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As Interim Moodie Report Bureaus go, this one may rank as one of the most wintry. Hard to think that just a week ago I was gazing out over crystal clear Caribbean waters in the Bahamas.
Now I’m looking out the window from my room at the Airport Hotel Budapest. It’s 1 degree outside and the snow is coming down. Pretty, oh so pretty. Cold, oh so cold.
I’m here to attend the Budapest Airport Awards, to be held tonight before an audience of around 300 guests including airport executives, business partners (aviation and non-aviation), government officials, local press and yours truly as the sole representative of the travel retail media.
It’s an honour to be here as Budapest Airport (pictured below in its winter cloak) recognises the contributions of its partners in 2014, the airport’s biggest retail marketing year ever, and a hugely successful one in terms of various Trinity campaigns and promotions, as well as award nominations.
With that success in mind the airport has this year expanded its annual Aviation Awards to now include retail and landside partners, renaming them the Budapest Airport Annual Awards.
The event will be held tonight in the Terminal 1 Event Center, formerly of course a thriving air terminal. That was before 2012 and the fateful collapse of national carrier Malev.
How the airport company and its concessionaires (particularly its key partner Gebr Heinemann) have responded since is, I think, a definitive case study on how to respond to crisis. And arguably the term crisis is an understatement. Today I interviewed Budapest Airport Chief Commercial Officer Kam Jandu and Heinemann Hungary Managing Director Fritz Janach and listened with fascination as they told me about that day, around three years ago, when overnight the airport lost about 40% of its passenger base (including most of the big retail spenders, the transit travellers) as Malev was grounded.
Faced by commercial disaster at both airport shareholder and concessionaire level, Budapest Airport realised the key to survival lay in a rare combination of prudence (costs had to be shed) and creativity. A new concession structure was struck with Heinemann (including a risk/reward-driven profit share component to the airport and an extended agreement until 2025) and a concerted promotional campaign to drive commercial revenues put in place.
Whereas so many airports have talked the talk on the Trinity concept, Budapest Airport has walked it. Last year they and Heinemann ran about 15 ‘Trinity Promotions’ (the airport’s term, not mine) driving around 1 million Euros in sales, of which – listen to this – about 40% was incremental. Those perennial naysayers who say ‘Trinity doesn’t work’ should visit Budapest.
The airport offered significant concourse space free of charge, manpower, communication (heavy social and digital media support, airport signage), marketing expertise and, most of all, total commitment. The results speak for themselves.
Equally impressively, most of those promotions drove awareness and sales of Hungarian products, a strong focus for airport and concessionaire. Expect more of the same this year, with some international brands involved too. I’ll bring you the full story soon but first I have an awards dinner to attend. If I can make it through the snow.