Asutil conference proceedings: day two

By Doug Newhouse |

The final day’s proceedings at the recent Asutil conference in Cancun opened with an information-packed, although at times, possibly overloaded economics tour of Latin America, presented by Carlos Melconian, Director of M&S Consultants.

Within this, Melconian analysed vast quantities of economic data on the economic climate in the region, while drawing various conclusions. The most revealing of these highlighted the importance of three main countries in relation to growth. 

Melconian revealed that Brazil, Mexico and Argentina account for over 87% of the GDP in Latin America, with Brazil leading the rate at 64% alone, Mexico at 14% and Argentina at 9%. 

He also stated that in a region famed for its economic highs and lows, the current ‘bonanza’ that is being experienced should carry on in a stable manner, just as long as tourism remains strong, Brazil continues on its steady path and control over inflation is maintained.

CONCERNS ABOUT ARGENTINA
Melconian added that Argentina continues to be an economy to watch, considering its current high rate of inflation. He said that until October of this year – when elections are set to take place – the future financial scenario remains uncertain alongside who will rule the country. 

His belief is that any continuation of the current ruling party in power will lead to a deepening of the existing situation. [Others present at the conference also warned that the possibility of a hung Parliament might only add to the future economic uncertainty-Ed].

Having said this, Melconian’s final overall conclusions showed that while there is some potential uncertainty ahead, a collapse is not likely due to the correct management of the current abundance in Brazil. 

By avoiding over expansion and ‘operating moderately with no fear’ at a micro-economic level, he said that a successful support system would be in place for future challenges.

TRANSFORMING THE MUNDANE
Lewis Allen, Director of Environments at Portland Design then presented a very visually stimulating talk on how the travel retail environment needs to respond to the passenger, by defining what he believes to be the six key emotions of shoppers. 

He described these as engagement, education, entertainment, end use, ease and exclusivity. Allen challenged delegates to defy reason, citing ‘simultaneous delight, madness and voluptuous panic’ – a description once given to the slide installation at Changi T3, Singapore.

Through a whistle-stop visual tour of many airport retail spaces and installations, including Schiphol, Changi, Larnaca and Arlanda to name a few, Lewis showed several successful ways in which airport retail environments can positively impact on increasing sales. He said these openly challenge the 80:20 ratio of non-shoppers versus shoppers that is so often found in airport retailing. 

These examples included bringing nature inside the terminal building, using lighting to greater effect, creative toilet decoration to create humour and fun, and even better design of car parks to enhance a positive atmosphere for passengers.

MOOD ENHANCERS
Drawing on the ‘somatic marker hypothesis’ formulated by Damasio in 1991, Lewis further explained how emotions actually drive us – and therefore potential shoppers – far more than we realise. [The somatic-marker hypothesis proposes a mechanism by which emotional processes can guide or influence behaviour, particularly decision-making-Ed.

He concluded that by transforming the ordinary and looking inwards rather than outwards, while emotionally connecting with passengers, airport retail space can create new revenue streams, a destination experience and therefore more passenger satisfaction – a winning combination for operators, suppliers and retailers alike.

The final presentation of the day finally fell to the keynote speaker Jack Santiago, Business Program Facilitator at Disney Institute. 

THE CASTING PHILOSOPHY
In a fairly detailed reference-read through Disney’s approach to people management, Santiago recounted the ways in which Disney selects, trains, communicates with and cares for its employees – also known in the world of Disney as ‘cast members’ – believing that every organisation can use the business approach taken at Disney.

Santiago used an interactive handbook (distributed to all attendees) to show various recruitment/training videos and to encourage interactive audience participation. He also talked through the elements of Disney culture: the heritage and traditions; language and symbols; shared values; and traits and behaviour. 

Although this was entertaining at times and engaging, perhaps a lot more relevance to successful people management and more specifically to the travel retail and duty free industry, was later to be found in the ideas he forwarded on company communication.

In an industry that is very global in nature, he said effective communication and the understanding of different cultures lies at the heart of many successful businesses. He then suggested the utilisation of various methods to enhance teamwork and encourage respect amongst all employees, from the top right down to the bottom, offering some valuable insight.

FAIRY-TALE ENDING
Arguing that ‘every person has valuable information to share’, Santiago emphasised the need to recognise potential, to know how your staff are thinking, to encourage personal conversation and to use incentives to reward hard work. He summed up by saying: “Where we celebrate success, we create a culture of success” – a true Disney moral ending to the story.

It was then the turn of Jose Carlos Rosa, Vice President of Asutil, to bring official proceedings to a close. As part of this there was a live video link up to Martin Moodie, of The Moodie Report, who came online to thank the audience for the many messages of support sent to him during this last year. At the same time, a surprise honour was bestowed upon him with the Asutil Lifetime Achievement Award. Moodie responded accordingly, describing it as a ‘truly humbling’ experience.

Finally, before inviting all delegates to a Dufry-sponsored lunch, Rosa revealed that Asutil 2012 will once again be held in June and this time in Puerto Iguazú in Argentina.

 

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