The Sun has used an undercover reporter to work as one of Heathrow’s Passenger Ambassadors, whose job is to boost retail sales in the terminals. There is a Channel 4 Dispatches programme on this, also showing how airport passengers are getting a raw deal from changing money. In 2016 the airport made a record £612 million in retail income, which is rent from retailers and from car parking charges. This was up 7.7% compared to 2015, while aeronautical income remained unchanged at £1,699 million. Heathrow’s retail division now makes up 22% of its revenues – £612 million out of £2,807 million. The 150 Passenger Ambassadors help travellers once they are through security, and are set strict targets about persuading them to visit shops and spend money. These are between £2,500 to £4,000 per day, and the most successful senior ambassadors claim to hit £10,000 per day. They are told: “The majority of the role will involve interacting with passengers, persuading them to shop if they had not planned to, or encouraging them to spend more by talking to them about offers and promotions across the Terminal….The average spend per passenger must go up as a result of your presence on the terminal floor.” The job description says: “A minute should not pass without a conversation with one or more passengers.”
DUTY SPREE Investigation reveals Heathrow airport staff are set targets to encourage passengers to spend money in shops
An undercover reporter lifted the lid on the sales targets that are Heathrow Passenger Ambassador staff are set
BY HARRY WALLOP (The Sun)
26th February 2017
HOLIDAYMAKERS are being secretly enticed into spending money at Britain’s biggest airport, an investigation has found.
Heathrow has hired staff to stealthily persuade reluctant shoppers to part with their cash, according to a Channel 4 Dispatches programme, which also lifts the lid on how passengers are also getting a raw deal from changing money.
The revelation comes just two days after the airport published figures which shows it is making a record amount of money from renting out space in the airport to retailers such as Harrods, Burberry, World Duty Free and WH Smith.
It made a record £612 million in rent from retailers and from car parking charges last year. This was a jump of 8%. Its retail division now makes up nearly a quarter of its revenues.
One of its methods of boosting sales is the use of Heathrow Passenger Ambassadors. The airport employs more than 150 of these to help travellers once they are through security. “Whether you’re looking for flight information, directions or any kind of help with your journey, our team will get you quickly on your way,” the airport says on its public website, explaining the role of the ambassadors.
But what the company does not make clear is that the employees, who wear a distinctive purple uniform – as well as helping passengers find their way about – are set strict targets about persuading them to visit shops and spend money.
Passenger Ambassadors are set daily targets to persuade travellers to spend between £2,500 to £4,000, by guiding travellers towards the shops. The most successful senior ambassadors claim to hit £10,000 a day.
Dispatches sent a reporter undercover to work as a Heathrow Passenger Ambassador. On being hired, they received the following job description: “The majority of the role will involve interacting with passengers, persuading them to shop if they had not planned to, or encouraging them to spend more by talking to them about offers and promotions across the Terminal….The average spend per passenger must go up as a result of your presence on the terminal floor.”
Ambassadors, who wander the public areas “airside” (where passengers kill time once they are through security), are told they need to approach as many passengers as possible, asking if they need any help, and then guiding the conversation towards the shopping opportunities and the deals in the shops.
“Approach all passengers with a smile and a benefit statement regarding the promotions on offer. The more passengers you approach and help, the more conversions achieved. A minute should not pass without a conversation with one or more passengers,” the job description states.
The aim is to persuade passengers to visit the shops, which ambassadors escort them to. If a holidaymaker spends money, the Ambassador can then find out from the shop assistant the value of the transaction, which the Ambassador then logs on a handheld terminal. If they hit enough of their targets they are paid a bonus.
Agnes Nairn, a consumer and marketing expert who is dean at the Hult International Business School, says: “I think that’s deceptive. There are rules about how any advertising has to be clearly labelled as advertising. I’m not sure this is much different.”
Helen Dewdney, a consumer champion who runs the Complaining Cow website, says: ‘Heathrow is not breaking any laws, but I do think it is underhand.
‘It’s one thing for a Turkish taxi driver to take you via his brother’s carpet shop, but you kind of expect that. You certainly are not prepared for these sort of tactics at Heathrow.’
At the end of last year, it was disclosed that bureaux de change at airports were offering terrible rates to customers, with the average rate 13% worse than the market exchange rate, according to one report.
But the Dispatches programme also reveals that at Stansted, Moneycorp, which operates all the bureaux de change at the airport, fails to inform customers that they can avoid paying a 5% commission on changing money if they use the foreign exchange ATM – also operated by Moneycorp – right next door to the desk.
The member of staff is recorded as telling an undercover reporter: “I can’t tell you that; you have to ask me. If you ask me is it cheaper I can tell you. Because if we…say to every customer who walks past we’d never get anyone to serve because everyone would just go to the cash machine. So we are not allowed to tell you it.”
Mark Horgan, the chief executive of Moneycorp, said: “Our aim is to provide the best possible service to our customers, and we do not ask staff to conceal information about where to find the best rates.”
Heathrow denied they were misleading any travellers and that it had been voted by passengers as ‘best airport shopping experience’. A spokesman added: “Passenger Ambassadors are an important part of our business and we expect the team to put the needs of our passengers first.”
Heathrow’s 2016 profits rise by 20%
by Lee Hayhurst (Travel Weekly)
Feb 24th 2017
Increased passenger numbers helped Heathrow hike profits by almost 20% last year.
The west London hub achieved a pre-tax profit of £267 million, a rise of 19.7% over 2015.
This came a revenue rose by 1.5% to £2.8 billion with passenger numbers up 1% to a record 75.7 million as passenger charges fell by 1%.
Retail revenue increased by 7.7% to £612 million, including £138 million from duty free sales and £114 million from car parking.
The airport received the green light in October to build a third runway, subject to final government approval, and will consult on plans to bring in 25,000 extra flights a year from 2021 including up to 40 new long-haul routes.
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “2016 was a milestone year for Heathrow. I am very proud of what our 76,000 colleagues have achieved.
“We gave better service at lower cost to a record number of passengers and helped British businesses across the country trade more with the rest of the world.”
He added: “We have started the planning process for expansion and are preparing the skills and the supply chain we will need to build it sustainably and affordably. Heathrow is delivering for Britain.”
Heathrow (SP) Limited Results for the year ended 31 December 2016
Some extracts from the results are copied below:
Passengers 75.7 million in 2016 compared to 75.0 million in 2015 (up 1.0%)
Retail revenue per passenger £ 8.09 in 2016 and £7.58 in 2015 (up 6.7%)
In the year ended 31 December 2016, revenue increased 1.5% to £2,807 million (2015: £2,765 million).
Aeronautical £1,699 million in 2016 and the same £1,699 in 2015
Retail £612 million in 2016 and £ 568 million in 2015 (up 7.7%)
Other £496 million in 2016 and £ 498 million in 2015 (up 0.4%)
Total revenue £2,807 million in 2016 and £ 2,765 million in 2015 (up 1.5%)
In the year ended 31 December 2016, retail revenue increased 7.7% to £612 million (2015: £568 million).
Retail revenue per passenger rose 6.7% to £8.09 (2015: £7.58).
