‘Over to you’: Kate Holsgrove, Chief Commercial Officer, Perth Airport

By Trb Editor |

Kate Holsgrove Perth Airport

Kate Holsgrove, CCO, Perth Airport: “Reinvention – as opposed to recovery – allows us to accept that our world has changed; with more than 170 new initiatives, we’ve already begun delivering that.”

As a key interlocutor for economic growth in Western Australia, Perth Airport’s role has amplified during the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis to ensure critical fly-in, fly-out workers are handled safely and efficiently. Kate Holsgrove, Chief Commercial Officer describes how the airport has shifted from absorbing the shock to reinventing its operational activities, including in commercial and retail areas.

There’s nothing like a crisis to help reaffirm the principles you try to live your life by and the lessons you’ve learned along the way. One of my ‘go-to’ quotes in my career to date is ‘life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it’.

Covid-19 and its social, cultural and economic fallout is happening to all of us. But that’s only 10% of it. The far bigger part of the story is how we as individuals, enterprises and communities are responding, adapting and evolving as we work our way through it together.

There’s no question that airports – with revenue streams largely based on a per-passenger basis – have faced catastrophic drops in passenger numbers and revenue as governments implement tough border restrictions. While Perth Airport faces the costs of remaining operational 24/7, revenue streams from aviation, retail and ground transport have effectively dried up.


Our initial crisis response was ensuring the safety of passengers, the airport community and our Perth Airport team. The added pressure of the Australian economy being heavily dependent on Western Australia’s resources sector meant their fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workforce needed to keep flying to work sites dotted across our vast state.

Perth Airport T1 exterior

An agile team has been created at Perth Airport pooling experience from across the business, with biometric processing, friction-less parking, contactless payment solutions, click & collect and a renewed focus on wellness just a handful of future measures.

We had to show FIFO workers, mining companies, state and federal governments and the broader community that we could manage this safely. To do so involved major changes in the way we managed the flow of FIFO passengers through our terminals.

These were changes that had to be planned, agreed and implemented almost overnight. Having weathered the initial storm, we needed to consolidate our position and reduce costs to ensure the survival of our business.

Perth Street Market

Revenue streams from aviation, retail and ground transport have ‘effectively dried up’ at an airport that handled 4,360,965 international passengers in 2018/2019 (July-June). Between July 2019 and May this year (the latest available data for its 2019/2020 year), international passengers levels totalled 3,285,176.

But survival is not enough. Neither is waiting for a much-hoped for recovery. We created an agile team from across the business to start working on the next stage: reinvention.


Reinvention – as opposed to recovery – allows us to accept that our world has changed, that things are not going ‘back’ to the way they were. The subtle but important change in language freed our team to re-imagine our future without the shackles of trying to ‘recover’ what’s lost.

Perth Duty Free Dufry lead

Anchor tenant Dufry increased its presence at Perth Airport in January by opening new stores at the departures and arrivals areas of Terminal 3.

With more than 170 new initiatives, we’ve already begun delivering that change with touchless hand sanitiser dispensers, physical distancing reminders, protective screens at check-in, and long lasting anti-microbial sterilisation of security trays and other high-touch surfaces.

Creating confidence is the key to unlock our future. For travel restrictions to be removed, governments and passengers need to be confident that our airports are Covid-safe. Retailers, airlines and aviation support services need to be confident that their employees are safe in our terminals.

To help reduce travel anxiety as a result of Covid19, we also are rolling out a comprehensive awareness campaign via our digital channels and in-terminal assets to educate our passengers on what to expect when traveling by air.

The future will see more measures such as biometric processing, friction-less parking, contactless payment solutions, click & collect, and a renewed focus on wellness.

Our Perth Airport team have been amazing, pulling together to keep our passengers safe, supporting our airline partners, retailers and tenants through this unprecedented crisis, and thinking creatively to maximise the commercial opportunities that remain despite our fall in passenger traffic.

The aviation and tourism sectors were among the first to be impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak and will be among the last to recover. Perth Airport has shouldered its share of pain. We don’t know when the Covid-19 crisis will pass, but we have made a bold and decisive start to reinvent ourselves and look forward to working with our partners to re-mobilise our great airport together.

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the columnist and do not necessarily reflect those of TRBusiness.

To read other columns in the series, click the relevant links below. Interested in getting involved? Please contact one of the editorial team at the following: [email protected][email protected][email protected].

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