I’ve had a lot to say about the federally-imposed, financial-straightjacket in which airports must operate these days. One area in which the straightjacket is less in evidence, however, is concessions and the results show.
All over North America, airports are continually refreshing their concessions offerings. They do this to keep up with changing tastes and technologies, to take account of the fact that people are spending more time in airports and, of course, to maximize revenue.
A keynote by Coke SVP Jerry Wilson was a high point. He not only talked about how to keep the Coke brand fresh, but also about the impact of changing trends throughout the world such as the need to conserve water resources and the emergence of women in so many countries. He gave us a lot to think about.
One interesting conversation was the changing nature of reading habits. Some airports that once housed a Borders store had a particular perspective. I joked with Marco from Vino Volo, the excellent wine company, that he was smart to go into a business that can’t be turned into a digital product.
Another highlight was the annual concessions awards show. The emcee this year was Robin Meade, from CNN’s Headline News. Her morning show is a must for many, and she made the 2011 edition of our awards the most memorable yet. It was fun watching her work with the script but ad lib and interact with the audience. A real professional and a very nice lady (and, yes, quite beautiful too).
Congratulations to all the winners, especially Darrell Watson of Louisville, Concessions Person of the Year and Nashville International Airport, winner of the Richard A. Griesbach Award of Excellence.
As I said at the top, I’m at the Carter Center, which has earned a reputation for the excellence of its work around the world. I very much enjoyed spending time in the museum (though the woman at the cash register was not terribly helpful). It is always interesting to see museums whose exhibits show events that occurred largely during my lifetime. Indeed, one photo showed President Carter with an old boss of mine, former Louisiana Sen. J. Bennett Johnston. And of course there was a whole exhibit about the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, the signing of which I was privileged to witness in person.
But the real highlight of my visit to Atlanta was the chance to spend two days with so many concessions professionals (more than 350). Those who work at airports and those who work for the many companies providing goods and services our passengers want, need and demand. It is an under-appreciated facet of the airport business, but growing in importance!