JAMAICA. Leading airport retail design specialist The Design Solution has created a distinctive new design for commercial areas at Montego Bay Sangster International Airport, in partnership with airport company MBJ Airports Ltd. Development of new space across 6,600sq m begins this year and runs into 2019.

According to The Design Solution, the design features a walk-through strategy that exposes all travellers to retail. It also demonstrates “how effectively design can support relatively small airports investing to drive non-aeronautical revenue streams,” said the company.

The ambitious commercial upgrade at Sangster International Airport will take place this year and run into 2019

The Design Solution Founder and Managing Director Robbie Gill, explained the revenue-driving approach and the key challenges behind the designs. He said: “As is common with the layout at many airports, Sangster International’s two-level layout presented a serious challenge to achieving the optimal exposure of passengers to the retail offer.

“After check-in on the ground floor, entry to the upper floor brings passengers to the middle of the duty free shop [run by Dufry -Ed]. With gates at each end of the building, those travellers who turn towards the northern gates have no exposure at all to the core retail space located towards the southern end of the terminal. This loses around 40-45% of footfall so our design needed to address the huge opportunity especially as, currently, the northern retail space is principally focused on souvenirs and the category opportunity is much broader.”

He said that the combination of the walk-through route and the clear sightlines ensure not only that 100% of passengers pass through the main duty free store but that they also see the broader retail offer in both the northern and southern areas of the terminal.

Tomorrow’s world: Views of the terminal’s interior designs featuring new concepts and Jamaican themes

Gill said: “By dramatically increasing the exposure of passengers to the core duty free store MBJ Airports Ltd can achieve a powerful return on its investment in its existing space. The airport also has the future Phase 2 option to further expand the retail space and our designs can then integrate a further development of the passenger flow that will deliver the optimum goal of almost every passenger passing every shop.

“Crucially, we have ‘future proofed’ the design principles that we’ve created for Sangster International. These can be applied effectively whether the airport management decides in the future to opt for a single major expansion or a series of smaller phases developments.”

Gill added: “The key to successful design is that we combine great looking spaces with highly effective planning of how the space works, especially regarding passenger flow. A stunningly beautiful store is pointless if footfall isn’t guided to it. Whether it’s major hub or a small regional airport the design must draw passengers to the key retail spaces and we have achieved a huge increase in that at Sangster International.”

The existing layout of the terminal (above) and new design (below); click to enlarge

Sense of Place is a central feature in the design, which reflect Jamaica’s natural beauty and its tourist appeal.

Robbie Gill: “We wholeheartedly believe that passengers should have a unique experience of an airport that is firmly embedded in the country or city that they serve”

Gill noted: “The local element is crucial in the retail offer. For example, the Coffee and Spice store expresses Jamaica’s global renown for its coffee, including the famous Blue Mountains coffee. This opens up a fantastic design opportunity whereby we can create natural synergies between the retail offer and the broader terminal space, with the island’s natural beauty as a unifying design theme.

“This includes not only the beauty of tourist destinations such as the Blue Mountains but also the island’s wildlife and the island’s relationship with the ocean.”

He added: “We wholeheartedly believe that passengers should have a unique experience of an airport that is firmly embedded in the country or city that they serve.

“Passengers at Sangster International will not only discover a dramatically enhanced retail offer but they will enjoy it in an engaging environment that is unmistakably Jamaican in spirit.”

MBJ Airports Ltd CEO Rafael Echevarne said: “Like most airports we are constantly seeking the optimal commercial return on our investment in our terminals, particularly through driving retail footfall and penetration. We are committed to creating an amazing experience for our passengers and are delighted that The Design Solution has created an adaptable new layout that not only drives our commercial imperatives but also delivers a unique and authentic expression of our island.”

Gill added: “Right now we are very active at a number of airports across the Americas and we are seeing a surge of airport investment in retail spaces focused on conveying a true sense of location while delivering optimal commercial returns, stretching from Toronto and New York JFK to Rio, Cancún and Bogotà among others.

“Developments such as Rio and Cancún demonstrate that the Americas can match the best in the world for retail adventures. As these exciting new developments are launched across this region the expectations of the passenger will be raised and other airports in the Americas will face increased pressure to raise their game.”