Category Archives: WITR-BLOG

Women In Travel Retail (WITR) – Tour of spectacular new tourist destination which opened earlier this month

  • Sunday, 12 May from 10:00 to 13:00
  • Jewel Changi (starting at Terminal 1 Arrival Hall
  • Organised and led by Chandra Mahtani, Changi Airport’s vice-president for Commercial Airside Planning and Leasing

The morning after my first long haul flight (13hrs!) and I was feeling excited, apprehensive and inquisitive all at once; having never been to Asia before, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the people, the culture and the upcoming Women in Travel Retail Tour to Jewel. Who would I meet and where would the tour take us exactly?

First job was to jump into a taxi and make my way to Changi Airport – I quickly realised that life in Singapore means moving from a humid 35 degrees into fridge like temperatures. As I made my way to Changi, the journey was like most other airport approaches; a variety of directional signs, digital information boards and large numbers of vehicles collecting and delivering people. Then from out of nowhere the most beautiful gem appears out of what used to be the old Terminal 1 car park…

Four years ago, Changi Airport embarked on building a modern engineering marvel and just a few weeks ago, they opened the door to the Jewel, a re-imagined public realm attraction that offers a range of landside facilities all under one roof. With a distinctive roof façade, supported by 14 columns, each measuring 12 metres, this beautiful glass and steel structure continues to add to Changi Airport’s appeal as one of the world’s leading airport hubs!

The stats are staggering and I had done some reading before the tour to try and familiarise myself with the retail offerings and features of this exciting space. Nothing however, could have prepared me for my first glimpse of the Rain Voretx that forms the centre of the Jewel itself.

At 40m high, this impressive Rain Vortex is now the world’s tallest indoor waterfall (a record previously held by Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay) and it does not disappoint.

I noticed the huge numbers of people mesmerised by the Rain Vortex – many posing for selfies, some taking videos and sharing the experience with friends. The noise of the water thundering down from the oculus at the top was deafening and occasionally some spray would escape, leaving you with a cooling mist on your face. What I was surprised by however, was the number of locals that had travelled to Jewel to share the experience. Chandra Mahtani from Changi Airport shared stories of how local care home bring elderly resident to the Jewel to take a walk around the vortex most morning for therapy. As I looked around I could see whole families sitting together some posing for photographs others sharing the experiences with their loved ones, both young and old. Today was International Mother’s Day and as families shared flowers with each other, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something almost spiritual about this place.

With over half a million visitors each week since it’s opening, the Jewel has certainly wowed the locals and tourists alike. Chandra Mahtani spent time explaining some of the defining features at Jewel and pointed out some of the key retail concepts that make this Retail Hub unlike any other. The key for her was to create retail outlets with a twist so that visitors experienced something different to what they were used to in their local shopping area.

During our tour, we saw Asia’s first Yotel Air – a vending machine style hotel concept that offers customers what they need and not what they don’t, clearly a new concept in this region and something that Chandra confirmed was received well by visitors and transiting passengers who were looking for convenience and value.

As we continued our walk I was greeted by a very different looking Starbucks. This was not Starbucks as you know it, this was a premium Starbucks experience that was focused on sustainability and clean living – the huge living wall, vast choice of reusable drinking vessels both nods towards Starbuck’s move towards a more sustainable future.

We soon arrived at the Pokemon Store – the first one outside of Japan! This was clearly a hotspot for families and part of Changi’s strategy to create a ‘kid’s zone’ within the Jewel. Once I fought my way past the queue I managed to catch a glimpse of customers frantically grabbing the latest toys and souvenirs!

What struck me as we continued our tour was the amount of local brands that were trading at Jewel. Not only had Changi secured some of the worlds most famous and influential brands, but they had also ensured that local, Singaporean designers and retailers were present throughout the customer journey. Notably, lifestyle retailer Naiise Iconic was showcasing some beautiful designs from local designers.

The local Singaporean style didn’t stop there – we continued into Violetoon, a local owned restaurant and then into Changi’s very own brand store.

