Analysis | Reviving the travelling consumer

Consumers have long crossed the threshold of just an awareness of health. It has progressed into a fully-fledged constant state of anxiety. Travelling brings these concerns to light – whether because of foreign foods, disorientation, adrenalin, jet-lag or the general state of flux. Airports need to find ways to reinvigorate these consumers to engage them with shopping, eating and drinking.

Finding ways to ease the stress of travelling is key to creating a pleasant and even enjoyable airport experience. With the number of air passengers expected to double by 2033, the sheer amount of travellers to cater for will increase the pressure for airports to become not only more efficient, but also places to rest and recharge.

According to a recent report by APH (Airport Parking & Hotels), 50% of people said that the most popular method to combat the stress of air travel was to arrive with plenty of time for their flight. Especially poignant when it is considered that, on average, a person spends 150 minutes from the moment they arrive to the terminal until the moment they board the plane.

Travel is considered equally as stressful as moving home – so why shouldn’t that time be used to create an enjoyable experience?

The stresses of air travel will soon be shouted about as TripAdvisor, the travel review website has recently stated that they will be launching dedicated pages for over 200 airports. The pages will encourage travellers to rate and review all aspects of their experiences at the airports.

But what things are airports currently doing? Providing spaces to help unwind seems to be the key to easing the stress of travel. Spaces for disconnection and mindfulness have emerged to allow travellers a moment of peace. San Francisco Airport opened the world’s first yoga room within an airport in its Terminal 2 and now another in Terminal 3. The rooms are located after security, where waiting times are particularly poignant. Open 24 hours, it has become a pit stop for travelling yogis and created a ripple effect with many other airports following in its footsteps and opening their own yoga rooms. Helsinki Airport has recently launched TravelLab, a project dedicated to testing activities that help travellers relax through departures and transfers. Run by Finavia, the initiative is designed to engage or ease the stress of travel and includes yoga and pilates classes as well as a “Taste of Finland” food concept – including pop-up restaurants and crash courses in coffee making. Yet the most interesting aspect is that this initiative has been launched in preparation for the 20 million passengers expected every year through the airport by the year 2020.

And for the non-yogis who simply want a piece of peace? Narita Airport in Tokyo provides four “Silent Rooms” although they have been recently rebranded to Prayer Rooms in their efforts to become a more Muslim-friendly airport due to the influx of passengers from Islamic countries. However, Narita Airport state on their website: “Prayer Rooms are available for all prayer, devotions, meditation, contemplation, reflection, silent thought or any spiritual activity in tranquil surroundings” therefore allowing and opening this space to all travellers who need a moment to tap into their meditative needs.

It must be considered that reviving the travelling consumer is not just limited to quiet spaces and yoga rooms. Green spaces and nature enclosures are proven to reduce stress and some airports have taken this on board. Changi Airport in Singapore is renowned for integrating nature within the airport with Butterfly, Cactus, Orchid and Sunflower Gardens whilst Beijing Capital International Airport has a pond and there is even a Rainforest at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia. Although probably the most efficient, are the Indoor Zen Gardens at Dubai International Airport, that match both a mindful, quiet space with nature.

However airports decide to provide initiatives to turn air travel into an interesting and enjoyable experience, as long as they aim to ease the stress of travel, it can turn the dreaded airport experience into something that travellers look forward to as much as they do the rest of their trip. Because airports, if designed thoughtfully, can be perfect places to provide suspended time for jaded passengers during their busy and hectic lifestyles.

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