Hotels over the last several years have updated their offerings to meet the expectations of the modern traveler and have perfected the "me" experience for their guests and airports are starting to take note, adopting a more customer-centric model that embraces personalization over standardization and provides quality hospitality experiences that engage passengers from landside to airside.
Cookie-cutter offerings have been replaced with a diversification of food, working, and lounging options that are tailored to passengers’ needs. In addition to innovations in design and amenities, airports and lounges are elevating customer service to ensure that all guests have a personalized experience that addresses their individual needs. These combined efforts ensure that order, clarity and calm are synonymous with the passenger experience.
In the past, many hotels have had standardized amenities, so that people know exactly what to expect when staying with a particular hotel brand regardless of where the specific hotel is located. This includes knowing the room layout and what kind of art and food offerings to expect.
However, with the current explosion of boutique hotels that provide a location-authentic and personalized experience when it comes to room style and amenities, consumers are more interested in having diverse options to choose from when selecting where they will stay, hotels have fashioned themselves as destinations rather than just a place to sleep for a night. Airports are following a similar path by realizing consumers want more out of their time at an airport. If there are more experiences to enjoy like shops, restaurants, and lounges, it will only drive more revenue for the airport.
Meeting the desires of the modern traveler
Travelers want the airport experience to easily fit into their daily life and not interrupt ‘business as usual.’ If a traveler is looking to take work calls and reply to emails, they want a quiet place with Wi-Fi to be productive and connected. On the other hand, a traveler might want a place to be entertained by movies or have a mini spa experience before starting a vacation.
Travelers want more than just a basic functional airport experience, they want it to enhance their time in between destinations. Instead of one restaurant or store to choose from, they want a number of diverse options, so they can make a selection based on their individual needs at the time they are traveling. Since the time at the airport can be the most stressful part of some people’s travel, travelers seek a place to experience genuine hospitality, just as they would at a nice hotel. They want to be treated as individuals and know that their needs are important.
Turning the airport into a destination in its own right
We can already see that airports have followed the lead of hotels by bringing a hospitality experience to the airport space in lounges and concessions to meet the needs of the modern traveler and working to provide an exemplary hospitality experience that will cause travelers to seek out a specific airport when booking a flight. The option of a shared-use lounge is an impactful way airports can increase a traveler’s experience by offering as little disruption as possible while providing a unique space to spend time.
Making experiences personalized can leave a lasting impression, for example, when a traveler can go to a lounge and be greeted by name while having the staff provide their favorite drink. Lounges need to provide a range of options to meet a variety of needs and experiences wanted from the travelers coming through the doors, including healthy food options and local food and beer selections, like at The Club PIT at Pittsburgh International Airport where local chef Kate Romane advises on the menu.
It’s important to cater to religious needs as well like providing a prayer room, and also have places to do exercise like a yoga room or gym. Then from the entertainment side, the addition of VR experiences or mini theaters can be meaningful additions in making the airport an exciting and beneficial destination in itself.
A quality hospitality experience is an essential factor to consider for airports and lounges to stand out to travelers who now have a variety of options when walking through an airport and quickly evolving needs. There are many hospitality lessons that can be learned from the hotel industry in helping airports achieve this. If airports and airport amenities, such as lounges, are elevating customer service while enhancing the options provided, it will ensure that travelers have a positive memorable experience while on their way to their final destination.
Graham Richards is Director of Strategic Network Development at Airport Lounge Development (ALD)