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Travel Retail Tales from TFWA Singapore 2019 – Part 5: Last Day

Fiona Rayner, Head of Experiential & International Operations at Blackjack rounds up her final day at the TFWA Singapore 2019 Exhibition, reflecting on the beautiful and magical pause moments at Changi Airport which gives passengers a sense of place in this region.

  • Thursday, 16 May
  • TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition

It’s my last day in Singapore and I have mixed feelings on ending this extraordinary trip. Mixed feelings because on the one hand I have absolutely fallen in love with this region and Singapore itself and on the other I am missing my husband and looking forward to getting home!

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As my taxi arrives at Changi Airport’s Terminal 2 Departures, I am reminded of where the trip began on Day 1 in Jewel of Changi. In the distance I can just see the awesome structure of the Jewel and remember the Rain Vortex, rainforest, shops and general awesomeness! It’s crazy to think that I’ve done so much since that first day; met so many people, old and new and had a trip of a lifetime!

Working for Blackjack means that I do spend a great deal of time in and around airports so there is sometimes a sense that they all start to look similar – Changi, however bucks that trend. Someone had warned me that Asian airports can be somewhat dominated by water features and flower gardens. I can confirm that this is true of Changi and in theory it does seem rather ridiculous when you appreciate how much airports strive to drive higher ROI on each sq./ft. This is until you are actually in an Asian airport and can appreciate these spaces for yourself.

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Changi is littered with these beautiful and magical pause moments – this one actually had Koi swimming around which brought so much joy and interest to people, young and old. This pause moment caused me to reflect for a few minutes on the traditions and cultural nuances of this region and what I had experienced. I realised that Changi Airport had very carefully created the most brilliant space for people that perfectly reflected the sense of place of this region and as a passenger and tourist – I loved it. What does this mean for UK airports? How could we deliver such awe inspiring pause moments back home that better reflect our traditions and culture?

No airport travel is complete without a little shopping, so this was my next job! Of course, the stores were beautiful. Beautifully designed, merchandised and styled. I was particularly impressed with the liquor category where DFS had cleverly created a ‘vault style’ store that made you feel like you were in a distillery or wine cellar…

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As I wandered around the various stores, gradually discovering designer boutiques and new concept stores I happened upon a really fun use of AI outside the Wine Reserve. I have encountered ‘Pepper’ the robot before online but never actually met him or her in real life. Pepper is a semi-humanoid robot designed with the ability to read emotions. What DFS have cleverly done here is use Pepper to engage with passengers to help them determine the type of wine they should purchase. Whatever your opinion or take on the use of AI in the retail sphere – you can’t help but find this impressive. I watched for several minutes as different demographics came and interacted with Pepper. Some genuinely using Pepper’s guidance as a motive to purchase and some (like this young boy and his father) who were just playing around with the settings and exploring Pepper’s capabilities. What I was certain of was that DFS were exploring different types of technology and experimenting with ways of interacting and influencing purchase decisions.

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After another hour or so it was time to head towards my gate and board my flight. I had a long flight ahead of me and plenty to think about on the return. As I boarded the plane I started looking through photographs taken during my trip. Lots of familiar faces filled my phone screen and I was reminded of how many awesome people I had met in Singapore.

TFWA 2019 was a truly amazing experience and something I will not be forgetting in a hurry. I was blown away by the sheer size of the exhibition, the location and setting for the conference. I had experienced so much, met so many people and was inspired to get back to the UK and talk through my experiences with the team. Above all I was looking forward to seeing my husband and getting home! As we landed and I made my way through the various walkways and escalators, I collected my luggage and arrived in the International Arrivals Hall at Heathrow – it was good to be home.

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