As you venture inside the Changi Store, you are met by the wonderful team of advisors; all immaculately dressed and professional but with the most welcoming of smiles. I was so pleased to meet Farah who was keen to show me the new Changi room fragrance – a product that visitors can take home as a reminder of their visit; one of the many bespoke, local products Changi have successfully created to capture the essence of Jewel.

As we walked through the various levels (there are 10 in total!) and worked our way through the huge open spaces, I met one of Changi’s fabulous ambassadors. As today was International Mother’s Day, the Jewel team were handing out flowers in celebration. Not only was I surprised by this simple offering but delighted to see that the entire team was all suitably dressed in a casual, relevant uniform.

As our tour came to an end, I started to reflect on the time spent in Jewel, what this meant for the UK and how I would try to take a little piece of Jewel home with me.

Despite the impressive architecture, huge crowds and incredible local retailer offerings, I was left reflecting on the smiles and people of Jewel. How is it that such a vast, complex hub with thousands of employees can be so consistently welcoming and friendly? Having worked in the TR industry for 6 years, I know how difficult this can be to achieve on a large scale. How have they created such a warm, hospitable environment when from a design perspective everything appears to be glass or steel? How have Changi married the world’s largest indoor waterfall with an elevated retail experience that somehow creates something spiritual and awe inspiring? I don’t have the answers, but am sure that the extraordinary vision driven by Chandra and her team has a lot to do with it. What I am sure about is the renewed focus airports such as Changi are putting on human experiences. The Jewel is an impressive, feat of architecture, design and retail but above all I believe a great example of how to connect people together in an unforgettable space and creating unforgettable memories…all while doing a little shopping of course!

WiTR Charity Project – Submissions

Members are invited to vote for one of the following projects.
Voting closes at 23.59 CET (Central European Time) on 21 January 2019
The elected charity will be announced on 1 February 2019.

Vote here:



Managing charity name: Toutes à l’école NPO

Location: Cambodia

Brief description of the project: Toutes à l’école NPO created Happy Chandara school in Phnom Penh Cambodia in 2006, to provide high-level education to underprivileged girls and accompany them until they get their first job.

In 2018, our senior year students who took the baccalaureate examination (1st promotion enrolled in 2006) have all passed. After twelve years cycle of general studies, they are continuing their studies at the university in various fields.

In Cambodia, these studies remain inaccessible for the poorest families, as well as the price of housing and the cost of living in Phnom Penh.

The “Chandara Students’ Home” opened its doors in the university district to offer students a serene transition before their professional life, making them independent, while providing them with a secured and favourable setting to succeed in their studies.

The NPO bears the cost of university fees which are not covered by the students’ scholarships, as well as the operating costs.

A monthly allowance of $ 65 over 10 months per year is paid to the students to pay for food, electricity, water and transport costs.

Main beneficiaries: 10 students in Tourism

Target: €15 000


Managing charity name: Act4me A Chance for Therapy,

Location: Florida-USA

Brief description of project: We are committed to improve the lives of children with disabilities, helping them to progress, reach their highest potential and have a better life. The money raised helps families without medical insurance, insufficient coverage for therapy, and low income. We carefully review each application with a therapist on board. We personally meet with the children and their parents at the moment of the grant. We follow their progress through progress reports.

Main beneficiaries: 4 Children with disabilities would benefit 1 full year of weekly 1 hour session (or 2 x 1/2 hour sessions) of therapy they cannot afford or their insurance does not (or partially) cover

Target: €15 000


Managing charity name: The Hope Foundation

Location: Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Brief description of project: The project proposes to improve the service delivery of four Integrated Child Development Service centres located in Chetla Slum (2) and Kiddepore Slum (2) to cater to the educational, health, hygiene and nutritional needs of 225 children below 6 years of age, from the two slum communities. The centres in Chetla and Kiddepore slums are in a dilapidated state and need extensive infrastructure development to make them usable and attractive to the children and the community. Since the walls are currently plastic sheets, the centre will be improved with properly constructed walls, painted, and have solar lights and toilets installed as well as being provided with early learning materials.

