Spain tender: More details emerge on coveted airport duty free contracts

By Luke Barras-hill |

Possible bidders for the highly vaunted Spanish airports duty free tender – dubbed ‘the largest in the world’ – received a timely update this week, ahead of its official release.

  1. Spanish airport operator Aena Aeropuertos SA together with consultancy group Alvarez & Marsal – appointed to devise and structure the tender – unveiled strategic information on the mammoth duty free contracts during a briefing on Tuesday 4 October at the TFWA World Exhibition & Conference.

As reported on LinkedIn, it is anticipated that 85 duty free shops will be up for grabs at the 26 airports in questions, with six lots covering 55,000sq m of commercial space.

While the specifics of the concessions are not yet officially confirmed until the RFP launches (expected this quarter), it is understood that the lots will include airport operations across Madrid; Catalonia; the Balearic Islands; the Canary Islands; and Southern Spain (including Seville, Malaga and Alicante).

What we understand so far…

Aena says the total value of the contracts equate to more than €18 billion over their duration, expected to be around 12 years.

The €18 billion-plus contracts represent a ‘unique opportunity’ for duty free operators, says Aena.

Bids will be assessed equally on technical and financial aspects.

María José Cuenda, Managing Director Commercial and Real Estate at Aena, said: “We are focused on adapting to the continued changes in market trends and passenger profiles and have introduced a lot of innovation in this tender – more commercial spaces, a wide run of categories and products, digital experience, more lots than the current contract that attends to different passenger profiles in different airports.”

Alvarez & Marsal’s Jordi Flores, (pictured) and Manuel Pingarron (below) appraise the opportunities across the six anticipated commercial lots.

Importantly, many of the locations including Madrid and Barcelona will benefit from upgraded commercial space, including walkthrough units, to increase the total footprint available.

Speaking to TRBusiness on the sidelines of the briefing, Cuenda said: “It is important to include a new surface [area] because it is necessary to attend to other passengers and categories.

“For example, in Madrid and Barcelona there are a few shops and if one operator manages all of the space it is better and easier if they can control the neighbour (brands) space.”

Cuenda was unable to share further information when asked whether there could be restrictions on the number of lots that operators could bid for in the tender, which has drawn strong interest.

Dufry is the current contract holder of retail and commercial services at the 26 airports after renewing its concessions in 2019.

However, a legal change on MAG/fixed concession fees paid to Aena by Spain’s Congress of Deputies has meant the existing contracts will now expire on 31 October 2023.

The new concessions are due to begin in November 2023.

Information on the new duty free tender emerged in January.

Attendees to the briefing event, which concluded with a Champagne cocktail and networking on the terrace of the Palais des Festivals, included current incumbent Dufry, Gebr. Heinemann and Aer Rianta International.

Among the clutch of guests that TRBusiness spoke to during the event, most were satisfied with the information shared on the upcoming RF, though some expressed concern over the level of detail available.

Aena closed out 2021 with 119,959,671 passengers – a 57.7% lift year-on-year (56.4% down on 2019) as it more than halved its losses to €60 million (€126.8m in 2020).

The company activities cover 46 airports, 34 of which are managed, and two heliports.

Separately, as this publication outlined in June, 190 retail locations have been put out to bid – and many awarded – since November.

Stay close to TRBusiness for more on this story…

For an extended interview with María José Cuenda, Managing Director Commercial and Real Estate at Aena, see the TRBusiness June/July e-zine featuring the Top 10 Airports report.

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