Rethinking the Process

Miami International Airport moves to make its concessions RFP process more bidder-friendly in the midst of the airport's redevelopment.

MIAMI -- As officials here battle with a terminal construction project that is spiraling out of control in terms of cost and missed deadlines within its $4.8 billion redevelopment, the retail and food and beverage offerings at the airport are undergoing a transformation of their own. Dr. Patricia A. Ryan, manager aviation properties (interim) and commercial operations for the Miami-Dade Department of Aviation, leads her team not only in redesigning the face of concessions here by more than doubling offerings, but in redefining the process that prospective tenants engage in to do business at Miami International.

Ryan, whose doctorate is in marketing and education, has been with the Miami-Dade Department of Aviation for two years. Previously, she led the redevelopment of the Reno/Tahoe International Airport's retail program.

[The Department of Aviation announced in late May the appointment of José Abreu, currently the state's secretary of transportation, as Miami-Dade's aviation director. He will assume the post in early July.]

The Miami-Dade Aviation Department previously had management contracts for its parking, management of the hotel, and for concessions. "The airport was not open to concessionaires," Ryan says.

Under the management agreements, the Miami-Dade Aviation Department did receive a higher percentage of the concessions revenue. However, both Ryan and Ray Diaz, project manager for commercial operations, say the new retail and food and beverage offerings are expected to make up the shortfall in increased business. The concessions program, excluding properties and general aviation, accounts for 48 percent of the airport's revenue.

Making MIA More Accessible

At Miami, Ryan says one of the main goals of the airport is to make the entire request for proposal (RFP) process easier for concessionaires while improving offerings to travelers through the airport. "We hope to offer more opportunities for concessionaires to be involved in Miami, more choices for the passenger through diversified offerings, quality retail, and brands that promote comfort and familiarity," she says.

One of the ways MIA facilitated this is by holding a workshop on how to do business with the airport and a workshop targeted at small businesses. The sessions covered topics such as finance, insurance, and disadvantaged business enterprises, while also outlining and clarifying "what we want and what we'll do with the information," says Ryan.

The information that the airport provides to prospective tenants is more detailed than it had been previously, says Ryan. "We now provide traffic information, passenger forecasts, and general information about airport traffic. It's all part of being more in tune with our business partners and therefore volunteering the information they need before they ask."

A Miami-Dade county code called the "Cone of Silence Provisions" restricts Ryan and some of her team from discussing the RFP or RFQ (request for qualifications) outside of "matters of process or procedure already contained in the solicitation document." During a public hearing held in mid-May, the cone of silence was lifted to allow interested parties to have questions answered by Ryan and Diaz. Unlike other airports, Ryan says she does not require that those responding to the RFP attend each pre-bid meeting, another aspect she says makes MIA more accessible to retailers.

Diaz adds that the airport anticipates its efforts will encourage more dialog between tenants and the airport.

Doubling Concessions Offerings

Under the $4.8 billion capital development program with which the airport is currently involved, the retail and food and beverage space will more than double from 100 to 250 locations in the next two years. "We're moving from a large program to an even larger one," says Ryan.

Between 2004 and 2008, 47 new food/beverage concepts, seven duty-free shops, 68 specialty retail stores, four news/gift shops, and 22 newstands will be added to the airport concessions program.

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