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This week I went back to my old job. Well, not quite my old job but a part of it that I have not done in over nine months. The aspect of my job I like better than any other.
Over the past 19 years at The Moodie Davitt Report, I have spent countless hours walking around airports, often as a passenger, albeit one with a professional, in fact passionate, interest in the various commercial activities. My library of iPhone photos must run into the thousands. But many times also I have been in pure reporting mode, touring terminals, stores and restaurants, guided by fine professionals in the airport, retail and food & beverage communities.
Alas, a certain global pandemic has put paid to that, and to my globetrotting ways. My last tour of duty was around Hamad International Airport on 28 July last year, in the good company of Qatar Duty Free Vice President Operations Thabet Musleh.
So what a pleasure it was to get a call a couple of weeks back from Alby Tsang, General Manager Retail Portfolio at Airport Authority Hong Kong, operator of Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), inviting me to come over for a visit.
Like all his colleagues at this great airport, Alby has had to tough out the most severe crisis in HKIA’s 23-year history. Notice I didn’t say ‘wait out’ because as I learned from Alby and Airport Authority Hong Kong Executive Director, Commercial, Cissy Chang over a coffee at the Wolfgang Puck Kitchen in the arrivals landside zone, the whole commercial team has been uber-busy over the past months working on a whole range of exciting projects, including the renovation of the luxury zone, some great food & beverage operations and numerous other ambitious developments. The whole airport is spruced up and just ready as it were for take-off.
I’ll bring you the full story in the next week or so but I can tell you that is an uplifting tale of how to put a bad time time to good use. Very good use. To see an airport of the scale and, yes, the wonder of HKIA so deserted (passenger traffic was down -97.8% year-on-year for the first quarter) with so many shops and restaurants shuttered might have been a deeply depressing experience. When I arrived here in the early hours of the morning last July, it certainly was.
But this felt different and it is different. The airport authority has poured time, money and much dedication into a whole range of enhancements and a number of brilliant surprises – some in the most unexpected places.
The photos below are just a teaser, and you’ll have to wait for my article for the details (including the best hoarding you will ever see in an airport) but I can promise you that it’s a story you will find as uplifting to read as it has been to write. The sort of story we need more of. Better times are coming at this magnificent gateway and the Airport Authority Hong Kong team is more than prepared for them.