This Blog begins back at my Interim Busan Bureau, looking out over the very chilly waters of Songdo Beach in the western reaches of South Korea’s second city. It’s a lovely tranquil sight, bathed in lukewarm autumn sunlight with the cable cars making their way serenely across the harbour.
As always when I stop for a break (or what amounts to one when you own and run ‘the website that never sleeps’), I’m come down with a lousy cold. The past few weeks have been pretty relentless on the road, with trips to Tokyo, Doha, London, Hong Kong, Taipei and Beijing, and my aging body has decided to register its own form of protest.
So while I won’t be taking many fresh air strolls, I’ll enjoy the view from my 7th floor Airbnb and try to reduce the editorial backlog, which seems to stretch longer than the beach in front of me.
What a brilliant few days I have enjoyed. From the wonders of Penghu to the outstanding new Ever Rich Duty Free store at Taoyuan International Airport and then of course to the inauguration of the China Duty Free Group shops at the magnificent Daxing International Airport. Individually all worth the price of a heavy cold; collectively they make me feel like I’m in rip-roaring health.
Today it’s back home via Gimhae International Airport, a long transit at Hong Kong International Airport and then the even longer flight to London. As usual I’ll be snapping lots of pictures at my various airport stops – I reckon my iPhone must carry the world’s best stock of airport photos. The brilliant thing about airport commerce though is how quickly those photos date. We live in an ever-changing industry, where today’s breakthrough is tomorrow’s work-on.
I told you how quickly things change and that’s certainly the case at Gimhae International where the Dufry Thomas Julie store is undergoing a major refurbishment. The alliance’s shop sits immediately adjacent to the new Lotte Duty Free store and clearly the partners decided now was the time for a significant spruce up.
I love the simple but beguiling idea pictured below of asking travellers to place a pin in the world map according to their destination. Note from a travel retail perspective that the hot spot is China but that’s not the point. It’s just a lovely device to underline the wonder of travel and the airport’s role within it.
There’s a whole lot less daigou repacking going on than when I last flew through Gimhae. That may be due to the change in the daigou market (a lot more concentrated among bigger groups since the advent of China’s ecommerce law on 1 January) or simply that there are few flights to China left today. But as my pictures show, the trade still continues with resellers cramming every possible sku into their cabin baggage and goodness knows how many products into their suitcases. How long before an innovative luggage company invents a special SKUcase instead of suitcase for daigou traders? Such is the reality of Korean duty free, 2019-style.
And later still…
My Interim Bureau has shifted to the Cathay Pacific Bridge Lounge, down near Gate 35 at Hong Kong International Airport, my second home, from where I will depart in a few hours.
As always, before I settled down to complete this Blog and a zillion emails, I took a whirlwind tour of this amazing airport that no matter how frequent my visits (and they are many), always offers up something new.
But there was something else that really grabbed my attention. One of the prevailing themes of airport communications in recent times has been the huge investment by beauty houses in airport advertising and Hong Kong International has really led the charge.
Much of that advertising is digital, of course, but static can be effective too. On that note, I have seldom seen anything on the scale of the huge Lancôme displays that surround a high-profile festive season activation dubbed ‘Happiness is Here’ (below) for the brand’s blockbuster success skincare line Advanced Génifique.
This is powerful communication and underlines once again how the world’s top companies have come to appreciate the arguably unrivalled brand showcase that an airport represents.
And later again…
I’m flying over Helsinki (in an airplane I must point out) and a cabin crew member on CX255 has just given me a strange look following my loud though strangulated cry of “Yessssssssssss!” as the final English wicket fell (I am watching via ESPNcricinfo on the internet thank to the excellent Cathay Pacific inflight wifi) to give New Zealand victory in the cricket test match being played in Mount Maunganui in my homeland. After the agony of double defeats to the English in the Cricket World Cup final and the Rugby World Cup semi-final, I will take any redemption I can get.