The Modern Airport is the Destinationhttps://consultasg.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/modern_airport_header.jpg1440428ASGASG//consultasg.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/asg_195_WIP-web.png
Imagine visiting an airport that not only serves as a transport hub, but also doubles as an adventure park, shopping mall, and sanctuary for relaxation.
In today’s travel landscape, airports are redefining themselves as destinations in their own right, offering travelers and locals alike experiences that go beyond the usual concept of an airport. Whether you’re looking for a taste of local culture, thrilling entertainment or an oasis to escape the stresses of travel, airports are evolving to cater to a diverse range of preferences and needs.
The timing couldn’t be more important. Industry experts say an expected 9.4 billion passengers are expected to travel by air in 2024, an important milestone as the global industry continues to recover post-pandemic. By comparison, the year 2019 saw 9.2 billion airline passengers.
The transformation of airports into dynamic, multifaceted spaces reflects a growing trend that enhances the travel experience, making the journey as memorable as the destination. Here’s how they’re doing it.
Amplifying Local: Airports Embracing Regional Flavors and Culture
At Adelaide Airport in South Australia, you’ll find 100 Miles, a restaurant with a unique philosophy: It exclusively uses ingredients procured from within a 100-mile radius of the establishment. Embracing the flavors of the region, this innovative eatery offers a menu featuring locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients sourced from the city’s Central Market and paired with South Australian wine.
The conceptual restaurant amplifies local flair and offers the nearly 6.5 million passengers traveling through the airport each year a taste of the region’s culture and products.
Yet 100 Miles isn’t just a restaurant; it’s a snapshot of the modern airport, reflecting the growing trend of providing authentic and locally-inspired experiences to travelers.
Across the ocean in Seattle, an expansion currently under way of the C Concourse at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is inspired by the Pacific Northwest landscape. The more than 145,500-square-foot expansion, expected to be complete in 2027, adds four additional stories above the airport’s existing concourse.
With enhanced views of the surrounding Olympic Mountains as the backdrop, the project provides travelers with additional dining and retail spaces, as well as amenities like interfaith prayer and meditation rooms and a nursing suite. A marketplace located in the middle of the concourse will be modeled after Seattle’s famous farmers’ markets and will serve as a location for more retail kiosks and musician performances.
As part of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s multi-year redevelopment plans, Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport will see a boost of local flair. D.C.-area coffee shops, gift shops and apparel shops will add locations inside the airports, alongside a new restaurant at Dulles from Fabio Trabocchi, a celebrity chef and owner of the Italian restaurant Sfoglina, which is nestled in the northern D.C. neighborhood of Van Ness.
Revamped Retail: Transforming Airports into Entertainment Destinations
Airports are not only redesigning retail and entertainment spaces to cater to the preferences of today’s travelers, but also becoming entertainment hubs – not simply a necessary stop.
At Perth Airport in Western Australia, guests can escape a haunted house, explore a space station, or battle pirates on the high seas– all while never leaving the first level of Terminal 1 International. It’s all part of the airport’s enhanced VR experience, Gaming Point, which offers VR escape rooms to elevate the travel experience. Gaming Point also allows guests to choose from a library of more than 50,000 games to play on state-of-the-art gaming desktops. Once gamers leave the airport, they can continue to play using their own Steam network account.
Have a long layover? No problem. Check out the flight museum or the used book store at the Milwaukee Mitchell airport, or play interactive games in Buzz Zones at the Hong Kong International Airport. Immerse yourself in art at one of Miami International Airport’s galleries, or make sure you plan a special trip through the Munich Airport during the holidays where you’ll find a Christmas market that features an ice skating rink, carousel and an open market selling handmade crafts.
Airport Innovation: Setting New Standards for Comfort
It’s not all about entertainment. International airports are also elevating passenger comfort and relaxation during layovers.
At the forefront of innovation, Auckland Airport’s Strata Lounge boasts private wellness pods that visitors can book in advance. These pods create a calming ambiance through gentle, customizable lighting, immersive floor-to-ceiling photographic murals of tranquil forest landscapes, and modular sofas that can be converted into single and twin sizes.
At Dubai International Airport, global travel hospitality brand Airport Dimensions has installed its largest “Sleep and Fly” lounge where guests can unwind and even take a power nap in between flights. Afterward, guests can freshen up in luxurious showers stocked with Ayurvedic spa products, enhancing the sense of relaxation and rejuvenation.
The “Sleep and Fly” lounge is a prime example of how airports are setting new standards for airport comfort, reflecting a growing trend in which airports worldwide are redefining the passenger experience. As travelers increasingly seek unique and enjoyable layover experiences, these airports are taking the lead in offering services that elevate the airport experience to new heights.
Airports as Community Hubs: Enticing Locals to the Airport
While most people who walk through the automatic doors of an airport are on their way to somewhere else, more airports are reimagining what it means to be a community hub.
By transforming airports into hubs for socializing, recreation and even a whole day of entertainment, they are no longer simply places for travelers in transit. This shift in perspective is enticing locals to visit the airport for activities – many of which have nothing to do with traveling.
One example of this transformation that sets the standard for airports serving as the new mall is the Changi Airport in Singapore, home to the Jewel mall. Nearly 300 retail and dining outlets offer a variety of airport shopping center experiences at the mall. Near these airport retailers is a 150,000-square-foot Canopy Park that includes gardens, topiary walks, bouncing nets, mazes and giant slides that create a fun airport experience. While these areas are part of the airport complex, they are located in the landside zone and are accessible to anyone – flight ticket or not.
At the Detroit Metro Airport, visitors have access to two terminals with a DTW Destination Pass, and at Orlando International Airport, you can visit terminal C with a visitor pass. While these passes allow family and friends to surprise loved ones arriving at any of the gates near the terminals, it also offers an opportunity for locals to access a PGA tour shop, gather for a drink at a taproom, get a massage and eat at one of dozens of restaurants.
The distinction between travelers and locals blurs in these locations, as airports are increasingly working to invite everyone to explore a world of social interaction within their confines.
Wellness in Travel: Enhancing Passenger Well-Being
Even those traveling for vacation often experience stress. More than 90% of Americans say traveling can be stressful.
Many airports are seeing an opportunity to address this stress by enhancing the passenger experience. While comfortable lounge chairs, calming teas and neck warmers to relax tension may sound like pampering tools found in a luxurious spa, they are actually part of the Centurion Lounge space at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Airports like this one are increasingly focused on promoting passenger well-being by introducing a range of amenities and services that cater to holistic health, relaxation and mental peace. This shift in perspective reflects a broader trend in the travel industry, as travelers seek ways to alleviate the stress and anxiety often associated with journeys.
Other key developments in this wellness-centric transformation include:
● Bringing nature into the terminal through incorporating natural elements like dog parks and walking paths.
● Offering healthier dining options like at Newcastle International Airport in the UK, where you can find a range of vegan, vegetarian and other healthy food options.
● Wellness-centric lounges that offer private sanctuaries to de-stress and take a break from the airport crowds.
● Digital gyms like at the Incheon Airport in South Korea, where passengers can participate in interactive visual workouts for different ages.
● Wellness services, including flu shots, IV infusions, diagnostic testing and even virtual yoga and meditation services offered through XpresSpa at airports in New York, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City.
● Noise pollution reductions that eliminate loudspeaker announcements (and additional passenger stress) at Zurich Airport.
From celebrating local culture where passengers can embrace regional flavors to ensuring visitors are entertained or comforted, airports have undergone a remarkable transformation. With more than 9 billion passengers expected to travel by air in 2024, it’s crucial for airports to evolve and carefully craft elevated experiences so that they are not merely a means to an end.