all services for example, or enhance their retail and F&B offerings with flexible options for order and collection. Another recommendation would be to work with concessions to drive targeted promotions which demonstrate better value for the traveller.

How to get closer to the passenger

An interesting element identified by the research is that travellers are very much open to an airport relationship.

However, far too many airports are not taking advantage of this by addressing and acting on the desire for a relationship and dialogue between airports and passengers. Travellers believe that airports are not doing a good enough job of communicating, with this sentiment having increased by 10% or more over the past two years, suggesting that communication is not improving.

As travel continues in its recovery from the pandemic, airports need to prioritise the building of a relationship by creating a dialogue with the traveller.

Airport Dimensions highlights the importance of building relationships with the traveller

How to make the most of commercial opportunities

Travellers are still willing to spend, but they will do so on their own terms. A surprising and potentially worrying discovery within our research was that 72% of travellers currently believe that there is too much retail at airports, and many would rather see the stores replaced with more seating and food & beverage options.

Clearly with retail being a revenue stream that needs to be taken very seriously, airports need to sharpen up their act and think about how the airport retail experience can be adapted to better suit the needs of the post-pandemic traveller.

Whether it’s using top-notch technology to transform retail into a more immersive showroom and ‘retail-tainment’ type of experience, combining it with other amenities such as seating, or pivoting into more unique, experimental services new to the airport experience – meeting this demand will be critical for the future of the airport.

NoteThe Moodie Davitt Report recently launched a publication titled Airport Consumer Experience, in association with Airport Dimensions, dedicated to airport guest services and experiences.

To subscribe free of charge please email headed ‘Airport Customer Experience’. All stories are permanently archived on the Airport Consumer Experience page on this website.

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