Funding will allow HOPE to renovate and refurbish the 4 ICDS centres and provide early learning materials so that 225 children aged up to 6 years can be enrolled in the Centres and receive quality pre-primary education in a child centric and learning environment. The children will improve their knowledge on writing, reading, numeracy, social skills and motor skills. The centres will work to ensure improved hygiene practices and good health status of the children. Once the children reach the age of 6 years, they will be enrolled in formal schools.

Main beneficiaries: 225 children from slum communities

Target: €14,700


Managing charity name: Friends-International

Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Brief description of project: Siem Reap is the major tourism center of Cambodia. The Angkor Temples attract scores of travellers every year, bringing opportunity and economic growth. Unfortunately, the growth has not reached the most vulnerable, and with limited skills and few options for employment, many poor families end up on the streets with their children.

A high number of these are young women, and the risks they face are huge, including abuse, exploitation and trafficking to work in the sex industry. Lacking the skills to find dignified jobs, young women are pushed to earn income in dangerous occupations.

Friends’ beauty salon training business in Siem Reap provides a safe space to empower young women to learn market-friendly skills in a customer oriented, real-work environment.

Friends’ training is flexible as beneficiaries are from challenging backgrounds and have generally never been part of a structured education system. Skills-training is also supplemented by soft skills such as work ethics, communication, and customer service, and a general education in literacy, numeracy, etc. along with psychosocial support, medical care, etc. Students are thus equipped with all skills required for employment. Students graduate with government-accredited certificate, and Friends supports all graduates to find employment or start their own business.

Main beneficiaries: 24 young women (aged 16-24) as direct beneficiaries; their dependents (c.70 children and younger siblings) as indirect beneficiaries

Target: €15,000


Managing charity name: Spine Aid

Location: Chandigarh, Punjab

Brief description of project:  Scoliosis is a condition that affects children.  It is particularly prevalent in young girls.  Unfortunately, if you are a girl born in India you are at a disadvantage but if you have a spinal curvature this further adds to your disadvantage and a number of these children do suffer significant abuse.

Spine Aid provides screening and appropriate treatment for these young girls who are often from impoverished backgrounds.  We identify children in their early teens and in appropriate cases we are able to operate and completely straighten out their spine.  This significantly improves a child’s appearance, gets rid of the very disfiguring rib hump and makes the chances of marriage proposal significantly greater.  The charity works closely with the post-graduate institution in Chandigarh.  The patients are carefully selected by a team of very experienced doctors to ensure we are able to offer the most appropriate operations.  All the team collect data and this has been published in national meetings.

Main beneficiaries: Improving life for children, especially girls with spinal deformities

Target: Aim is to treat between 16 to 20 patients per trip and this costs approximately £30,000



Managing charity name: Meider Jonno Asha charity (means:”Hope for girls”)

Location: Dhaka, Bangladesh

Brief description of project: The charity Hope for Girls, Asha has been helping girls in Bangladesh since the year 2000. Underprivileged girls and women in Bangladesh have less access to education and health care. The mission of Hope for Girls, Asha is to support girls and women of all ages to have access to education. Those are the poorest in Bangladesh and their lives would be so different if they weren’t able to stay in school. Early marriage (13+), trafficking, manual labour, prostitution would be their future. If they can finish school, they can aspire to office work and help their families where the parents are often illiterate.

The charity runs a sponsorship scheme. PAWA funds this scholarship scheme for 20 teenage girls. The objective of this scheme is to support individual girls to access school education, and to provide free after school coaching to ensure that they stay in school and succeed.

The charity pays girls around 1500 Bangladeshi Taka per month to enable them to stay in school. The monies are also used to assist with school enrolment, uniform and associated costs where necessary, with free coaching in the centre which many of the school girls attend. All the girls will testify that without this help they would not be able to stay in school, particularly as they grow older. The testimonies can be provided.

Main beneficiaries: Women and girls are the beneficiaries of Hope For Girls charity,Asha. Teenage girls are the beneficiaries of PAWA charity funding.

