Oana Damian: Changes forced on airports by COVID-19 give them a new opportunity to become destinations, or brands in their own right

Welcome to The Moodie Davitt Podcast. Today’s episode features Oana Damian, Founder of Damazo Group, a UK-based boutique consulting company, which provides advisory services on commercial due diligence and airport commercial planning projects worldwide.

Damazo specialises in non-aeronautical revenue analysis and forecast modelling. It places particular emphasis on the role of technology and industry innovations in improving the passenger experience and increasing commercial revenues.

In the COVID-19 era and beyond, technology and innovation, often interlinked, will play a critical role in first the recovery and then, hopefully, the flourishing of airport commercial revenues. Martin Moodie spoke to Ms Damian by Zoom in Dominican Republic recently.

 

Martin Moodie speaks to Oana Damian in Dominican Republic by Zoom

It’s a fascinating interview, in which Ms Damian contends that airports ultimately may benefit from some of the changes forced on them by the COVID-19 crisis.

[Click on Podcast icon to hear Oana Damian talk to Martin Moodie]

Asked how she believes passenger behaviour – and the passenger experience – will change as a result of COVID-19, Ms Damian says: “That’s something that we all think about in the industry right now… and I see it as a grand opportunity.

The question posed on Damazo’s home page takes on particular relevance in the COVID-19 era

“Because of infrastructure capacity constraints, certain processes have had to be moved off airport in the past. That was because air traffic was growing at such a pace that infrastructure development could not keep cope. Now we may be talking about exactly the same thing in terms of moving certain processes off airport and engaging with passengers early.

“This time it’s for different reasons… because of the health and safety norms that have to be created within airports. This gives an opportunity that airports didn’t necessarily have before to become destinations, or brands in their own right.

“So far, within the travel ecosystem, the institutions that actually can be regarded as brands and have most communication with the passengers are the airlines. Less so the duty free companies because everyone simply calls it ‘duty free’ – unless you’re in the industry you don’t make a distinction between Dufry or Lotte or World Duty Free – even though these companies have developed their own loyalty programmes. But those go with hand in hand with the most frequent shoppers as opposed to necessarily the most frequent travellers.

“The airports have been regarded as a necessary and irreplaceable piece of infrastructure within the travel ecosystem, but one that didn’t necessarily have a brand of its own… unless you talk maybe about airports such as Changi, Zürich, Munich and London Heathrow that have managed to position themselves as a brand within the passenger mind.

“Now this is an opportunity to engage with the passenger early… and create a link of communication that didn’t exist before. In the long run, you can not only develop your infrastructure in accordance with where you see passenger movements and behaviour, but also increase your ancillary revenue by engaging with the brands within the airport and offering a consolidated offering. And one that actually speaks to the passenger as opposed to the offering that you’ve set at the beginning of creating the terminal without necessarily taking all other factors into consideration.

“Plus this is a way that airports can now instil confidence within the passengers before they travel, hence engaging with them. Thus obtaining their data and further down the line using that data in a way that engages the passenger and that is commercially profitable to the airport itself.”

Damazo Group helps airports boost commercial revenues and enhance the consumer proposition