Industry Events Showcase Airport Leaders In Retail & Concessions, Sustainability

Annual conferences see increases in attendance, and momentum; industry awards recognize airport initiatives

In early November, I made my way to the annual Airports Going Green conference, held each year in downtown Chicago and organized by the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) and the Amercian Association of Airport Executives (AAAE).

I have attended this event for the past three years, and I don't intend to stop. It seems that the program is more comprehensive each year — and attendance is growing, bringing in more than 300 airport and aviation professionals from the U.S. as well as from abroad in 2012. 

The agenda included an airport sustainability directors track and a technology and innovation track. One session, 'Closing the Loop: Toward a Net Zero Airport,' featured key case studies of net-zero programs at airports today, like those at Charlotte-Douglas International and DFW. 

Christine Vitt of the Nashville Airport Authority indicates the airport is just getting started on sustainability, and has conducted a study to establish a foundation and baselane for goals related to sustainability. The airport will work to incorporate sustainability into its enterprise risk management (ERM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) programs, and has developed a sustainability committee. Nashville is also a part of FAA's pilot program for sustainable master planning. 

San Diego's Paul Manasjan comments, "There shouldn't be a difference between an airport master plan, and it's sustainability master plan; sustainability needs to be incorporated in everything we do."

The CDA also presented it's Going Green awards recognizing airport leaders in sustainability. Notable recipients included Toronto Pearson International Airport's Energy Management Program; Port of Portland's LEED-Certified Headquarters Building at Portland International Airport; HMSHost's startsomewhere Program; and the Abu Dhabi Airports Company's Waste Management and Recycling Program.

Also at this year's event, I learned that the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has combined asset management with sustainability campus-wide — an interesting print issue feature topic perhaps.

Later in the month, I traveled to Denver to attend Airport Council International-North America's (ACI-NA) annual Airport Concessions Conference. Again, attendance was up this year, drawing more than 400 industry professionals. 

Sessions included a very good presentation given by Gergio Pulla of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, who says we need to dispell the myth that there are two types of travelers: leisure and business. In it's most recent initiative to 'cash in on passengers' eyeballs', Toronto identifies five specific segments of travelers. The Authority has recently negotiated a multi-year, multi-million dollar partnership with American Express. 

Also presenting at the event was Jeremiah Gerald, former director of air service and business development at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, and now regional executive for Thanks Again, LLC, loyalty provider in the airport industry. Keep an eye out for this company, and loyalty programs at airports in general. As airports look to learn more and more about the passenger base that frequents their facilities, I suspect airport loyalty programs, like airline frequent flyer programs, are going to become common place very soon. Airports are struggling with identifying just how to go about getting passengers to provide more information about their travel habits so they can better serve them — airport loyalty programs will be key to this effort. 

ACI-NA also recognized airport leaders in the retail and concession space with its annual awards program. The awards presentation, given during a luncheon at the event, was highly anticipated by attendees, and the award recipients were given due credit for several successful inititives. 

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