Airport Offerings for Young Travellers

Perfecting the Offering for Younger Travellers: Enhanced Experiences Like Wellness, Grooming and Gaming Options May Offer a Solution to Declining Popularity of Duty Free

  1. New research shows that younger travellers are seeking out innovative experiences and more digital engagement at airports 

  2. Younger travellers are more likely to spend on new experiential offerings such as wellness and grooming, sleep suites and gaming services 

  3. Traditional retail concepts like duty free have seen a decline in interest, however Gen Z are the most likely1 to be open to shopping to digitized and VIP shopping experiences

Younger travellers are leading the charge in redefining consumers’ airport expectations, and are looking for much more than just utility and traditional retail when they visit the airport.

Findings from the latest round of the Airport Experience research, conducted by global airport lounge and experience specialists Airport Dimensions, highlight the growing appetite for new experiences among younger travellers.  

The comprehensive study, which surveyed more than 9,000 travellers, revealed that overall, travellers expected 8% growth in their travel over the next 12 months. This growth is led by a strong return to travel in emerging markets, driven primarily by Millennial and Gen Z travellers.  

The research, titled ‘AX24: The Age of the Airport Experience’, identifies some key areas in which younger travellers’ expectations are evolving, creating both challenges and significant opportunities for airports. With recent changes to airport passenger duty   and price comparison available at the touch of a smartphone button meaning that traditional retail at airports is suffering from a value perception, airports are having to work harder to bolster both existing and future revenue streams.

The AX24 research shows how satisfying the needs of the younger generations - the travellers of tomorrow, with spending power only set to increase - can help airports to weather wider regulatory changes to the industry.  

Experience is King  

The AX24 research shows that younger travellers significantly outperform their seniors when it comes to spending on new services and experiences. Gen Z are less interested in spending on traditional amenities such as parking and fast track, but are particularly drawn to new services such as sleep suites, with experiences now representing 25% of discretionary spend.  

The customer experience no longer starts on arrival in the car park or transport hub, but when travellers log on to your website for the first time to plan all facets of their trip. As digital natives, millennials and Gen Z are more likely to pre-book airport services than older travellers. 78% say they are interested in pre-booking services across the airport compared to 68% overall. Airports looking to develop new experiences in these areas will attract the attention of younger travellers and get ahead in opening new revenue growth opportunities.

When it comes to food and beverage offerings, older travellers are increasingly interested in more premium F&B options (61%) However, this is markedly lower for Gen Z audiences, who exhibit behaviours that indicate that a high-end dining offering is less important to this demographic than the non-food experiences highlighted above.

A Retail Revolution

Older generations are twice as likely to spend on more practical, utility-based services such as airport parking. In contrast, younger travellers are more likely to direct their discretionary spend towards offerings such as a VIP shopping experience - perhaps not surprising when you consider that according to Statista, Millennials and Gen Z consumers will make up 45% of luxury sales by 20252.   

Retail needs to follow the pivot to experience to make the future more immersive and hybrid in order to appeal to younger shoppers. 57% of Millennials and 56% of Gen Z want to see more walk- through duty free concepts, and 57% of Millennials and 59% of Gen Z want more automated kiosks and vending machines. Gen Z are also far more likely to share and advocate for their experiences on social media, so airports need to consider how to support them in creating ‘Instagrammable moments’, offering more than just pure purchase alone. By focusing on creating memorable and enjoyable experiences for travellers, airports can shift the emphasis away from direct price comparisons that can see airports perceived as poor value for money.  

E-commerce also has a key role to play in the future of airport retail. More than half of travellers expressed an interest in airport shopping online via their mobile device from the comfort of their lounge seat; a location where travelers typically have time to spare and are in a more relaxed state of mind. 58% of travellers across all segments stated that they would use e-commerce more if it were better promoted in the airport.    