Duty and tax-free £138 million in 2016, and £128 million in 2015 (up 7.8%)
Airside specialist shops £115 million, and £100 million in 2015 (up 15.0%)
Bureaux de change £50 in 2016, and £53 million in 2015 (up 5.7%)
Catering £49 million in 2016 and £ 45 million (up 8.9%)
Other retail income £86 million in 2016, and £75 million in 2015 (up 14.7%)
Car parking £114 million in 2016 and £107 million in 2015 (up 6.5%)
Other services £60 million in both 2016 and 2015
Total retail revenue £612 million in 2016 and £568 million in 2015 (up 7.7%)
“Retail performed strongly in 2016 following the major redevelopment of luxury stores in Terminal 5 including new brands which have strengthened Heathrow’s unrivalled airport shopping experience.
Performance in duty and tax-free stores has continued to improve following extensive store refurbishment in Terminals 4 and 5. Catering has grown in the year as a result of new and refurbished outlets and increases in passenger participation.
Car parking also performed well, with continued take-up of Heathrow’s expanded car parking product range and successful yield management. Growth in retail income accelerated in the second half of the year, particularly in areas such as duty and tax-free and airside specialist shops, driven by the depreciation of sterling following the EU referendum in late June
2016. Redevelopment of luxury stores in Terminal 4 was largely completed in late 2016 and started contributing to overall retail performance.”
“The benefits of investment in Terminal 5 retail outlets and new car parking capacity continue to flow through strongly with over £200 million secured out of the £300 million incremental commercial revenue target set for the regulatory period.”
Read more »
Many of us would love to go to exotic destinations and see wildlife. It will never be quite as good a glimpse as the remarkable programmes on wildlife on TV, where film makers can take months to get the shots. Ecotourism is beneficial to some areas, from money it brings in to the local economy, and demonstrating to local people that there is more commercial value in keeping wildlife alive than in killing it. However, it has its downsides, and even when ecotourism done sensitively it has drawbacks. These include the high carbon footprint, from flights; wildlife disturbance, potential for disease introduction, and development of roads and infrastructure which have a detrimental effect on wildlife. Also many people are unable to afford the high price of ecotourism, or are too old, young, or otherwise unable, or unwilling, to travel. Virtual Ecotourism (vEcotourism) can contribute to overcoming these problems by providing a way to experience a conservation site virtually, using many on-line technologies combined with a live, on-location tour guide. The Virtual Ecotourism website offers a number of “tours” which are 360 degree panoramas, from where the actual tourists go, showing what they see. This is a positive development meaning people do not have to fly across the world, just to see rare populations of animals.
This is a new, and genuinely significant development in tourism without CO2 emissions
The Virtual Ecotourism project uses interactive on-line tours to connect the general public with conservation projects and local communities in ecologically and culturally sensitive areas worldwide. We aim to nurture curiosity about the natural world, promote effective world citizenship, contribute to alternative livelihoods for communities living in areas of high conservation importance, and combat environmental degradation.
vEcotourism was invented in 2004 by Mark Laxer, the director and founder of the Virtual Ecotourism project. Currently, vEcotours are primarily being produced in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia to highlight the plight of the great apes in those countries, but as we grow we intend to tackle the challenge of conservation world wide.
Connecting and empowering conservation projects by integrating state-of-the-art immersive digital technologies with traditional storytelling.
What is a Virtual Ecotour?
In its current, “beta” state, a vEcotour is a series of immersive 360-degree photographs (similar to Google’s Street View) combined with ambient background audio, still images, and embedded videos. An expert guide provides introductory voiceovers for each panorama and comments on the hotspots.
The next step for vEcotourism is to incorporate our immersive panoramas into an interface that will allow tourists to interact, pose questions, and be guided through the experience by a conservation professional in real-time.
Why is Virtual Ecotourism Needed?
Ecotourism has been widely heralded as a means to provide an income in a way that encourages protection of biodiversity. However, even Ecotourism done sensitively has disadvantages including: high carbon footprint, wildlife disturbance, potential for disease introduction, and development of roads and infrastructure which have a detrimental effect on wildlife. Furthermore, many people are unable to afford the high price of ecotourism, or are too old, young, or otherwise unable, or unwilling, to travel. vEcotourism overcomes these challenges by providing a way to experience a conservation site virtually, using many exciting on-line technologies combined with a live, on-location tour guide.
Global overview of the tours available so far.
From this global perspective you may explore vEcotours from four continents (and counting!). Every vEcotour features an immersive full-sphere panorama and a voiced introduction. In addition, some of the tours also feature close-up photos, embedded videos and audio, and interviews to enrich the experience.
The page with 3 short virtual ecotours seeing Sumatran orangutans
The page with 4 short virtual ecotours to the Virunga Mountains & Mountain Gorillas
The page with one virtual ecotour of the Salt-Mining Elephants of Mount Elgon in Kenya
The page with one virtual ecotours of the Queen Elizabeth National Park, Craters tour in Uganda
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Heathrow has been working on its PR by giving figures on how much parents spend on air travel and holidays (some exotic) for their children. They hope to give the impression to parents that they need to provide these luxuries to their children, as part of being good parents …. more consumerist pressure …. Heathrow says in 2016 an unbelievable 19% of children (presumably in the UK, or those passing through Heathrow?) took at least 7 trips trips per year; 5% go on more than 10 trips per year, taking into account family holidays, school trips and holidays with friends. And the “dream destinations” (ie. long haul ones that make more profit for airlines and Heathrow) for under 16 year olds were “Australia, Hawaii, Everest and Thailand”. (Really? Everest? Is this a joke?) Heathrow says the average cost per trip for a child (those under 16 pay no Air Passenger Duty) is about £616 – and on average parents will spend about £30,000 for the holidays of their children, up to the age of 16. Heathrow says “The current generation of kids are dreaming of Bondi Beach, kangaroos and the Outback, with nearly a quarter (23%) of children citing far-flung Australia as their dream destination for 2017.” And on it goes …. Heathrow’s future customers. “Get ’em young” … So THAT’s why we need another Heathrow runway, with all its public expense and negative impacts over vast areas within perhaps 20 miles of the airport.
Generation destination: Modern kids clock up air miles on foreign adventures
Average British parents spend £29,962 on holidays for little ones
29.12.2016 (e Turbo News – Global Travel Industry News)
- 2016 saw a fifth (19%) of children take at least seven trips away, compared to their parents who only took four breaks each year
- Dream destinations for under 16 year olds include Australia, Hawaii, Everest and Thailand
- Tiny travellers receive an average of £46.80 worth of pocket money per trip
- Average getaway costs parents £616.47 – totalling over £29,962 during the course of a childhood (under 16)
Heathrow, the UK’s only hub airport, has revealed that today’s kids are a generation of tiny travellers, visiting more countries, clocking up more air miles and having more overseas experiences than ever before. New research reveals that in 2016, one in five (19%) kids went away seven or more times and one in 20 went on more than 10 breaks taking into account family holidays, school trips and vacations with friends.
The current generation of kids are dreaming of Bondi Beach, kangaroos and the Outback, with nearly a quarter (23%) of children citing far-flung Australia as their dream destination for 2017. Meanwhile, parents were dreaming of vacations closer to home, with the likes of Mallorca (17%), Tenerife (17%) and Blackpool (16%) topping their holiday wish lists.
The rising popularity of American television shows may be why many children also now want to take a trip across the pond – first place on the dream list for little ones was the Big Apple, one in three (31%) said New York is the place they would most like to visit this year. This was followed by Australia (23%), Hawaii (13%), Mount Everest (11%) and Thailand (10%).
