“Adapt or die”: full report on the ACI EUROPE Airport Commercial & Retail Conference & Exhibition 2019

The 28th ACI EUROPE Airport Commercial & Retail Conference & Exhibition, hosted by Isavia, took place on 18-20 March 2019. The theme of this year’s event was Adapt or die: “It is not the strongest species that survive, but the ones most responsive to change” (Charles Darwin).

The event attracted around 400 delegates from airports, travel retail operators, brands, and other business partners.

Iceland was a fitting location, having adapted after the banking crisis, reinvented itself, and thrived in many ways. Indeed, delegates experienced ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’ at a time when winter and spring meet and the country is at its most spectacular.

The 29th ACI EUROPE Airport Commercial & Retail Conference & Exhibition will be hosted by Prague Airport on 21-23 April 2020.

Björn Óli Hauksson, CEO Isavia, delivered the Welcome from the Host. “Our largest passenger group are the local touch seekers so, obviously, we will continue to emphasise the Icelandic ambiance through various touchpoints, along with catering for different segments such as transfer passengers and millennials. We have been looking at fast service processes and to bring in ambitious vendors with exciting products and services. This will, of course, all be going for tender and the process will take some time.”

Þórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation, gave a Welcome Address. “Transport connections are vital to a little island in a big world. A new official tourism strategy is in the making, taking a long-term view of sustainable development. Keflavík Airport has played a crucial role in establishing Iceland as a tourist destination.”

ACI EUROPE Director General Olivier Jankovec delivered his traditional State of the Industry address. “Aeronautical revenues are under pressure in the era of rebates, incentives, ‘marketing support’ & commercial deals,” he said. “We face a challenge in driving airport commercial revenues. Penetration is getting difficult in per passenger real terms.”

Elias Liolios, Senior Manager, Commercial and Business Development, Hermes Airports, and Chair, ACI EUROPE Commercial Forum: “We are challenged, we are under pressure. In Europe, spend per head is down. We’re not going to die, but we do need to adapt. We need to adapt and see what our passengers actually want. There’s also a digital aspect of the experience that we need to adapt to.”

The ACI EUROPE Airport Commercial & Retail Conference & Exhibition is organised with the cooperation of the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC). Julie Lassaigne, Secretary General, ETRC, commented: “We are a vibrant industry with steady growth, but while there is sustained sales growth we must adapt to decreasing spend per passenger. Defending commercial revenues is a common responsibility. The duty free & travel retail industry must work in partnership to defend itself against challenges. We must convince regulators to provide adequate solutions to safeguard the future of airport retailing.”

Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir, Former Minister of Industry and Commerce & Chairman of the Board, Duty Free Iceland, gave a fascinating Special Presentation. “Iceland has really had to adapt in order for us to be able to live here. We have a harsh nature, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, all kinds of weather – things we cannot control. So, we have a strong need to be adaptable. Iceland has a saying: Yes, we’ll do it.”

The Inspirational Keynote Address came from Natalie Berg, Retail Analyst, Author & Founder, NBK Retail. Talking about the ‘Amazon effect’ and disruptive retail trends, Berg took delegates on a whirlwind tour of retail in this profound period of structural change.

The exhibition was a showcasing platform and networking opportunity for industry suppliers, covering the broad spectrum of commercial activities, including retailers, brands, F&B, parking, car rental, currency exchange, and digital innovation.

The First Working Session – What is the evidence that airport retail is under threat? – featured Stewart Dryburgh, General Manager, Nestlé International Travel Retail; Craig Mackie, General Manager, Moodie Insights; Gregory Phillips, Director of Consulting, Behavioral Science Lab; Peter Mohn, CEO m1nd-set; and Frédéric Chevalier, Chief Operating Officer – Europe, Middle East & Africa, Lagardère Travel Retail.

The Second Working Session – The competitive problem is also the solution: Harnessing digital disruption in the cause of maintaining the physical airport store – featured Neil Muir, Managing Director, Blynk; Gunnhildur Erla Vilbergsdóttir, Commercial Manager, Isavia; Danielle Neben, Marketing Director, ePassi; Kian Gould, CEO & Founder, AOE; Melvin Broekaart, Managing Director, Aircommerce; Dr Patrick Bohl, Head of Retail and Advertising, Budapest Airport; and Martin Moodie, Founder & Chairman, The Moodie Davitt Report.

The Third Working Session – The death of the car Part II: How disruptive is the outlook for this vital component of airport revenues? – featured Gaetano Trapanese, CEO Marco Polo Park – Gruppo SAVE; Jukka Isomaki, Director Commercial Services, Finavia; Gerald Krebs, Senior Vice President Parking Management and Landside Traffic Operations, Fraport AG; Vita Andrews, Head of Parking, Entry and Mobility, Swedavia; Peter Wells, Professor, Cardiff University; and Per Rune Lunderby, Commercial Director, Avinor Group.

The Welcome Reception, hosted by Isavia, took place at the spectacular Whales of Iceland.

The Fourth Working Session – Eating is the new shopping – featured Mieke Verduijn, Developer Food & Beverage, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol; John de Giorgio, Director, Veovo – Concessionaire Analyzer+; Olly Chubb, Head of Strategic Insights, Portland Design; and Ezio Balarini, Chief Marketing Officer, Autogrill.

The official handover to next year’s host, Prague Airport. The 29th ACI EUROPE Airport Commercial & Retail Conference & Exhibition takes place in Prague on 21-23 April 2020.

The Fifth Working Session – The latest and greatest: What can we learn from the world’s newest retail areas and shopping concepts? – featured Mariana Stangl Pinheiro, Head of Duty Free Corporate Affairs, JTI; Mike Ward, Head of Retail, Manchester Airport; Glyn Williams, Owner, Glyn Williams Advisory; Hlynur Sigurðsson, Commercial Director, Keflavík Airport Isavia; and Jérôme Lepage, Marketing & Business Development Director – Transport, JCDecaux.

The Gala Evening, hosted by Lagardère Travel Retail, took place at the stunning Reykjavik Art Museum – Hafnarhús.

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