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AUSTRALIA. The Australian Airports Association’s inaugural Airport Retail & Commercial Forum took place last week in Gold Coast and will long be remembered as the first major gathering of the airport commercial industry in the region following the restrictions caused by the pandemic .

This sense of a return to normal helps explain the positive mood among representatives of airports, concessionaires and other services, nearly 200 of whom showed their faith in the future of the industry by attending the conference at the QT Hotel. Strong sponsorship support and a high-class speaker roster attracted by AAA organizers The Mercurius Group and The Moodie Davitt Report also underscored this recovering business acumen.

Australian Airports Association Chief Executive James Goodwin welcomes nearly 200 guests to the inaugural forum

Although optimistic, the tone was also realistic. Like their counterparts around the world, airports and their partners continue to struggle with labor shortages, inventory issues and debts, and all of this will take time to resolve for a still struggling aviation ecosystem.

The partnership model remains a challenge, as demonstrated by an engaging panel discussion on risk on day one. However, the fact that so many airport tenants have survived the crisis shows that a spirit of cooperation has prevailed – and as we have heard, that relationships have been strengthened in many cases.

The consumer, who they are and how they want to engage and transact, was another key discussion topic, highlighted by customer and service experts, as well as industry representatives. The digital agenda and ambitions of many companies on display over the week showed an industry grappling with the questions of how to engage and convert consumers, and investing financial and other resources to try to find the answers.

The event also offered something for everyone, with a refreshing mix of topics ranging from duty free and catering to ground transportation, real estate and hotels, as well as themes that resonated with large and small airports.

We present here a summary in pictures of a memorable event.


The inaugural Australian Airports Association Airport Retail & Commercial Forum kicked off Tuesday evening in Gold Coast with a ‘Taste of Australia’ networking event sponsored by WHSmith.

Queensland Airports Ltd Chief Commercial Revenue Officer, Isabelle Yates, representing the Gold Coast host airport, welcomed guests to the networking evening and reflects on the importance of meeting again after more than two years

Mercurius Group Managing Director Ivo Favotto added his welcome, noting that this inaugural event puts retail and commerce at the center of the airport conversation.

WHSmith APAC Managing Director Carl Hargrave (center) spearheaded a great networking night at the AAA event alongside colleagues Tamara Larkin and Karen Taylor. Below are some additional images from a memorable opening night.


The Airport Retail & Commercial Forum kicked off with a strong first day of conference sessions on July 20, with a mix of insightful presentations and lively debate on the way forward for the regional industry.

Association CEO James Goodwin hailed the often under-recognized role of commercial activities at airports

Gold Coast Airport Chief Operating Officer Marion Charlton talks about the ambitious terminal expansion which is nearing completion

Trade and Tourism Minister Don Farrell said Australia’s new government was listening to industry concerns. Below, the Minister with James Goodwin (right) and Mercurius Group Chief Executive Ivo Favotto

Lively debate: Ivo Favotto (left) led a discussion on contractual risk in the post-COVID system with (from second left) Mark Zaouk (Sydney Airport), Costa Kouros (LagardereAWPL), Alex Pyrlis and Shane de Wit (Airport Development Group)

Jaquie Scammell spoke eloquently about customer service in a new world

The future of duty free in the region, with topics such as the new consumer, category mix and the labor challenge in the channel, was discussed by (left) the trade manager of Auckland Airport Retail Lucy Thomas, (centre) DFS Oceania Vice President Retail Operations Prashant Mahboobani, (right) Perth Airport Chief Commercial Officer Kate Holsgrove, and George Tsoukalas, managing director of Heinemann Australia (below)

A fascinating session on the world of ground transport and opportunities for featured airports (left to right) Melbourne Airport Head of Commercial, Ground Transport Lena Zaltash, Hertz Vice President Eoin MacNeill, Uber Airports & Travel Lead, Mobility Operations, ANZ Simon Schenkel and Sam Khalil, CEO and Founder of Skakra EV Solutions, with Mercurius Group Senior Consultant Diane Owens (right) asking the questions

Todd Handcock: An excellent individual contribution on the changing world of hospitality and experience by President of Collinson, Asia Pacific

Overview of New Zealand’s duty-free collection point system, from Christchurch Airport Manager’s Park to Craig Dunstan Airplane


Airport Retail Enterprises Assistant Site Manager – Gold Coast Airport Verity Eddy, Lagardère AWPL Area Manager Maiko Sheppard, Sydney Airport General Manager – Commercial Leasing Mark Zaouk and Airport Retail Enterprises Chairman and Owner Peter Butts were all honored at the inaugural Retail & Commercial Awards on July 20.