To help parents make airport experiences as smooth as possible, Heathrow has revealed its top tips for airport travel – including free play areas, kids-eat-free meals and complimentary pampering with over 50 free beauty treatments – before its time to fly.
For many kids, the fun starts before reaching their destination – a fifth (21%) of parents say their child’s favourite part of a holiday is going through the airport or being on a plane.
Wanting to make sure their little ones can capture every moment, 15% of parents will buy them a new SLR camera, video camera or iPhone to give them the best possible technology for capturing their adventures abroad.
While swimming (46%) and camping (23%) was a favourite childhood holiday activity for today’s parents, this generation of mini adrenaline-junkies are increasingly excited by adventure activities such as scuba diving (18%), safaris (14%) and jet skiing (12%).
With getaways becoming increasingly action-packed, parents are now spending £2,333 on an average family holiday, around £616.47 per child. This totals £29,962 on holidays over the course of a childhood.
Parents also give their kids £46.80 pocket money, a 56% increase to what they used to get from their parents.
Parents can help their kids’ holidays get off to a flying start with Heathrow’s Tiny Traveller’s guide on the Heathrow Airport YouTube channel here: Heathrow’s Top Tips from #TinyTravellers
For more information, imagery or interview requests contact Zoe Taylor at One Green Bean on
Zoe.Taylor@onegreenbean.com or 0207 467 9261.
Notes to editors [Lots more PR stuff from Heathrow airport, which seems to be the source of the story, including:]
Children under the age of 15 travel free on Heathrow Express and adults can save a further £18 by booking a Heathrow Express Duo Saver ticket online which gives two adults a 25% discount when travelling together. Details of the Heathrow Express Duo Saver ticket can be found here. Details of available Kids Eat Free restaurants during half term are available here.
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The advertising industry is salivating about the advertising opportunities it hopes will come from a new Heathrow terminal and runway. There are hopes for hugely more hoardings and outdoor adverts around the airport, as well as in terminals. By the time the expansion might take place, after 2026, “through vastly increased computing processing power and more easily accessible data sets, the opportunities available to airport advertisers will most likely be multi-sensory, integrated, ultra-targeted communications, far beyond what’s available today. Through this development, brands will find a way to be a seamless part of the traveller’s experience.” … “targeting will go beyond the airport as those travelling by coach to catch a flight could be served with ads for holiday insurance along the motorway.”…”advertisers must also consider the unique mind-set of the airport traveller. Consumers are both enjoying down time away from the daily routine, and simultaneously anticipating the excitement of a departure. This unique state of mind, combined with dwell time, opens up opportunities for brands to offer key life moment purchases, for example a new car or mortgage.” And yet more nauseating consumer stuff, generating more excess consumption in association with more air travel.
The expansion won’t come cheap though – it’s expected to cost £17.6bn to build the additional runway. That aside, the third runway is predicted to be the catalyst for economic benefits worth up to £61bn, as well as creating up to 77,000 additional local jobs. [The actual figure, calculated by the DfT in October is more like 37,700 jobs by 2030 – the 77,000 figure is seen as too high, but the DfT persist in keeping that figure on their website, saying it is a “range” … AW note] The move will also create new and lucrative opportunities for other business sectors, not least the UK’s media and marketing industry.
It will provide a huge boost to the out-of-home (OOH) advertising sector, which is enjoying something of a landmark year, with ad spend predicted to rise by 4.8% in 2016, up to £1.11bn.
In a time of nationwide economic uncertainty, the UK airport media landscape is in rude health. This year has seen a number of pivotal developments including the recent acquisition of Airport Media by OOH media operator Primesight, meaning that airport ad sales are now largely handled under two roofs (Primesight and JCDecaux), making media planners’ lives that bit easier.
OOH inventory has also seen something of an upgrade with new and improved screens being added alongside existing landmark sites, such as JCDecaux’s imposing digital towers, wowing passengers in departures at Terminal 5.
But don’t expect that change to happen immediately. Given the opening of the new terminal and runway is likely to be at least ten years away, what’s important to consider is the advancement of technology and the likely implementation of ground-breaking hardware integrated into the architecture by that time. And by 2026, through vastly increased computing processing power and more easily accessible data sets, the opportunities available to airport advertisers will most likely be multi-sensory, integrated, ultra-targeted communications, far beyond what’s available today. Through this development, brands will find a way to be a seamless part of the traveller’s experience.
Brands that understand the customer’s new “active journey” will have an opportunity to reach airport passengers with the right message at the right time.
Outdoor advertising was long considered a passive medium, but this has changed. Consumers out-of-home are shopping, socialising and travelling – all while hooked up to a connected device, which is creating a plethora of new opportunities for advertisers.
For example, targeting will go beyond the airport as those travelling by coach to catch a flight could be served with ads for holiday insurance along the motorway.
Or arrivals to the UK could be targeted with ads for hotel booking sites as they exit the airport. Thanks to tech advancements, OOH advertising is becoming increasingly contextual, delivering messaging relevant to the advertising environment.
Within the airport space, advertisers need to be flexible and offer something new and enticing to consumers. This can be achieved in a number of ways; from contextual targeting to full-on experiential brand experiences. Advancements are also being facilitated by tech innovations such as bluetooth beacons, facial recognition and enhanced connectivity which are already changing the game, providing key data for airports and advertisers.
As well as relevant messaging and tech innovations, advertisers must also consider the unique mind-set of the airport traveller. Consumers are both enjoying down time away from the daily routine, and simultaneously anticipating the excitement of a departure. This unique state of mind, combined with dwell time, opens up opportunities for brands to offer key life moment purchases, for example a new car or mortgage.
Airports have long offered brands rare advertising opportunities, but landmark developments such as Heathrow’s third runway will ensure airports are a crucial environment for a growing myriad of brands. Advertisers that take advantage of OOH’s broadcast power, tech innovations and the unique mind-set of the traveller will see their campaigns take flight.
Tom Perrett is head of client operations EMEA at Aviator at Kinetic Worldwide
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Airbus is producing plans for additions such as gyms, coffee bars, children’s play areas and a spa on its planes, instead of more seats. Their new concept that Airbus calls ‘Transpose’ would allow airlines to customise cabins for each flight using modular technology. Airlines could chop-and-change the interior setup in a matter of minutes in the project developed by an Airbus off-shoot called A³. The plan is to …”enable entirely new categories of passenger experiences, making your time spent in the sky more interesting, personalized, and enjoyable.” There could be a gym, with exercise bikes. “A major coffee chain could run a co-working cafe, providing artisanal beverages and a space for collaboration. An airline could design a kid-safe play zone … where families can spend quality time together” … and so on. Also there are new opportunities for advertising to get extra revenue. Now that ICAO has come up with the least ambitious scheme it could achieve for limiting the growth in global aviation CO2, airlines can have lower load factors and more space on planes that is not used to carry more passengers. If the industry was serious about lower CO2 (rather than just cost) per passenger, they would get planes to carry more people – not coffee bars and gyms. Is this Airbus etc effectively thumbing their nose at serious attempts to cut aviation CO2?