Target: The project cost is calculated for 20 girls: 16 EUR per girl per month at the current rate as per 18/12/2018, 1 Taka= 0,01043 EUR(1500 Bangladeshi taka). 194 EUR per girl per year. Plus additional 655 EUR (62 726 Bangladeshi Taka) for 8 older girls progressing into Higher Education. Total cost of the project is 4 535 EUR



Managing charity name: Sunrise Cambodia

Location: Cambodia

Brief description of project: Current a rental bus drives 4 times per day (return) to bring 80 children and 20 community children to primary school, secondary school and high school. By having their own bus, significant rental costs will be saved and children will have a better choice of schools.  Sunrise have sports training offered by other NGO’s, so the bus will allow more children to participate.  During school holidays, the bus can drive children on day trips to the beach or to visit Cambodian heritage sites.  All money saved on bus rental will go to other areas of need for the children.

Main beneficiaries: Minimum of 80 live-in and community children per day

Target: €15,000

WiTR Charity Project Nomination & Selection Criteria


Download WiTR Charity nomination form



Members of WiTR are invited to nominate a specific project (not a charity) which will directly benefit women and/or children and which matches these requirements:
1. The proposed project must be nominated by a WiTR member

2. The proposed project must be managed by a registered charity with a clear and clean track record

3. The project must be an end-to-end project (e.g. classroom) or a quantifiable project (number of operations) that can be completed solely with funds raised by WiTR

4. Only projects with a maximum target of €15k will be considered

5. Any part of the bid which would cover administration costs must be clearly indicated – priority will be given to projects where 100% of the funds raised are used to directly benefit women or children

6. You or your company must be actively involved with the charity and be prepared to follow the project through, reporting to WiTR at regular intervals



1. Nominations must be received by email by 23.59 CET (Central European Time) on 21 December 2018 addressed to

2. Nominations must be made using the nomination form posted in the Members section of the WiTR website

3. Eligibility according to the criteria above will be checked by the Chair and Vice Chair

4. In the event that eligibility is unclear, the proposer will be contacted within 7 days and given the opportunity to justify their nomination. In the event of dispute, the decision of the WiTR steering group members will be final

5. The eligible nominations will be posted on the WiTR website

6. Members will be invited to vote and will have one vote each

7. Voting will close at 23.59 CET (Central European Time) on 21 January 2019

8. The elected charity will be announced on 1 February 2019

Travelling over 10,000 miles with a 4-month-old baby by Alison Hughes

When my brother emigrated to Sydney 6 months before I was due to give birth, I made the very naive decision (while standing in the airport waving him off) to head out to see him during my maternity leave, as I figured that I wouldn’t get the chance to travel so far again while taking a decent amount of time off.So, within half an hour of returning home from Manchester Airport, I’d booked a flight for myself, my mum and my new addition (name yet to be determined) for what would be a mammoth journey to the Land Down Under.

I then spent the next 10 months questioning my decision, but also planning for an exciting trip, and ensuring that my little girl (Neve) entered the Travel Retail world in style!

Here are some recommendations that I would offer to someone planning a similar trip….

Business Lounge: We decided to treat ourselves to the Business Lounge at Manchester Airport, and arrived in plenty of time so that we could relax and not add to stress levels, rushing through security. This turned out to be a wise decision – it meant that we could settle Neve in a quiet corner of the lounge, warm her bottle and make final preparations in comfort before boarding the flight (I ordered disposable bottles, which meant no sterilising was needed throughout the journey). Mum and I also helped ourselves to a glass of bubbles.

Baby perks: Unfortunately, my budget didn’t stretch to travelling business class. This made no difference at all, however, as when travelling with a baby, you might as well be travelling business class. Both in Manchester and when we transferred in Dubai, we were treated like royalty. Priority lanes were opened for us, and not once did we queue for security or to board the flight – airport and airline staff couldn’t do enough to help.

Gifts: To help relieve any anxiety of disturbing your fellow passengers, my one recommendation is a little bit of bribery… Before travelling, I decided to give all neighbouring passengers a little gift to make their journey a little more pleasant if Neve did decide to exercise her lungs. So, armed with a little card explaining our trip, some ear plugs and a chocolate to sweeten the deal, I made polite conversation and passed our little gifts around. Luckily, no one had to use their ear plugs.