Investing in e-commerce and dialogue technology platforms to engage travellers more directly would allow airports to personalise incentives, promote deals and recognize loyalty to create a more rewarding and less price-sensitive retail experience for the connected and discerning younger shopper.  

There is a real opportunity for retailers to follow the pivot to experience as younger travelers display a higher inclination towards shopping experiences. By enhancing the retail experience, working with the airport on better engagement and making e-commerce easier, they can help to grow and bolster airports’ overall revenue streams.

Stephen Hay, Global Strategy Director at Airport Dimensions, said:

Airports are entering an exciting era as travel look forward to strong long-term growth. Younger travellers in particular are returning with a desire for fresh and engaging airport experiences. They are actively seeking out amenities such as lounges, quality food and beverage options, and unique retail offerings. Airports should capitalize on this opportunity by equipping themselves with the right tools, partnerships, and engagement strategies to drive revenue growth."

About AX24

‘AX24: The Age of the Airport Experience’, conducted in 2024, surveyed travelers about their current journey through the airport, how satisfied they are, and what changes they would introduce in order to improve their experience. The comprehensive study also takes a deep dive into their spending habits and consumption behavior across the airport journey. This research is the latest installment of an annual deep dive into traveler behavior that Airport Dimensions has been conducting for the last 10 years.

The data demonstrates altered spending patterns and explores the way airports need to develop if they want to increase the satisfaction of travelers and protect and grow revenue accordingly. All respondents in the survey are classed as regular travelers, defined as those who have taken a minimum of two return trips in the last twelve months. This means they offer robust feedback based on multiple trips and airport experiences.

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Research Methodology

In our Airport Experience 2024 research, we surveyed 9,306 global travellers to get a better understanding of their changing demands and the experiences they look for on their airport journey.  

The study took an in-depth look at the views of travellers from 16 major countries to provide the most accurate picture of what the modern traveller looks like and determine their needs when moving through the airport. All of those involved had taken two or more trips through an airport in the previous 12 months.

The average age of travellers surveyed was 42 years old. The sample was spread across five main generational groups - Elders (1%), Boomers (17%), Gen X (27%), Millennial (36%) and Gen Z (18%). They had a median household income of $52,000.

The survey was conducted in October and November 2023 by independent market research agency, Dynata.

About Airport Dimensions

Airport Dimensions believes that journeys should be better for the traveller and more profitable to the airport. That’s why the company continuously seeks ways to open new aspects of customer engagement - using a mix of enriching physical experiences and innovative digital services. Airport Dimensions aims to improve the traveller experience at each turn - from comfortable lounges to restful sleep pods, and convenient food ordering to contactless collection of duty free - all while helping airports maximize non-aeronautical revenue opportunities, retain airlines, and become more competitive.    

Airport Dimensions operates 65 airport lounges and experiences, including those in development, located across North America, South America, Asia Pacific, the United Kingdom and the Middle East.    

Across the network, Airport Dimensions work with over 40 airports and multiple airline partners to deliver award-winning hospitality experiences to millions of travellers. Most recently, it’s Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club at BOS was awarded Best Lounge Experience 2024 by Airport Experience News, Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club at HKG earned the title of Priority Pass APAC Lounge of the Year 2024, and Club Aspire at LHR recognized as Europe’s Leading Airport Lounge 2024 at the World Travel Awards.

Airport Dimensions is a Collinson company.   

1 Leading the age demographic preference for this at 11% of those surveyed. ‘AX24: The Age of the Airport Experience’, April 2024.  

Airport Experience Report

This report unveils insights from our most recent global research, highlighting travelers' altered spending priorities and their growing appetite for new experiences. It uses the results of this comprehensive survey to make recommendations on how airports can increase traveler satisfaction and grow revenue accordingly.
  • Derived from input gathered from 9000+ respondents spanning 16 countries
  • Presents feedback from frequent travelers, each taking a minimum of 2 trips in the past year
  • Outlines key growth drivers we believe leaders should be actively considering
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