Airbus cabin of the future with gyms, a spa and children’s play areas
The new concept Transpose would allow airlines to customise cabins for each flight using modular technology
13.12.2016 (Daily Post)
By OWEN HUGHES
Air travel may be set for a radical change after Airbus revealed a vision of the future where seats could be replaced by gyms, coffee bars, children’s play areas and a spa.
A new concept from the aviation manufacturer called ‘Transpose’ would allow airlines to customise cabins for each flight using modular technology.
Airlines could chop-and-change the interior setup in a matter of minutes in the project developed by an Airbus off-shoot called A³.
“Well, first and foremost, we believe that this project will enable entirely new categories of passenger experiences, making your time spent in the sky more interesting, personalized, and enjoyable.
“A gym could fill a module with exercise bikes, and give folks the opportunity to stay active.
“A major coffee chain could run a co-working cafe, providing artisanal beverages and a space for collaboration.
“An airline could design a kid-safe play zone (lined with sound absorbing materials) where families can spend quality time together.
“A seat manufacturer could test out a new sleeper seat before widely rolling out the product.
“You’re probably thinking, Sounds nice, but expensive. We’re convinced that this won’t be the case. Besides providing an unprecedented amount of choice and flexibility for passengers, our modeling and research shows that many experiences can be provided with little to no increase in the amount passengers currently pay for comparable experiences on the ground.
“Additionally, we’ve identified significant opportunities for advertisers and businesses to provide new revenue to airlines, potentially sidestepping the need to pass on some costs to passengers.”
“Currently, work on cabin interiors can’t begin until the final weeks of the manufacturing process, but modular cabin interiors could be developed on a parallel timetable with the core fabrication of the aircraft itself.”
They say they could have the Transpose enabled aircraft flying within a few years.
Mr Chua said: “Is that ambitious? Absolutely. But if we keep up our current pace, I think it’s completely achievable. For the past year, our lean A³ team has recruited a great group of engineers, designers, and researchers from across the globe. We are also working closely with Airbus Group’s renowned experts in cabin and airframe engineering, as well as with Airbus industrial design.
“Together, we’ve kicked off manufacturing work around an initial module, and a full-sized aircraft mockup.”
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Heathrow Airport reported a retail revenue increase for the year ending 31st December 2016 of +8.4% in 2015 to £568 million. The revenue per passenger rose by +6.2% above the level in 2014, to reach £7.58. (The Moodie report said the figure was about £7.14 in 2014, £6.21 in 2012, £5.95 in 2011, and £5.64 in 2010). Over the year, Heathrow had an overall growth in revenue of +2.7% to £2,765 million in 2015. EBITDA was £1,605 million, up +3.0%. Heathrow also announced a +2.2% increase in passenger traffic in 2015 to 75 million. For the figures for the first 6 months of 2016 Heathrow said its retail revenue had risen by 7.7% year-on-year, to £280 million – and retail revenue per passenger rose +7.1% to £7.84. Of this, duty and tax free shops contributed £62 million, a +3.3% increase. Heathrow said that for the first 6 months of 2016, it made £62 million from duty and tax-free; £51 million from airside specialist shops; £24 million from bureaux de change; £22 million from catering; £55 million from car parking – with total retail revenue at £280 million. i.e. of total retail revenue 19 – 20% was car parking. Income from parking was £99 million in 2014 and £107 million in 2015. For the first half of 2016 the retail (including car parking) income was about 21% of total revenue.
Heathrow Airport retail revenue up +7.7% in first six months of 2016
by Jason Holland
Source: ©The Moodie Davitt Report
22 July 2016
London Heathrow Airport has reported a +7.7% year-on-year increase in retail revenue in the first six months of 2016 to £280 million. Retail revenue per passenger rose +7.1% to £7.84.
Of this, duty and tax free shops contributed £62 million, a +3.3% increase.
Total revenue at the airport increased by +1.0% to £1,320 million while adjusted EBITDA was up +4.4% to £781 million, which the airport said reflected “lower costs and better value”.
Heathrow reported a +0.6% growth in passengers to 35.7 million in the first six months of the year. Underlying traffic increased in the early part of the year but softened in the second quarter reflecting a more uncertain macro-economic environment, the airport said.
Long haul traffic increased +1.4%, largely from routes serving the Middle East and Asia Pacific.
The airport also provided an update on the retail refreshment programme in Terminal 4. The Drake & Morgan group will open ‘The Commission’, its first airport unit, “shortly”. Terminal 4’s luxury stores, such as Harrods, Burberry and Cartier, are also being re-developed. Five new luxury brands will be introduced, two of which will be new to Heathrow, it said.
Grimshaw Architects has been selected by Heathrow as the concept designer for the airport’s proposed £16 billion expansion
….. and there is more spin from Heathrow about runway etc.
Heathrow Airport has reported a retail revenue increase of +8.4% in 2015 to £568 million.
On a revenue per passenger basis, +6.2% increase over 2014 was recorded to reach £7.58.
The airport saw an overall growth in revenue of +2.7% to £2,765 million in 2015. EBITDA was £1,605 million, up +3.0%. However, a downward trend in operating costs in the second half of 2015 was noted.
Heathrow also announced a +2.2% increase in passenger traffic in 2015 to 75 million.
Heathrow Airport Chief Executive Officer John Holland-Kaye said: “It’s been an excellent year for Heathrow. As we approach our 70th anniversary, our colleagues are delivering the best service we’ve ever achieved to a record number of passengers.
….. and there is more airport spin ….
Heathrow award for top airport for shopping for 3rd year. Net Retail Income per passenger £6.21 in 2012 (£5.64 in 2010)
For the third year, Heathrow got the award (within the airports industry) for the top airport for shopping. Heathrow has over 52,000 square metres of retail space and more than 340 retail and catering outlets. Heathrow overtook Dubai International to win the title of “World’s Best Airport for Shopping” for 2012. Heathrow has the highest retail sales of any airport in the world ahead of Incheon airport in South Korea. Figures from the Moodie Report in February 2013 said that Net Retail Income per passenger at Heathrow was £6.21 (up 4.4% on 2011, partly due to the Olympics) in 2012 and £5.95 in 2011, while it was £5.64 in 2010. (By comparison the Net Retail Income at Stansted in 2012 was £4.27 per passenger). At Heathrow in 2012 the gross retail income increased +5.7% to £460.1 million.
How much profit do airports make from their retail activities, rather than flying?
Heathrow got 21.3% of its income from retail in 2010, compared to 53% from aeronautical. On average each Heathrow passenger spent about £5.70 (maybe £5.90) at the airport, with women spending more than men (!). BAA data say frequent fliers spend more than infrequent fliers. In the year 2010/2011 Gatwick airport made £115.6m from retail, and another £51.7m from car parking, with an average of £5.80 spent on retail per passenger. Stansted retail spending per passenger is about £4.00 to £4.20. In the year 2010/2011 Heathrow made about £380 million per year on retail, Gatwick about £115, and Stansted net retail income fell from £79.8m in 2010 to £73.9m. Manchester made about £70 million on retail, with about £3 per passenger.
