Latest posts by Martin Moodie (see all)
- Discovering the lure of luxury at Hong Kong Airport and with Le Clos at DXB - November 25, 2022
- Nearing the end of my year of the RAT - November 21, 2022
- Q-rating a sense of wonder in Qatar - November 12, 2022
I am flying over Belozersk, which seems like a good name for my weary mental state. I am truly feeling Belozerksed after ten days in Asia dominated by all the mental (in every sense) pressure that goes with organising and moderating The Trinity Forum, followed by a series of key meetings afterwards.
When I land I shall read up about Belozersk, about Gatchima, Pushkin, Sosnovy Bar (I wonder if it’s open) and other places I will fly over tonight. I must be the only air passenger in the world who spends more time watching the inflight moving map than the movies. I love it. I want to find out more about each new name that appears on the map, to find out what the people there do, to go visit one day.
In a moment, my screen tells me, I’ll be saying “Good morning Boksitogorsk!” in deference to the late, great Robin Williams, that saddest of happy men.
Any of us in the travel retail industry should try our hardest to never, ever, lose the sense of wonder that we get from air travel. Think just how special our world becomes as we gaze at that moving map. And it’s not just flying on planes, but being in airports. Because from that sense of wonder comes the concept that we so love to champion, Sense of Place (I use the capital letters deliberately as I believe the notion to be critical).
Next week we will start a new series on The Moodie Report called exactly that – Sense of Place. I can promise you it will make you reconsider our industry and realise one of the most important ways in which we can differentiate ourselves from the likes of Alibaba, Amazon and Apple.
Airports and airlines are like no other place on earth (pedantics among you will tell me the latter are not on earth anyway. Fair point, for which I apologise.). When we are in them or on them we are not like any other people on earth. We are not even like our (normal) selves. Let’s seize on those facts. Let’s make travel retail something Amazon, for all its amazing reach, voice and efficiency, can never be. Sell me something that I can’t get online. Sell me it in a way I can’t get online. Sell me the travel experience. Make me part of it, make me taste it, smell it, sense it.
I am reading a wonderful collection of short stories at present called The Fiddler in the Subway, by double-Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Gene Weingarten. It is teaching me many things, not least how very, very far I have to go to become the writer I would like to be.
But that’s not the point. The title of the story that also carries the book’s name is the point. It relates the true tale of what happened when world-famous violinist Joshua Bell busked for 45 minutes outside a Washington D.C. subway station. Did anyone notice him? Recognise him? Appreciate him? I won’t ruin the story but let’s just say he didn’t get his usual standing ovation.
I suspect the same thing might happen if he played at, say, Piccadily Station in London. He might make a few Pounds but I doubt many commuters would stop to listen. Now here’s a thought. What if, say, Dubai International or London Heathrow was to let him play, anonymously of course, as part of, say, a week-long busking festival. I am prepared to bet good money (therefore, by definition, someone else’s) that he would earn much more, both cash and recognition, than in the subway.
Why? Simply because airports are such extraordinary places. Not only do they feature some of the best examples of modern architecture but they also represent an ever-changing cast of characters and human emotions, from delight to despair, love to loss. As another rather greater writer than me nearly said, “All the world’s airports are a stage and all the men and women merely players.” But oh what a player on such a stage Joshua Bell would be.
On that note, I see that it’s time to say “Good morning Boksitogorsk!” Onwards. Another airport awaits.