Facing industry threat and the challenge of newness

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This week’s ACI Europe Trading Conference in Dublin proved one of the best of recent years, with a strong return to form in attendance terms (over 360) plus a strong and penetrating series of speakers, nearly all of whom spoke tightly to their brief and crucially, to time.

Sessions around innovation and newness (on day one) and the concession model and pricing (on day two) included refreshingly candid contributions from some of Europe’s leading airports and retailers, including, variously, BAA, Schiphol Group, Autogrill, DAA, Aelia, MAp Airports and Luxottica (one of the few brands represented, but an important addition).

DAA Chief Commercial Officer Jack MacGowan summed up that honesty when he admitted that “pricing can be an uncomfortable bedfellow with the truth” at many airports. How often do we hear an airport express such a key industry concern with such openness. It closely echoed Sydney Airport’s Derek Larsen’s sentiments on pricing and value at the Trinity Forum in Bangkok in February – and how too many airports over-promise and under-deliver.

Pricing of course isn’t the only source of confusion and threat to industry credibility out there. As we report on our site today, the new LAGs rules to come into force on 29 April are a looming challenge that the industry looks ill-equipped to face, as member states in the EU refuse to sanction a change to the current transfer regulations on inbound, transit passengers carrying liquids purchases. ETRC President Frank O’Connell talked of the importance of united industry action to avoid further confusion, but many already fear a return to the early days of the original introduction of LAGs, and the confiscation and chaos that dogged the trade for many months.

Outside the main forum, the ACI Trading event once again proved one of the most important regional networking events of the year – and the social side proved a triumph for the DAA in its home city. Given Ireland’s ‘sick man of Europe’ status and damage to the country’s economic reputation over recent months, it was terrific to see the capital, Dublin, show its greatest assets off so well to an international audience – from the superb facilities at the new Conference Centre to the Guinness Storehouse to the Mansion House (which hosted the gala dinner, below) – plus the professionalism and friendliness of staff at each location. Despite the dark days facing the country, the tourist board’s slogan of ‘Ireland of the Welcomes’ still rings powerfully true.

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