The Moodie Report on 2012 is at
the Moodie Report on 2011 is at
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Gatwick continues to get around 22 – 23% of its income from retail, as it has in previous years. Moodies’ data shows that in the year that ended 31st March 2016 the airport reported a +2.3% increase in retail income to £152.5 million. But the net income per passenger decreased -3.7% to £3.67. Income per passenger from retail has stayed around the same figure as in 2011. Gatwick has added a great many retail shops in previous years (it now has 36 shops and 27 restaurants) and offers “collect on return.” Gatwick has done less well than it hoped on sales which it described as “challenging trading” due to “changes in passenger mix and adverse currency movements against Sterling.” Income from food and drink and catering grew by around 2%. Car parking revenue for the year to 31st March 2016 was up +7.6% to £77.9 million and net income per passenger from parking increased by +7.3% to £1.47. So retail + parking is about £5.14 per passenger. Aeronautical revenue rose +5.4% to £350.8 million (so that is around £8.50 approx per passenger) and other income was up +9.7% to £91.9 million. Turnover increased +5.5% to £673.1 million while EBITDA was up +9.7% to £331.0 million. The airport made a profit before tax of £141.0 million.
Gatwick reports +2.3% increase in retail and single runway records
by Jason HollandSource: ©The Moodie Davitt Report
30 June 2016
Gatwick Airport has reported a +2.3% increase in retail income to £152.5 million for the 12 months ended March 31 2016. The airport had a record year for retail in terms of sales.
However, net income per passenger decreased -3.7% to £3.67. The airport attributed this to “challenging trading” conditions in the tax free category including changes in passenger mix and adverse currency movements against Sterling.
It said this decline was partly offset by strong growth in catering.
Relevant and engaging shopping: Gatwick said it would continue to invest in retail growth
“The Gatwick retail strategy is based on a sound understanding of our customers and a relentless approach to ensuring our retail mix is highly relevant to our growing passenger numbers,” the airport stated. “It is therefore pleasing for us to see that customer satisfaction remains at an all-time high; in Q1 2016 87% of customers rated our selection of food & beverage outlets as Excellent or Good with 84% of customers giving this score to our choice of retail stores.”
Car parking revenue was up +7.6% to £77.9 million and net income per passenger increased by +7.3% to £1.47. Aeronautical revenue rose +5.4% to £350.8 million and other income was up +9.7% to £91.9 million.
Gatwick said it set new world records for aircraft movements and passenger numbers for a single runway airport in the 12 months ended 31 March.
Passenger numbers were up +5.5% to 40.8 million. The airport handled 265,970 air traffic movements, a +4% year-on-year increase.
Turnover increased +5.5% to £673.1 million while EBITDA was up +9.7% to £331.0 million. The airport made a profit before tax of £141.0 million.
…. and it continues with Wingate talking about a runway …..
Fashion retailer Next set to open largest airport store at Gatwick
by Dermot Davitt
Source: ©The Moodie Davitt Report
Fashion retailer Next is to open its largest airport store in the South Terminal at Gatwick Airport in September. The 1,850sq ft unit will house men’s and women’s ranges, with a focus on summer clothing, accessories, swimwear and shoes, as well as a range of business wear and accessories.
The airport highlighted its “collect on return” service, through which passengers can order in advance and pick up once they come back from their trip.Gatwick Airport said: “The arrival of Next is in response to the airport’s regular surveys, which show that the retailer is a shop passengers most want to see at the airport.
“On opening, it will join Gatwick’s line-up of 35 shops and 27 restaurants, enhancing an already extensive range including Harrods, SuperDry, Jo Malone, Ted Baker and Dixons.”
Gatwick Airport Chief Commercial Officer Guy Stephenson said: “Next is the latest quality addition to Gatwick’s extensive retail offering.
“The store’s arrival is in response to passenger requests in our regular surveys and joins a stellar line up of recent new openings at Gatwick, including the world’s first airport gin distillery, The Nicholas Culpeper and renowned chef Bruno Loubet’s Grain Store.
“Coupled with the convenience offered by our airport wide ‘carry on-board’ and ‘collect on return’ services, the 41.7 million passengers travelling through the airport every year will experience the best of the high street at tax free prices.”
Next Gatwick Store Manager John Rowland said: “Launching the new Gatwick store is a great privilege. We will be able to show off our fantastic range and serve customers travelling to 80 countries in five continents.”
‘Challenging’ duty and tax free sector hits Gatwick per-pax retail income [half year results]
by Martin Moodie
Source: ©The Moodie Report
Buoyed by the busiest six months in the airport’s history with a record 23.5 million passengers (+4.7% year-on-year), Gatwick Airport posted a +5.2% rise in revenues to £411.8 million (US$626 million) for the half year ended 30 September 2015.
Combined with careful cost management, this resulted in a +6.8% rise in EBITDA to £241.0 million (US$367 million) and a pre-tax profit of £135.2 million (US$205.7 million) on a consolidated basis
Retail income rose +1.4% to £85.5 million (US$130.6 million) but, importantly, net income per passenger decreased by -3.0% to £3.60 (US$5.48) due to “challenging trading” in the duty free and tax free category. Income from duty free and tax free declined by -2.5% period-on-period.
The specialist shop category continued to perform well with per-passenger income broadly in line with traffic growth despite some impact from landside closures as a result of the North Terminal Development programme. Summer 2015 saw several new openings amid an ongoing revamp of the retail offer, including a new Boots store in the South Terminal while Simply Food was also updated in both terminals (a new store in North Terminal arrivals and an extended and modernised unit in the South Terminal).
“Where we have opened new or modernised stores, performance has been strong and we have delivered strong growth compared to last year,” the airport company said.
FOOD & DRINKS AND CAR PARKING FLOURISH
Food & drinks performed well. “Catering remains a particular highlight, where we have grown per passenger income by +2% compared to last year,” said the company. Summer 2015 saw several new openings, including Wondertree restaurant in the South Terminal departure lounge along with Wagamama in the North Terminal departure lounge. Landside the company opened a new Costa Coffee in both terminals.
“Passengers can look forward to some further development in this area as we open new restaurants in both terminals in the second half of the year,” Gatwick Airport said.
Car parking income rose +7.4% and net income per passenger increased +11.9% to £1.60 (US$2.43) due to improved yield management, valet capacity increases and cost savings.
Gatwick Airport said that the mid-year results were “in line with expectations” as it continues to compete to attract new airlines and routes, invest in new facilities, and deliver an excellent service to passengers.
Specialist retail and food & drinks both performed strongly
Car parking revenue was buoyant but retail income per passenger was hit by challenges in the core duty free and tax free sectors
Passenger traffic hit record heights in the six-month period
Gatwick’s passenger traffic growth is a combination of more planes, bigger planes and fuller planes – load factors have increased to 87.2%
Gatwick’s retail income still about 22% of total – around net £3.72 on retail sales + £1.35 on parking per passenger
The Moodie Report has published figures for the retail income of Gatwick airport in the year to 31st March 2014. Gatwick’s retail income rose 9.7% on the level in 2013, from £123.2 million to £135.1 million. By contrast their aeronautical income (aircraft landing charges etc) rose by 11.1% from £285.8 million to £317.4 million. There was a 4.8% increase in passengers, to about 36 million. Gatwick’s car parking income rose by 12.9%, from £58.1 million to £65.6 million. In the year to March 2014, Gatwick made on average £1.35 per passenger on parking. It made, on average, £3.72 per passenger from retail sales. This was up by 4.2% from the level in 2013, but only up 2.7% on 2011. There is now even more retail space, with even more food and beverage facilities. In the year to March 2011 their retail income was £115.6 million and the net retail income was £3.62 per passenger. ie. barely changed over 3 years, (up 2.7%). And that’s a new World Duty Free store opened, and 33 other new stores opened in the past year. Net retail income per passenger at Heathrow was £5.98 in 2011, and about £6.21 in 2012. For both Heathrow and Gatwick, retail income is about 22% or so of income.
