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Airports – The Launch Pad for your Destination’s Brand

If you are a frequent traveler, you have the pleasure or displeasure of spending way too much time in airports. With increased security and a heightened sense of awareness, it seems as though the airport authorities are forgetting about the image that their facility portrays about the destination.  Do they have to be so sterile, grey, and institutional? Do staff learn how to maintain a scowl during training seminars to purposely make people feel uncomfortable?
The airport is often the first impression a visitor has to a destination. In marketing we all understand that that 2.3 seconds is some of the most impressionable face time you can have with a potential customer. In the case of an airport it becomes more like 1 hour of impressionable time upon arrival. Why not use it to our advantage, to welcome our guests, and create a positive environment that is the starting point of their journey to this new and exciting destination.
Lets look at a Canadian facility that does it right.
Calgary – It must be the western hospitality that shines through that even the Calgary based Westjet has based its entire brand around. You arrive into this facility with broad smiles from the white cowboy hat touting ambassadors. They are friendly and are there to assist visitors with any needs or questions. While waiting for your luggage the centre of the luggage carousels are decorated with themed western messaging that creates a sense that you have arrived in cowboy country. Two simple approaches that work. It is no longer a sterile institution but is a themed welcome centre that is a direct extension of what Calgary stands for.
For an example of actually doing a disservice to a destination brand lets look at the Toronto Airport. Recognizing that the larger the facility the more utilitarian they become, but I see it as even more ‘wall space’ to create a very unique portrayal of the destinations identity. The Toronto facility is all business with any space available for displays or imagery is sold for advertising value, that turns it into a very generic place.
Start at the arrival level, it could be anywhere in the world, there is absolutely no connection of where its located. Standing, waiting for your baggage is often stressful, and this facility’s prison like feel doesn’t make you excited to be in Toronto.
Airports are gateway points of entry to spectacular destinations. Lets make the facilities themselves more exciting and celebrate the beginning of a great vacation, productive business meeting, or reconnection with friends and family. Destination managers need to get engaged with their local airport authority.

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Filed under Destination Marketing, Tourism Marketing