2020 will be remembered as one of the most challenging years that the Australian aviation sector has ever faced, and this year’s Australian Airports Association (AAA) Annual Conference, unfortunately, fell victim to the global COVID 19 pandemic. While it is always an exciting time of year for airport professionals around the country who make the trek for a week of sharing ideas, networking, and catching up with old friends, this year’s virtual conference is a testament to the resilience of our industry to continue to push forward and adapt in challenging times.
We were pleased to attend the first of three virtual conferences held by the AAA. The event, opened by the newly appointed AAA Chairman Tom Ganley and CEO James Goodwin, set the tone for what was a great presentation from Joseph Butler – Regional Solutions Director (Aviation) from Jacobs.
The title of the presentation at this first conference was “Future of Aviation; Solutions to shape a brave new world”. This presentation was a timely reminder that the impacts of COVID-19 have not only left a lasting change on how airports will operate but also presented ideas of how airports can reimagine their operating models to meet the demand of the new ‘traveller’ in a post-pandemic world. Health protocols are becoming more of a non-negotiable when considered in the new airport operational setting and with this comes both opportunities and challenges.
Valuable insight was provided by Ibrahim Ibrahim, Managing Director of Portland Design, who discussed the changing landscape of the airport retail experience. The disruption of the global pandemic offers a great opportunity for a reset in the retail strategies for airports. He explored how with a change of cultural norms, including everyday use of social media, there needs to be a shift from the traditional bricks and mortar approach to retail offering with a focus on connecting consumers with brands through flexible, interactive spaces.
The presentation was a reminder of the role “big data” will continue to play in airport operations with its focus on enhancing the experience and of the ‘traveller.’ While the pandemic will no doubt stunt the momentum of big data for most airports as they focus on the recovery of revenue streams, there is no doubt airports need to continue to invest in emerging technologies that complement data-driven decision making which will shape the airports of the future.