Sensational Schiphol

March 1, 2005
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has long been admired as the premier example for airport retail

AMSTERDAM -- A tourist attraction on its own, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has long been admired as the premier example for airport retail and concessions. Careful planning and investment, say officials, are what have allowed the airport to develop into the wonder that it is today. The airport goes beyond just passengers passing through a facility and strives to meet every and any need they and employees of the airport might have. From a casino to a museum, shopping to a meditation center, and hotel to live entertainment, Schiphol is more than a terminal, passengers, and runways, it's a carefully devised city.

Explains Suredj Autar, director of consumer products, "The difference between a normal city and an airport city is an airport city is planned -- carefully planned. Everything is under one roof.

"We're growing and thinking of new things. A city never stands still, it is always growing. We have something for all passengers and the companies on the airport, visitors, meeters and greeters, and we continue to do that because that's the whole idea of a city."

Schiphol has had tremendous success with its airport city concept and continues to promote this as the way to serve the majority of passengers most effectively. And while the management company has been working on the concept for a number of years, it was only within the last decade, says Marianne de Bie, senior communications manager, that a name was attached to the concept.

"Our core business is to create a network of airport cities," says de Bie. "We see an airport as much more than just runways and the terminal as more than just a waiting area for passengers. We see it as an engine for the economics of a city in itself."

In addition to Schiphol Group operating the airport, an offshoot, Schiphol Real Estate, manages the development surrounding the airport, or the city square, as de Bie calls it. "The only thing different from a real city is that we don't have any real inhabitants," adds de Bie.

Unique Offerings

Throughout most of Holland, says de Bie, the shops are only open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. At the airport, the landside shops are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., making them an attractive option to travelers, airport employees, and the community. There are some 60,000 employees at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

The airport's diverse offerings are a benefit for Schiphol and the passenger, says Autar. "When you travel a lot, after about three trips, you've supplied everyone with gifts. You need to have something else for the traveler. We also want to offer things that are unique." According to Autar, Amsterdam offers more than 20,000 different items for sale throughout the airport. In addition to standard duty-free products like perfume, liquor, and tobacco, Amsterdam also features diamonds, leather, fashion, and more. Food and beverage offerings range from fast food to more sophisticated restaurants and eateries.

There are some 30,000 square feet devoted to retail and concessions at Schiphol. And while there are multiple vendors and concessionaires (some 150) branding of the shops is uniform throughout the terminal.

"You'll find facilities for all travel groups, both leisure and business," says de Bie. "You can have a gamble at the casino or visit the Rijksmuseum. You can also shop, have a beer, admire art, have a massage; but you can also work in the business center or on the Internet, or you can do nothing."

Travelers through Schiphol also have the opportunity to take in art without leaving the terminal. The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol features exhibits of paintings, ceramics, glass, and silver objects, which rotate occasionally. In early December, Dutch Masters of the Golden Age was the collection on display, which included works from some of the most well-known painters of the Dutch Golden Age, including Jan Steen, Jacob van Ruisdael, and Rembrandt.

Trends, Innovations

Schiphol is constantly reviewing its airport city concept and planning to ensure it is meeting the needs of current and future passengers.

A concept the airport is currently pursuing is a full-service spa. The airport does offer massage and nail services, but Autar expects a spa facility will be a popular addition to Schiphol's existing services.

Autar foresees in the coming years that the exposure of brands will have more impact than they have had in the past. He adds that "the retail concept has to be more flexible because the consumer is changing. The consumer has more choices today. Because of globalization the consumer is more willing to buy [duty-free] things such as liquor and tobacco at other airports. So you have to attract them to make their purchases at your airport with more than just tax free and duty free."

Autar also says because of increasing competition between airports and the downtown, there will be a need to have more corporate retailers.