‘Tearing up the rule book’: Abu Dhabi’s big Trinity statement

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Shredder blog

Turning a new page: Abu Dhabi Airports’ evocative display of how traditional tender convention should be consigned to the shredder

Last Sunday, 9 February, may yet come to be seen as a milestone day in our industry’s evolution. Then, as it hosted the cream of the world’s travel retailers and many leading brand owners to launch its exciting Midfield Terminal RFP process, Abu Dhabi Airports made a breakthrough statement for an airport operator in terms of the long-running Trinity debate.

Vice President Commercial Gavin McKechnie said: “We talk about exceptional partnerships. It’s easy to say – people have been talking about it at Trinity for the last ten or more years. Yet it’s not really moved far forward. And I think the reason it has not moved far forward is that no airport has been prepared to take that step.

“So we’re going to take one big step – and then we’ll see how many more we will take. But first we want you to join in with us at this fantastic terminal. We want you to invest heavily to get the best shop-fits, the best designs, the best concepts.

“We want you to be innovative and creative. And if you want to be all that, I can’t give you a three years plus two contract because it’s just doesn’t work.”

“We want you to be able to invest, we want to work with you to get the best concepts and the best customer experience. And that’s where we go into partnerships.”

To create those partnerships, Abu Dhabi Airports is pledging to match its words with deeds, not least in how it structures the tenders ahead – to be launched in April with duty free and large-scale F&B.

The company is set to offer long-term deals, with no contract of less than five years, and many of seven or ten years’ duration. A vital detail too is its commitment that bids will be weighted 60% on technical (qualitative) grounds, and 40% financial.

adac blog 2

The future Abu Dhabi International Airport could be home to a new type of industry partnership

“If we get the experience right, we’re confident that we can convert more customers, resulting in considerable upside for us and for our partners,” said McKechnie. As part of that, Abu Dhabi Airports said it would “share risk and reward” by considering a lower Minimum Annual Guarantee (MAG) to encourage investment in the business by its partners. “There will be room for flexibility. We will not be MAG-dependent,” he added.

Put that commitment together with the vast 28,000sq m of commercial space on offer at the future airport, and the company’s pledge to offer consumers “spectacular, sensational and exceptional” experiences, and you can sense why there was a feeling in the room that something special was taking place on Sunday.

Let’s see how potential partners respond – but Abu Dhabi Airports has laid down a marker for the concessions business, that’s for sure.

Chief Commercial Officer Mohammed Al Bulooki summed up the new approach neatly, when he said: “Please do not look at this terminal as just another RFP. If you do, you will fail. If you stick by your belief that you can do the impossible, you will be the winner.”

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