How much profit do airports make from their retail activities, rather than flying?
Heathrow got around 21.3% of its income from retail in 2010, compared to 53% from aeronautical. On average each Heathrow passenger spent about £5.70 (maybe £5.90) at the airport, with women spending more than men (!) BAA data say frequent fliers spend more than infrequent fliers. In the year 2010/2011 Gatwick airport made £115.6m from retail, and another £51.7m from car parking, with an average of £5.80 spent on retail per passenger. Stansted retail spending per passenger is about £4.00 to £4.20. In the year 2010/2011 Heathrow made about £380 million per year on retail, Gatwick about £115, and Stansted net retail income fell from £79.8m in 2010 to £73.9m. Manchester made about £70 million on retail, with about £3 per passenger.
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Academics fly a lot, and there is the presumption that this is essential for their work and for international university connections etc. A climate scientist, Dr Peter Kalmus (who works for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory) has decided that his own lifestyle is not consistent with his understanding of rising anthropogenic carbon emissions. “I try to avoid burning fossil fuels, because it’s clear that doing so causes real harm to humans and to non-humans, today and far into the future. I don’t like harming others, so I don’t fly.” He says: “I experienced a lot of social pressure to fly, so it took me three years to quit. Not flying for vacations was relatively easy.” Long trips by road to visit family were a bit harder. He comments that he knows scientists who fly a lot, but “just don’t think about it” and “most people simply don’t know the huge impact of their flying—but I also suspect that many of us are addicted to it. We’ve come to see flying as an inalienable right, a benefit of 21st-century living that we take for granted.” “In today’s world, we’re still socially rewarded for burning fossil fuels. We equate frequent flying with success; we rack up our “miles.” This is backward: Burning fossil fuels does real harm to the biosphere, to our children, and to countless generations—and it should, therefore, be regarded as socially unacceptable.”
How Far Can We Get Without Flying?
When a climate scientist decided to stop flying to cut his carbon emissions, he caught a glimpse of the post-oil future
By Dr Peter Kalmus
(an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
11.2.2016 (Yes Magazine)
I’m a climate scientist who doesn’t fly. I try to avoid burning fossil fuels, because it’s clear that doing so causes real harm to humans and to non-humans, today and far into the future. I don’t like harming others, so I don’t fly. Back in 2010, though, I was awash in cognitive dissonance. My awareness of global warming had risen to a fever pitch, but I hadn’t yet made real changes to my daily life. This disconnect made me feel panicked and disempowered.
Hour for hour, there’s no better way to warm the planet than to fly in a plane.
Then one evening in 2011, I gathered my utility bills and did some Internet research. I looked up the amounts of carbon dioxide emitted by burning a gallon of gasoline and a therm (about 100 cubic feet) of natural gas, I found an estimate for emissions from producing the food for a typical American diet and an estimate for generating a kilowatt-hour of electricity in California, and I averaged the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Environmental Protection Agency estimates for CO2 emissions per mile from flying. With these data, I made a basic pie chart of my personal greenhouse gas emissions for 2010.
This picture came as a surprise. I’d assumed that electricity and driving were my largest sources of emissions. Instead, it turned out that the 50,000 miles I’d flown that year (two international and half a dozen domestic flights, typical for postdocs in the sciences who are expected to attend conferences and meetings) utterly dominated my emissions.
Hour for hour, there’s no better way to warm the planet than to fly in a plane. If you fly coach [economy class] from Los Angeles to Paris and back, you’ve just emitted 3 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, 10 times what an average Kenyan emits in an entire year. Flying first class doubles these numbers.
However, the total climate impact of planes is likely two to three times greater than the impact from the CO2 emissions alone. This is because planes emit mono-nitrogen oxides into the upper troposphere, form contrails, and seed cirrus clouds with aerosols from fuel combustion. These three effects enhance warming in the short term. (Note that the charts in this article exclude these effects.)
Given the high climate impact, why is it that so many environmentalists still choose to fly so much? I know climate activists who fly a hundred thousand miles per year. I know scientists who fly about as much but “just don’t think about it.”
I even have a friend who blogged on the importance of bringing reusable water bottles on flights in order to pre-empt the miniature disposable bottles of water the attendants hand out. Although she saved around 0.04 kilograms of CO2 by refusing the disposable bottle, her flight to Asia emitted more than 4,000 kilograms, equivalent to some 100,000 bottles.
I suspect that most people simply don’t know the huge impact of their flying—but I also suspect that many of us are addicted to it. We’ve come to see flying as an inalienable right, a benefit of 21st-century living that we take for granted.
The quantitative estimates of my emissions guided me as I set about resolving the dissonance between my principles and my actions. I began to change my daily life. I began to change myself.
My first change was to start bicycling. I began by biking the 6 miles to work, which turned out to be much more fun than driving (and about as fast). It felt like flying. Those extra few pounds melted off. Statistically speaking, I can expect biking to add a year to my life through reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
YES! Illustration by Jennifer Luxton.
Other moves away from fossil fuels turned out to be satisfying as well. I began growing food, first in the backyard and then in the front, and I discovered that homegrown food tastes far better than anything you can buy. I began composting, an honest and philosophical practice. I tried vegetarianism and found that I prefer it to eating meat; I have more energy, and food somehow tastes better. I began keeping bees and chickens, planting fruit trees, rescuing discarded food, reusing greywater, and helping others in my community do the same.
I stopped taking food, water, air, fuel, electricity, clothing, community, and biodiversity for granted. I became grateful for every moment and more aware of how my thoughts and actions in this moment connect to other moments and to other beings.
I began to experience that everyday things are miracles: an avocado, a frame of honeycomb crowded with bees, a conversation with my son. Now, I feel more connected to the world around me, and I see that fossil fuels actually stood in the way of realizing those connections. If you take one idea from this article, let it be this: Life without fossil fuels is fun and satisfying, and this is the best reason to change.
But none of these changes had the quantitative impact of quitting flying. By 2013, my annual emissions had fallen well below the global mean.
I experienced a lot of social pressure to fly, so it took me three years to quit.
I experienced a lot of social pressure to fly, so it took me three years to quit. Not flying for vacations was relatively easy. I live in California, and my wife and I love backpacking. We drive on waste vegetable oil, but even normal cars are better than flying. Four people on a plane produce 10 to 20 times as much CO2 as those same people driving a 25 to 50 mpg car the same distance.
My wife and I drive 2,000 veggie oil miles to Illinois each year to visit our parents. Along the way, we sleep under the stars in the Utah wilderness. This is adventure travel, the opposite of fast travel, and it has deepened my relationship with my parents. After such a journey, I more easily see how precious my time with them is.
Not flying is an ongoing challenge as I progress in my scientific career, but I’m finding that I can thrive by doing good work and making the most of regional conferences and teleconferencing.
Not flying does hold back my career to some extent, but I accept this, and I expect the social climate to change as more scientists stop flying.
In today’s world, we’re still socially rewarded for burning fossil fuels. We equate frequent flying with success; we rack up our “miles.” This is backward: Burning fossil fuels does real harm to the biosphere, to our children, and to countless generations—and it should, therefore, be regarded as socially unacceptable.
