Increasingly, airports are becoming leisure hubs, as opposed to simply a terminal to your final destination, capitalising on cultural trends such as eating out, VR, and health and wellbeing.

Fine dining and cocktail bars are replacing traditional airport spaces with many restaurants and chefs making it their business to provide first class cuisine for flyers and producing that holiday feeling before take-off. Top UK chefs such as Gordon Ramsay (Heathrow T5), Jamie Oliver (Gatwick) and Tony Kitous (Gatwick) have opened high-end bars and dining environments, transporting travellers out of traditional airport environments and creating wow experiences in a historically traditional retail environment.

Brands are also getting involved by either partnering with these premium names or by developing their own immersive experiences. Diageo offers one example, bringing Haig Club to life across targeted airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Changi TR and Manchester) via an interactive sensory experience (details can be found here).

These personal experiences at airports help to take the stress out of travel and provide brands the opportunity to interact with consumers one-to-one in a way that may not exist in the domestic market. This also allows brands to experiment with different offers, products and strategies in a captive busy environment.

With so many brands competing over such small spaces, capturing an audience and getting noticed is getting harder. Innovative brands are utilising total brand immersion to entice audiences and moving away from simple, traditional sampling. Technology is an important part of achieving cut through and increasingly we are seeing physical activities being enhanced with digital elements. This ‘Phygital’ trend in Travel Retail has been steadily growing and, with the rapid rise of VR, can now teleport TR consumers to places that add an extra element to the ‘journey’ they are already on, fully immersing them in brand culture.

Technology also has a massive effect on driving convenience and ease in the Travel Retail space, a trend that brands are starting to capitalise on to help take the stress out of travel and make it an overall enjoyable and leisurely experience. Apps that provide you with the latest airport offers, allow you to find charging spots, access lounges, find wifi and keep you updated with live airport information are increasingly becoming popular (FLIO is one example of this).

With this push on convenience, immersion and personalised experience, airports are now a destination in themselves. Watch this space for some of the most exciting brand activities in the future.