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The Airport Experience Virtual Summit held earlier this week brought together more than 400 registered attendees to discuss the key challenge facing airports and concessionaires. The goal was to begin laying the groundwork for recovery and growth in a still-struggling sector.

Day 1 kicked off with an Airport Director Outlook session designed to bring the unique challenges facing airports to the fore. Lance Lyttle, managing director of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), who had testified before the U.S. Senate earlier in the day, shared insights on progress of the latest pandemic relief funding bill which, if passed in its current form, would provide $8 billion to airports.

Lyttle was joined by Chellie Cameron, CEO of Philadelphia International Airport (PHL); Justin Erbacci, CEO, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA); and Brian Ryks, executive director and CEO of Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC). The panelists discussed ideas about how their concessions programs, and the airport-tenant relationship, will evolve in the future. The directors also addressed infrastructure plans, new technologies and efforts to enhance the passenger experience.

Concessions goals and the future of airport tenant relationships were also discussed in two panels convened on Day 2 of the Summit. Collectively featuring leaders of eight of North America’s largest concessions companies, the two panels – one focused on food and beverage and one focused on retail – delved into issues including ongoing rent and minimum annual guarantee challenges, supply and demand imbalances and future RFP interest. The panelists also highlighted tech enhancements and their strategies for serving the post-pandemic travelers.

The food and beverage concessions panel included: Carlos Bernal, CEO of Areas USA; Steve Johnson, president and CEO at HMSHost; Jamie Obletz, president, travel for Delaware North; and Michael Svagdis, CEO of SSP America. The retail concessions panel included: David Charles, president and COO of Marshall Retail Group; Raymond Kayal, Jr., president and CEO, NewsLink Management Group, LLC; Gregg Paradies, president and CEO, Paradies Lagardère; and Brian Quinn, executive vice president and COO, Hudson.

The AX Virtual Summit also included two “Best Practices from the Experts” events. In the first, Chris Gwilliam, vice president of business development for Airport Dimensions and Jeff Livney, co-founder and chief experience officer of Servy shared how they see the evolution of technology throughout the travel experience and how the entire ecosystem can work together to strengthen confidence and bring travelers back. Livney and Gwilliam were joined by Blake Halseide of JetBlue Airways and Mike Salzman of URW.

The second “Best Practices from the Experts” block included three Ted Talk-style presentations.

Leo Carrington, travel and leisure research lead at Credit Suisse, shared insights on global airport concessions trends and assess expected passenger demands in a post-pandemic environment. Lewis Allen, senior director, Portland Design Associates, tapped his global experience in travel retail to suggest ways to evolve the retail offering in airports. Robert Firpo-Cappiello, editor-in-chief of Hospitality Technology Magazine, shared data from two recent Hospitality Technology studies, spotlighting restaurant customer demand for contactless transactions, efficiency, and health and safety.

All presentations will be available to subscribers through the airporxhub.com site by mid-March.