In the post-carbon future, it’s unlikely that there will be commercial plane travel on today’s scale.
Biofuel is currently the only petroleum substitute suitable for commercial flight. In practice, this means waste vegetable oil, but there isn’t enough to go around. In 2010, the world produced 216 million gallons of jet fuel per day but only about half as much vegetable oil, much of which is eaten; leftover oil from fryers is already in high demand. This suggests that even if we were to squander our limited biofuel on planes, only the ultra-rich would be able to afford them.
Instead, chances are that we’ll live nearer to our friends and loved ones, and we won’t be expected to travel so far for work. Those both seem like good things to me.
With the world population approaching 8 billion, my reduction obviously can’t solve global warming. But by changing ourselves in more than merely incremental ways, I believe we contribute to opening social and political space for large-scale change.
We tell a new story by changing how we live.
Dr. Peter Kalmus wrote this article for Life After Oil, the Spring 2016 issue of YES! Magazine. Peter is an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (speaking on his own behalf) and a contributing editor for YES! Magazine. This article draws on material from a forthcoming book about our interconnected ecological predicament. A working draft is available to read here.
Kevin Anderson blog on decisions of academics and climate community about personal travel
In a blog in June 2014, Professor Kevin Anderson writes about the need for people to consider their own behaviour in relation to flying. He is personally highly conscious of his own energy use. He looks in particular at academics and those in the climate change community, and their justification for the use of high carbon travel. These are some quotes: “Amongst academics, NGOs, green-business gurus and climate change policy makers, there is little collective sense of either the urgency of change needed or of our being complicit in the grim situation we now face.” And on the desire to fly to save time to spend with our families: “When we’re dead and buried our children will likely still be here dealing with the legacy of our inaction today; do we discount their futures at such a rate as to always favour those family activities that we can join in with?” And “Surely if humankind is to respond to the unprecedented challenges posed by soaring emissions, we, as a community, should be a catalyst for change – behaving as if we believe in our own research, campaign objectives etc. – rather than simply acting as a bellwether of society’s complacency.”
Petition set up by academics from many countries asks universities across the world to reduce flying
A group of 56 scholars has launched a petition calling on universities and academic professional associations to greatly reduce flying-related footprint as part of effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The academic group believe there is a need for collective action to improve the climate profile of academic communities. A petition has been set up, asking universities, institutions of higher education and professional associations to greatly reduce their flying. It appreciates that for academics to fly less, it requires their colleagues to change behaviour. There is an expectation to attend meetings and conferences. The petition asks universities etc to include all university-related flying (whether directly paid by the university or by others) in their environmental impact measurement and goal-setting. Also to support and work to realize marked reductions in flying by faculty, staff, and students commensurate with the cuts suggested by climate science. And to establish and publish short- and medium-term benchmarks for reductions. The petition originators hope universities etc will use their influence with professional associations to reduce reliance on flying for academic and research conferencing. Professor Kevin Anderson, a respected UK climate scientist, has already written and spoken often on this subject, and does not fly to conferences.
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The growing obsession with travel is apparently induced by very cheap air fares, growing affluence, ever rising expectations, an increasing sense that hypermobility across the globe is an entitlement – on top of an emptiness and dissatisfaction with what everyday life has to offer. In a series of essays, an anthropologist looks at some of the reasons for our globe-trotting, why we do it, and what we get out of it. He considers travel as epic adventure, and how we seek challenges, in our rather mundane lives, over-influenced by health & safety; how we want to substitute novelty for normality; to reverse our daily routines, and abandon the comfort of familiarity. And the quest for ourselves. In looking at travel as a religious experience, he considers the rite of passage of much gap year travel…” some 25,000 visit Thailand, Australia and New Zealand …there is ritual talk: “where are you going?”; “where have you been?”; “did you ‘do’ this monument/trek/natural wonder?” etc. Drink, drugs and digital photos, sun, sea and social networks … Upon their return from the wilderness, our young vagrants are transformed (or reformed) into worldly-wise Westerners, new sovereign citizens of a global era. (Theirs is the Earth and everything that’s in it!) … Indeed, for many in the West today, overseas travel has come to fill the void vacated by ‘real’ religions, providing meaning, purpose, awe and wonder, as well as a sense of belonging.”
by David Jobanputra
… one of a series of essays on why we travel …
…. it is a long article, well worth reading. But these are a few extracts below …..
In the last article, I set out the idea that travel can serve a quasi-religious function akin to a ritual or pilgrimage. This week, I want to look at our motivation in a different light. Rather than viewing travel as a kind of religious experience, it is, I contend, an epic adventure, a journey of discovery whose destination, as Henry Miller once suggested, ‘is never a place but a new way of looking at things’. Above all else, it affords us a new way of looking at each other, and at ourselves. More tellingly perhaps, it offers the chance to change what we see, to ‘find’ oneself and fashion it anew.
Whatever one says about travel, whatever truths one tries to mine from its representative depths, it is most certainly, literally, an adventure. Be it two weeks in Malta or two years in Tibet (visa permitting), the act of travel presupposes the same encounter with the unknown that is at the heart of every adventurous undertaking.
And as travel is more or less a matter of letting things befall one, of submitting to the new and unfamiliar in the pursuit of pleasure, it is, by definition, an adventure.
So what are these things we allow to befall us? Which novel events comprise the adventure? To name but a few of this endless assortment, there are different climates, different foods, different modes of dress. Often, the language too is unfamiliar, while elsewhere we may encounter disparate laws, singular customs, foreign fauna and strange currencies.
More generally, travel rests on a series of oppositions or inversions in the fabric of everyday life. Thus, we swap cold weather for warmth, city living for country, fast living for slow, stress for calm and so on, perhaps vice versa. While the extent of these inversions may vary – not everyone swaps the rat race for an ashram or the Arctic for Arabia – they have in common the essence of adventure, namely, the substitution of novelty for normality.
Why, then, do we take pleasure in reversing our daily routines? For creatures of habit, as humans are, what is to be gained from abandoning the comfort of familiarity?
Well, the first and most obvious explanation is that the highs justify the lows, which is to say that the unforeseeable pleasures equal or exceed the unforeseeable pains. So it is, then, that the sunrise trumps the blizzard, the food trumps the filth and so on.
In fact, the epic adventure is less a quest for paradise than a quest for ourselves. Now this might sound like a clumsy cliché, and granted, it can be unwieldy. But there is truth to this truism, for in the course of the adventure, in the process of displacing our persons from their usual surrounds, we cannot help but arrive at a fuller conception of our characters.
For the vast majority of people, this is arguably the ultimate appeal of travel: it is a means and a medium to know one another, an adventure to be shared. But what of those who prefer to go solo? Why the desire to ‘find’ oneself? And what does this actually mean?
Viewed this way, the desire to travel is inseparable from the desire to appear (i.e. look and feel) like a traveller, just as the need for adventure is synonymous with the need to appear adventurous. Travel, then, is a brand that helps to define one’s identity. Like the food we eat, the car we drive and the clothes we wear, it works to confer on us sense of our own individuality. Nevertheless, like any other product, it is subject to the market and the whims of consumerism.
by David Jobanputra
… one of a series of essays on why we travel …
…. it is a long article, well worth reading. But these are a few extracts below – relating to young people and the semi-ritual travel rites of passage of the gap year …..
