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I’m back in Beijing, which is fast becoming a second home for me, such has been the frequency of my visits over the past few months.
That’s because there is simply so much happening here, much of it centred, of course on the new Beijing Daxing International Airport.
I have visited many of the world’s great new airports over recent years – Hamad International Airport; Changi Terminal 4; the Abu Dhabi International Midfield Terminal (under construction); Hong Kong International Airport; Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International; Beijing Capital International Terminal 3; new airports or terminals in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
The risk in describing Daxing is that you might run out of superlatives. It is an extraordinary testament to architectural genius; and a statement that airports can be beautiful as well as functional, soul-enriching while commercial and efficient.
The starfish-shaped, Zaha Hadid-designed airport has an initial four operational runways (three more will be added in time) and capacity for 45 million passengers, rising to 72 million passengers per year.
I toured the airport yesterday in the expert hands of Casey Lim, General Manager of China Duty Free Group and CDF-Sunrise Duty Free’s Beijing operations and fellow CDFG senior executive Jason Jiang. CDFG will begin operations in the international zone this Sunday when non-domestic flights commence.
Domestic flights have been running for several weeks since the airport’s inauguration late last month in the esteemed presence of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Casey, Jason (below left) and I trod just about every metre of this vast single terminal building spread over four levels – international departures at the top; domestic departures one floor down; domestic arrivals another level lower; and a mixture of domestic and international arrivals on the bottom floor.
“I call this place a piece of art,” Casey said to me as we first entered the international zone and gazed in wonder at the incredible glistening white ceiling structure and the exhilarating panoramic vistas in front of our eyes. The airport is layered over four levels, offering spectacular panoramas, magnificent architecture and artworks, and plentiful natural light.
The pictures below begin – only begin – to tell the story. I plan to tell it in much more detail in a special edition of our eZine Spotlight Series in December dedicated to the place of wonder that is Daxing.
I also had the welcome opportunity to catch up with the CNSC team in Beijing today. They too are working on a project that will amaze – and again one that we will be covering exclusively.
Sometime around mid-2020, CNSC will open a near 1,800sq m, post-arrivals duty free store in Beijing FUN (北京坊) – an extraordinary commercial and cultural development just 100 metres away from Tiananmen Square and adjacent to the National Palace Museum, National Grand Theatre, National Museum and other renowned cultural institutions.
Bespoke Travel Company neatly describes the area as “a sprawling collection of genuinely old buildings, remodelled early 20th century shops and gorgeous modern architecture that sit side by side as tastefully as if they’d been there all along.”
The CNSC store is going to be a landmark development in every sense. The magnificent building, a painstaking recreation of an older artifice, housed in such an historic area, is sure to add great lustre not only to the CNSC portfolio but to Chinese travel retail as a whole.
More to follow soon. But first… I have a rendezvous with my good English friend Jonathan ‘Chaps’ Holland. We are meeting in Tokyo, where apparently there is some kind of rugby match going on. A tough one to predict I’m told. Not sure why – all looks black and white to me.