Bassinet seat: When I booked the flight, I researched ways to make the journey with a small baby easier and some top tips included booking a bassinet seat early on, as these seats are at a premium if the flight has a lot of kids on board. I was lucky to secure one of these precious seats, which meant that very soon after take-off I could settle Neve for a nap while I rested my arms and eyes (although little sleep was achieved throughout the journey). You can also book prams/strollers in Dubai Airport, but I decided a sling would be easier, as with large carry-on bags and two passports to carry, having my hands free was a must.

So, 21 hours later, I arrived in Sydney to a very emotional reunion with my brother – and a very happy introduction to his new niece. While the trip was long, tiring and at times a little fraught, it was nowhere near as painful as I imagined. If I think what that trip would be like with my now 2-year-old, then I envisage a very different trip (my recent trip to Dublin, for example, was a very different experience).  One of my top tips would therefore be to not put off travelling when your babies are young. It’s actually the easiest time for them to travel, with long naps and lots of willing helpers, not to mention the advantage of free travel for babies.


If anyone would like any more top tips and advice, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Tuscany in September by Gerry Munday

I have just returned from a glorious week in Tuscany and, I have to say, September is definitely the best month to visit. The weather is mild, the grapes are being harvest, and there are less tourists than during July and August.

We travelled with Secret Escapes, a fabulous deal which included flights, a hotel with breakfast, and car hire. We collected the car from Pisa Airport and travelled 1.5 hours to the beautiful hamlet of Oliveto (situated in the province of Arezzo, part of the municipality of Civitella in Val di Chiana). We stayed at a small, family-run boutique hotel called Il Fondaco di Moro.

Oliveto only has 40 inhabitants – plus 6 cats and a church. While there are no cafes or restaurants, it is only a few minutes’ drive from the village of Albergo, where you can find a bakery, coffee shop, chemist, and two Trattorias that serve good, home-cooked Italian food at a fraction of the price that you’d be charged in the main cities. The best Trattoria out of the two is Blu Notte, which serves pizzas, pastas and desserts to die for, amongst other things (certainly not a diet week!).

While Il Fondaco di Moro itself was small, our room was very clean, comfortable and spacious. Ask to stay in Room 4, which has a bedroom, separate sitting area, bathroom and balcony with gorgeous views. The continental breakfast was generous, with a great variety on offer. Cooked eggs were also available upon request.

Giulio, the owner’s son, speaks good English and is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to recommending places to visit and on where to park.

Places to visit within 1 – 3 hours’ drive of Oliveto in Tuscany and Umbria:

• Pisa
• Florence
• Sienna
• San Gimignano
• Arezzo
• Lake Trasimeno (driving around the lake is an absolute must!)
• Passignano (on Lake Trasimeno, ideal for a coffee stop)
• Tuoro (on the lake with a beach)
• Perugia
• Montepulciano

Don’t forget to explore the many vineyards – just too many to mention! If you like walking, then there are some fabulous walks to be had not only in the towns and cities, but also in the countryside.

I hope you enjoy your visit to Italy as much as I did.

Svalbard and Greenland Expedition – Summer 2018 By Amanda Felix

As some of my industry friends and colleagues know, I love to explore the more unusual corners of the world and, quite often, will book a solo trip, which is a great way to interact with the locals and meet interesting fellow travellers along the way. Don’t be daunted – just book it, as you will encounter extremely interesting people wherever you go.

This year, I boarded a converted ex-Russian research vessel which took 50 passengers and made an expedition around Svalbard (way north of Norway) and Greenland’s east coast. The ship was very comfortable, the food excellent and the expedition leaders all highly qualified but extremely down-to-earth and friendly scientists. We even had an expedition photographer who gave fantastic advice on taking better photos.

Both morning and afternoon, we left the ship in little rubber zodiac boats and, as long as there were no polar bears on the beach, we landed to hike onshore and explore the amazing flora, fauna, scenery and history – be it whaling or Paleo-Eskimo. The wildlife encounters were fabulous, and the highlight was being in a zodiac just a few metres away from a polar bear feeding on a whale carcass on shore.

