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Through having a part-time base in Hong Kong over recent times, I’ve got to know the vast footprint of its international airport well. What always impresses me is how the airport’s commercial team, led by Cissy Chan, one of The Moodie Davitt Report’s People of the Year for 2018, keep coming up with new and innovative concepts.
I caught up with Cissy on Friday morning in Hong Kong for a cup of tea at the Airport Authority Hong Kong-run Regal Hotel. She told me about a host of new outlets that have been introduced both in the East Hall Food Court and the West Hall at the far end of the airport.
I’ll bring you all the details on our main website soon but for now let me tell you about my first-hand experience of one of the new propositions. Airport Authority Hong Kong decided to create a Lifestyle Retail Zone in the West Hall, catering to transfer passengers with a range of services, shops and food offers that each represent a point of difference from those usually found in airports.
Having decided to walk all the way down from my gate in the East Hall to the West Hall (that’s my fitness regime for the month taken care of) on Friday evening before my London flight to see the new line-up, I discovered one of them by Gate 43. It was an express hairdresser, called QB Premium Haircut & Style. As I had plenty of time before my flight, I decided to try it out.
Now, the more unkind of you among my readers might point out that any hairdressing service I have is by definition of the express kind. And that it could have been final call way back at Gate 15, and I still could have had my hair cut and got back in time for my flight. So very cruel.
But what’s a good travel retail reporter if he’s not prepared to indulge in a spot of consumer research? The outlet looked clean and enticing, the cost was just HK$100 (US$12.75), and I was impressed by the digital waiting system (pictured below), which allows the passenger to wander off and have a coffee or snack or do some shopping if there is a wait. In my case, probably due to the lateness of the hour, there was no queue at all.
“How can I help?” said the nice young hairdresser, in my case probably as much a statement of fact as a question.
“Could you do me a number one cut?” I asked him. [For the uninitiated, a number one refers to the shortest guard on an electric trimmer. A zero requires no guard and is basically a shaved head. And I wouldn’t want that, would I?]
“Of course. Come in.” He had the smile of a man who knew his ATV (average trim value) was about to soar. Based on the shiny pate in front of him, he must have calculated he was earning around HK$25 a hair.
But I didn’t care. Jokes about my baldness wore thin years ago. And while I wouldn’t say I live in hope of a miracle cure, I still keep my comb in case. I just can’t seem to part with it.
The nice young man was called Kitson Kwok, who was as attentive and professional as if he’d been asked to give George Clooney a pre-flight cut and blow dry. My number one was complete in plenty of time to begin the long, long trek back to my gate, my unlikely career as a hairdresser reviewer over cut as short as my hair.
This concept strikes me as a likely winner. The salon is nice, the service excellent, the pricepoint attractive. And it’s not as if there’s a shortfall of potential customers, or of consumer dwell time. Definitely another case of Hong Kong International being a cut above your average airport.