Winning smiles: Maiko Sheppard, Verity Eddy, Mark Zaouk and Peter Butts with their AAA awards on July 20 in Gold Coast

The awards, given by nomination and selected by the organizing committee, recognized professional achievement and industry contribution as well as the key role of customer-facing and background team members.

They were presented by Kym Meys, National Chairman of the Australian Airports Association and Executive Managing Director of Planning and Infrastructure at Adelaide Airport.

Eddy was recognized as a member of the Food and Beverage Recognition Team for helping lead the company through the pandemic and on the other side, while ensuring her team provided excellent customer service.

The awards were presented by Australian Airports Association National Chairman Kym Meys (right) to (top to bottom) Verity Eddy, Maiko Sheppard, Mark Zaouk and Peter Butts

Sheppeard won the Retail Team Member Recognition Award, having worked his way up the corporate ladder, starting in the store, becoming site manager and now multi-site area manager.

Moodie Davitt Report Chairman Dermot Davitt announced the awards

Zaouk, who won the Airports Career Achievement Award, oversaw the retail transformation of three terminals and played a key role in delivering strong revenue growth at Sydney Airport, while helping to introduce a range of first-to-market concepts.

Butts is one of Australia’s industry pioneers, with a career spanning over 50 years, and ARE Australia’s largest F&B company by number of outlets.

During COVID, it decided to show its support for its airport partners by keeping at least one outlet open in each airport, even if it lost money, to support and provide service to passengers as well as to the airport staff.

He won the Dealership Career Achievement Award at the awards night. More images from the evening are shown below.


Topics such as digital innovation, the future of food and beverage, real estate opportunities and the way forward for regional airports were discussed on the final day of the Airport Retail & Commercial Forum.

Adelaide Airport Landside & Digital Business Manager Christina Selvanayagam took delegates on a journey through the ambitious investment campaign behind digital at South Airport, including the introduction of the ADL Order Now platform in partnership with Servy

A strong catering panel discussed the challenge of increasing passenger spend rates and sustainability, respectively from Kieran Fitzpatrick, Chief Operating Officer at Delaware North (second from right), Shane Beyer, Chief Operating Officer APAC operation at SSP (right). Guests also heard inspiring success stories from two F&B operators at smaller airports, Katelyn Aslett, founder of Taste Whitsunday (second from left) and Nerida Baker, owner and manager of Beach Grill & Salt Bar at the airport in Ballina Byron (left).

Driving digital innovation in the airport market was the topic of a panel with (left to right) Elise Taylor, National Commercial Director of oOH!Media, Daniel Hitchcock, Managing Director of First Parking, Paul Sidwell, Director of technology from Wilson Parking, CPI partner Jeremy Corfield and Plaza Premium Group. Regional General Manager Poh Kiat Lee

Margy Osmond, CEO of Tourism & Transport Forum Australia, highlighted the role of tourism in the economy as travel returns, as well as the challenges facing Australia’s tourism sector, from the workforce to the market reputation.

Design with a Human Face: Cathryn Drew-Bredin, Director of DesignInc

Kristy Ihle, Managing Director of Think Global: Better understanding the traveler and translating data into business results

The all-important voice of regional airports was represented by (left to right) Sunshine Coast Airport General Manager – Operations and Commercial Kate McCreery Carr, Newcastle Airport Business Development Manager Andrew Warrender and from Ballina Byron Gateway Airport and Commercial Services Paul Tsikleas

Customer experience in a changing world was the focus of consumer expert Claire Donnellan

The opportunity to develop an airport property featured in a session that included (from above) Sunshine Coast Airport’s managing director, property development, Andrew Hay, Kevin Murphy, who leads the brand’s investor relations hotel consultant Horwath HTL and lecturer, researcher and aviation consultant Dr. Mirjam Wiedemann

Sessions at the event were chaired by Moodie Davitt Reporter Dermot Davitt, with support from Mercurius Group Managing Director Ivo Favotto and Mercurius Group Senior Consultant Diane Owens.


Melvin B. Baillie