Trinity Forum attracts 300+ to Abu Dhabi

By Doug Newhouse |

Mohammed Al Bulooki, Chief Commercial Officer, Abu Dhabi Airports Company welcomed around 317 delegates to the Trinity Forum at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Viceroy Hotel yesterday.


The distinguished delegate list featured suppliers from all product channels, operators, airport personnel and press, plus 67 dedicated staff from ADAC and 16 from the organising joint venture partners – Airports Council International and The Moodie Report.


Held at the landmark Yas Marina F1 Circuit International Media Centre, just 10 minutes from Abu Dhabi International Airport, The Trinity Forum has evolved into a very successful – mostly travel retail – event over the last decade.


It began yesterday with the customary introductory remarks from TMR Founder and Chairman Martin Moodie, followed by Mohammed Al Bulooki, Angela Gittens, Director General, Airports Council International, and Dermot Davitt, newly-promoted Vice Chairman, The Moodie Report.


Moodie looked back at a decade of Trinity Forums before posing the question, where next? He also announced the introduction of a new award called the Trinity Prize to be awarded to organisations that reflect the values of the Trinity. He said this will not be sponsored and only awarded if there is an organisation deemed deserving of it.


Angela Gittens (left), Director General, Airports Council International emphasised the importance of non-aeronautical revenues and the growing professionalism of airports despite the pressure on them.


She then proceeded to make two ASQ awards from ACI’s customer service programme (ASQ) to King Fahd and Abu Dhabi airports.


Mohammed Al Bulooki (below right) then took to the stage and welcomed the gathering with a picture of what was once a very modest Abu Dhabi Airport in the 1950s and he underlined just how far the airport has developed since.



He said the expansion in Abu Dhabi is a result of the government’s vision in 2004, pointing out that five years ago the conference’s Yas Viceroy hotel and the adjacent F1 race track – now one of the best in the world – did not exist and he said this all goes hand in hand with the aviation growth at Etihad Airways.


Abu Dhabi is now projecting 24.2m passengers (+64%) by 2017 before the new Midfield Terminal opens, by which time duty free sales will have reached AED1.5bn ($408m). [As reported, Abu Dhabi Duty Free’s retail revenue was up +24% to AED809.5m/$220.3m in 2012 – a new record-Ed].


Mohammed Al Bulooki then announced that DFS Group and ADAC have agreed a new five-year contract at Abu Dhabi International Airport. He said “DFS have done a great job here” and he was proud to make the announcement, a sentiment shared by Dan Cappell (left), Senior Vice President Commercial, ADAC later in the morning.


Cappell said ADAC and DFS meet every day and have an excellent relationship and both companies will now step up their conversations with brands ahead of the opening of the new Midfield Terminal.


Following the address by Mohammed Al Bulooki, the keynote speech was delivered by Philippe Schaus (below right), Chairman & CEO, DFS Group. This was considered to be one of the highlights of the day by many, alongside the final address by Dr. Zhou Ting (below left), Associate Professor of Beijing’s University of International Business and Economics and Dean of Fortune Character Institute [she spoke on ‘Understanding the Luxury Chinese Traveller’-Ed].


Before challenging the status quo of the business, Schaus talked about the dynamics and how the cost of travelling has shrunk, with an airline ticket now often costing less than the taxi that delivers the passenger to the airport.



Schaus said the top 30 airports now handle more than 500m passengers a year and airport retail is expected to grow by +40% between 2010 and 2050, citing these projected figures as “incredible”.


He said the cost of travel in future and the new destinations that emerge will be interesting, alongside the importance attached to travel shopping by passengers in future and the relevance of the savings propositions, quality and the excitement factors.


Schaus posed a number of challenging questions during this interesting address, including whether the business is doing enough to understand the customer role in travel retail where 40% might visit the duty free shops, but only 25% purchase, revealing a great opportunity.


Schaus suggested that the trade could work together to share data to understand and differentiate much better between high and low spenders and he made the point that “we are all guilty” of treating the customer as a member of a group rather than individuals. At the same time he said there is a need to decommoditise the business and possibly strengthen the concept of travel retail specific products and developing luxury.


Interestingly, he mentioned the change of travel plans some travellers make as a sign of their retail commitment, for example to travel via Incheon Airport to take in the Louis Vuitton store [as confirmed to The Business by Incheon management-Ed]. More generally he observed that a sense of place is not always present at many airports.


He said that the industry is capable of much more and needs to treat the categories in a different way, although he acknowledged that fashion is difficult to do better than the High Street. But categories like spirits, watches and skincare have no such limits and much more can be done he said.


Taking up the Trinity organisers’ brief to be challenging, Schaus said there are also questions over shop design and it is arguable whether the retailers have not become commodities themselves, with some mere slaves to share prices.



He added that retailers have a tendency to climb over each other and he said one has to pity the airport operator who has to choose between so many shades of grey – so much so that he said it is sometimes difficult to see that a concession has actually changed hands.


While this is only a brief report on this presentation, Schaus said each operator needs to get back to basics and reflect a point of difference, without trying too hard to be everything to everybody.


He said Trinity thinking must never be allowed to lapse and the industry should be obsessed by it and be aware where the competition really is. At the same time he said the business should be scared of commoditisation.


There were several other good sessions during the first day at the Trinity in Abu Dhabi and The Business will be providing our usual comprehensive and impartial review of the whole event very shortly.


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