Greenland’s scenery was far more impressive and varied than I had expected, from a rolling green shoreline to huge mist-topped cliffs rising from the sea, to incredible mountains and rock formations. The cathedral-sized icebergs which had broken off glaciers far inland and were slowly making their way out to sea were extraordinarily beautiful.

There are very few people living along the east coast of Greenland, but we visited one small community with brightly coloured houses and very friendly children who spoke excellent English. Aurora Expeditions, which operated the trip, had donated playground equipment to the village and this was a focal point for all the local children on that bright sunny day when we visited. There was also a very interesting little museum which had cultural artefacts and photos.

The holiday lasted 14 days and by the time we docked in Iceland at the end of the trip, firm friendships had been made by many onboard. Greenland may not be on the top of your list of destinations if you enjoy relaxing on a beach or a cruise ship but, for the wild at heart, I thoroughly recommend it.

A Trip to the Indian Himalayas By Virginie Cordero and Sarah Branquinho

I am just back from an amazing three weeks in Ladakh, in the Indian Himalayas, visiting and working on Lotus Flower Trust projects.

First of all, I want to thank our friends from Florida WiTR who have contributed to raising funds for the schools in remote communities there. Your generosity has allowed us to offer all the resource materials necessary for a Kindergarten in Mudh, a small village at 4000m above sea level near the Indo-Chinese border (Delhi 1535 km, Beijing 2172 miles). The kids and teachers have one classroom and a small kitchen but no teaching aids other than wall-posters and were so happy to receive all the books, note books, pencils, pens, colouring pencils, etc… and some balls for them to play as well!

With Sarah, I also visited Schachukul kindergarten, funded by WiTR and Dubai Duty Free in 2010, which we both worked on. It is in good shape and well attended.

The balance of the money raised through our WiTR meeting in Florida has also allowed us to fund the purchase of a much needed washing machine and solar Geyser for a home for 65 children with special needs center, which I will visit next year. The home was built with the funds raised by WiTR from the Janet Sheed Roberts limited edition whisky from William Grant & Sons. On our arrival in Delhi from Ladakh, we were welcomed by one of the managers of this center who came with eight of the girls: so touching and rewarding to know that we can help these young people live a normal life!

This new trip to India has allowed us to visit 20 schools in total and worked ourselves on two of them, with the participation of the little ones excited to put their hands in paint and finalize the Friendship Trees! The warmth, the laughs, the songs and dances that the different school kids prepared for our arrival is so touching and so fulfilling! They definitely are the highlights of our trip!

I count on all of you to keep supporting our work, to give to the young population from these very remote villages the tools to get an education, shelter and at least one hot meal each day.

The Splendour of Siem Reap and Sunrise By Lucy Hillyard

History, poverty, gentleness, temples, more temples, humidity and the occasional splash of rain! That’s Cambodia, or to be more precise, Siem Reap, where Women in Travel Retail have made an exceptional contribution to the lives of the students and residents of Sunrise Cambodia, a sustainable community development and children’s charity.

This establishment was founded many years ago (early 1990’s) by an Australian lady, Geraldine Cox, to provide a ‘home’ for some of the many children orphaned following the atrocities that occurred during the Pol Pot regime of the 70s. In fact, the early entrants were the grand-children of the families which were torn apart during the civil war – such was the long term impact of this dreadful period of Cambodian history.

Today, the school provides residential accommodation for 39 children and has extended its teaching facilities to in excess of 350 under-privileged children from within 20km of its location. The General Manager of the facility is a former resident, as are several of the teaching staff, and it is this sense of belonging which struck such a chord with me as a first-time visitor.

In truth, I am new to Asia, but from my base in Singapore, I am enjoying exploring the surrounding countries where life is so different from my upbringing in Australia. I am also new to Travel Retail, and to discover this example of the value of the efforts of Women in Travel Retail through their charitable contributions was extremely heart-warming. Two of the classrooms bear credits to WiTR, as well as an acknowledgement of the physical work which travel retailers put into decorating some of the premises.