Let’s think again about the gaggle of gap years sketched out above. Every year, approximately 100,000 school-leavers head overseas prior to embarking on work or further education. Many more young people take similar breaks during or after their studies, or in-between jobs. Among this growing demographic, which is worth an estimated £2.2 billion in the UK alone, there are two major gap year options: project-based trips with organisations such as Global Vision International (GVI) and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO); or budget backpacking through Asia, Australasia and the Americas.
Of those who opt for the latter, some 25,000 visit Thailand, Australia and New Zealand in the same outing, making this the pre-eminent gap year circuit. Already, then, we have the first elements of ritual: time and place.
But what else? Well, for a start you need the costume. (Rituals, you will recall, work best in garish garb.) Ponchos, sarongs, fisherman’s pants: practical, yes, but also symbolic. Like braids, dreadlocks, tattoos and piercings, this decorative dress denotes a departure from everyday life and heightens the sense of occasion. There are other adornments too: the journal; the guidebook; the low-slung knapsack.
And then there is ritual talk: “where are you going?”; “where have you been?”; “did you ‘do’ this monument/trek/natural wonder?”; etc. Drink, drugs and digital photos, sun, sea and social networks – these too are ubiquitous features.
Travel, then, becomes ritual; there is an order of action, a template to be followed. Upon their return from the wilderness, our young vagrants are transformed (or reformed) into worldly-wise Westerners, new sovereign citizens of a global era. (Theirs is the Earth and everything that’s in it!) Through their reintegration, initiates renew a vow to society. In return, society bestows on them the mantle of maturity, endorsing their experience as life-changing and morally valid.
So there we have it. What appears a humble waterfront guesthouse is in fact a stage upon which various reverent rites are enacted, be it a kind of coming of age ritual akin to an aboriginal walkabout or the righteous restraint of the shoestring ascetic. Viewing travel in this light is in no way meant to devalue it – quite the opposite in fact. While at one level these foreign forays are decidedly frivolous, at another they can be seen to fulfil basic social functions. Indeed, for many in the West today, overseas travel has come to fill the void vacated by ‘real’ religions, providing meaning, purpose, awe and wonder, as well as a sense of belonging. As we shall see in the following article, it may also serve to satisfy an ancient appetite for adventure and the itching innate in our figurative feet.
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David Jobanputra is an anthropologist and film maker, who has given much thought to why we travel so much. He has looked at travel largely as something rich westerners do, in more exotic lands. But he also asks about travel in the way it has now become a serious consumer product, and one through which we try to define ourselves – sophisticated, trendy, caring, bold, discerning etc. “We choose a personal brand identity to which we aspire and the travel industry supplies us with the right product to match.” …”Consumption is our lifejacket. It is also our straitjacket.” …”We buy status, power, a sense of inclusion. We even buy our adventures. In the age of consumerism, everything is commoditised … including tourism….Transnational travel makes culture a commodity. When the ethic of consumption is extended to new people and places, everything comes with a price. Visit to the palace – $12; mountain trek – $35; traditional dance performance – $8; sense of self-worth – priceless. Today’s holiday brochures boast bargains like an Argos catalogue; instead of homeware and cheap electronics, we find tigers, temples and tribal villages. All are commodities, just the same. We buy these things for the same reason we buy any other non-essential product: to look better, feel better or else appear better.”
TRAVEL: THE ULTIMATE MUST-HAVE POSSESSION?
In the third of a series of articles exploring why we travel, David Jobanputra asks if our travels are anything more than an act of consumption through which we can define ourselves as we wish. Sophisticated, trendy, caring; we choose a personal brand identity to which we aspire and the travel industry supplies us with the right product to match.
The Apple iPad, Reebok Classics, Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Aegean tomato and yak cheese focaccia – ours is an age of consumerism. From our first forays to the sweet shop, through birthdays, toy ads and Christmas lists, we are subtly schooled in the art of desire; by the time we reach early adulthood, we are all grandmasters of the craft.
We know what we want, we know how to get it, we know how much it costs. We know why it’s better than its rivals, why Fad magazine gave it 8/10 neighbour’s asses, why Stephen Fry is tweeting about it.
We know what we want. And we know we don’t need it.
Consumption has been called the pre-eminent postmodern act. It’s the means through which we in the West, adrift in a world without meaning, cut loose from nature and history, traverse these troubling times. It is our lifejacket. It is also our straitjacket.
For the first time in history, entire societies are engaged in acts of holistic consumption. We buy not merely what we need to survive, but also what we need (or so it may seem) to ensure a happy existence. And so we buy safety, comfort, beauty and health, learning, leisure and love. We buy status, power, a sense of inclusion. We even buy our adventures.
In the age of consumerism, everything is commoditised. To buy or not to buy, that is the question. Rainforests, footballers, hospital beds – the infectious logic of the market makes products of them all.
And tourism shows no immunity.
Transnational travel makes culture a commodity. When the ethic of consumption is extended to new people and places, everything comes with a price. Visit to the palace – $12; mountain trek – $35; traditional dance performance – $8; sense of self-worth – priceless.
Today’s holiday brochures boast bargains like an Argos catalogue; instead of homeware and cheap electronics, we find tigers, temples and tribal villages. All are commodities, just the same.
We buy these things for the same reason we buy any other nonessential product: to look better, feel better or else appear better.
We are, in effect, cultural cannibals, consuming culture so as to assimilate some aspect of it. Thus, New York confers cosmopolitanism, India spirituality, the Caribbean coolness and so on. And then there are optional extras, side dishes if you like. A five-star hotel suggests status, a wine tour imparts taste, the prefix ‘eco-’ implies ethical acumen. In the realm of the tourist-cannibal, you are what you eat.
And thus, we travel to consume; it’s all that we know how to do. Consumption is our (shop) window on the world, framing our every experience.
Just as once we defined ourselves by what we produced, now it is what we consume.
Consumption, then, is mandatory, involuntary even. And travel is yet another market place. It is the new mall in a small town, with new stores, new brands and new possibilities. And so we buy flights and daytrips and waterproof clothing and rugs and postcards and carved wooden statues and tea and timeshares and tailor-made suits. We buy everything and anything. New malls are opened, new cultures consumed. Supply follows demand.
Supply follows demand, but with a marked dislocation: demand from the West; supply from the Rest. So travel is a form of imperialism, an expansionist project in which vast armies of pleasure-seekers are deployed daily to ‘colonise’ new lands, safe in the knowledge that their motives are sound (the customer is always right). It is to this issue, together with other inadvertent effects of travel, that I dedicate the following articles.
You can find other articles by David, on aspects of travel and consumerism, at:
Travel as religious experience:
Travel as Epic Adventure
Travel as Imperialism
…. and there are many more essays …. at http://www.bonanomie.com/page/2/
About David Jobanputra
David Jobanputra is a writer and anthropologist specialising in development, cultural change and environmental ethics. He recently completed a PhD in Social Anthropology at University College London, which looked at grassroots advocacy and eco-development in the Aravalli mountains of Rajasthan, India. In addition to living and working in the subcontinent, David has travelled extensively throughout Europe, Asia and Africa, including overland trips from Tibet to Scotland and Beijing to Java. David recently returned from 18 months living with a tribe in the Rajasthani desert.
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