It was on a recent family trip to explore the splendours of Angkor Wat, a magnificent and vast 12th century temple, the largest religious monument in the world, that I was tipped off about the work of WiTR in the city of Siem Reap.

This bustling city, which attracts hordes of I international tourists, has become a ‘must visit’ destination for anyone tempted by the beauty of South East Asia. Angelina Jolie has added a celebrity focus with the filming of two movies amongst the many temples which, in several cases, lay undiscovered for hundreds of years as ancient civilisations withdrew and the jungle reclaimed the land.

Like so many cities in the region, the combination of inexpensive flights and cut-price food and accommodation has introduced a seedy side to Siem Reap, but this is – and should be – a minor distraction to those who have the vision to try to understand the history of this ancient empire, the culture, the deep religious significance of the temples and the mouth-watering delights of the local cuisine. And please do not forget the examples of outstanding service, which abound in all facets of the tourist experience.

As travel retailers, we focus quite rightly on trying to offer our clients a Sense of Place as they come from all over the world to visit our airports. It’s not easy to achieve, particularly when dealing with the some frequent travellers who have ‘seen it all before’! To visit Siem Reap is to visit a working example of how a Sense of Place can be achieved throughout a city and where the smiling, gentle, well-informed and genuinely interested staff can add so much to the visitor experience.

While this is hardly meant to be a promotional piece for the Siem Reap Tourist Board, I can only express how fulfilling my experience was in this once great city. To marvel at the feats of construction by such an ancient civilisation, and to applaud the present-day efforts to rebuild the nation after the horrors of Pol Pot is simply breath-taking. And there, in amongst the poverty, a sea of smiling faces enjoying the benefits which WiTR have contributed. I saw musicians aged from 7 to 17 playing local instruments, a classical Cambodian dance class and a classroom of teenagers diligently mastering the wonders of modern technology in the WITR computer hall.

As a relative newcomer to Travel Retail, it made me feel proud to be part of an industry where the small successes are as appreciated as the large ones. Sunrise is certainly a small success which will have a huge impact on the future of the youngsters who are part of its community.


Nita by Vo Luxury Hotel –


Pot and Pan
Mie Cafe (absolutely amazing Cambodian/Western fusion food!! Reservation recommended)

Things to do:

Temples – 1 or 2 days is more than enough; do it with a tour guide as they are extremely knowledgeable and it’s a good way to support local employment

Floating village visit – you can usually take the same guide from your temples

Food tour – I can highly recommend doing the Siem Reap Food Tour. It was a real highlight of the trip

Developing A New Concession Road Map with a Sense of Place By Nathalie Roemer and Susan Stiene, Optimas Management Group

The future in the concession business is so exciting and powerful, and it’s all at our fingertips.  It’s not just about airports, it can be any type of transportation hub.

Photo Credit Getty Images

Photo Credit

Figure 1 – San Francisco Ferry Terminal and Madrid Atocha Train Station


Knowing the cross section of your audience is the first place to start.  Obviously, you need to play to the largest demographic audience, but don’t forget the smaller audiences.

Figure 2 – Checking out the demographic profiles in your customer base


There are 3 pivotal pillars to a successful program.

The three pillars are:

  1. 1. Sense of Place
  2. 2. A Sense of Engagement
  3. 3. A WOW!

A roadmap is built on a multi-faceted plan to make a successful program. You can learn from other transit hubs like international cruise terminals, ferry ports and train stations or resorts or on board cruise ships. The roadmap helps you to itemize the ideas, to ensure you have covered them all.

But before you start, you need to be a LOUD voice at the planning table!  Don’t be left out.  Ensure the commercial area is a part of the experience, not an after- thought.

Let’s talk about how to create the 3 pillars and what they truly mean.

The First Pillar… A Sense of Place.


“You need to develop a Sense of Place.” Everyone has heard those words before, but few know how to achieve it.

A sense of place is not created by one single idea or action. Think about walking down your most iconic street in your hometown. All eateries and stores originating from your hometown will help, but there’s typically a mix of international and local brands. A mix will increase customer satisfaction, generating more sales. There is something for everyone. Some passengers want to see and experience new eateries, new specialty stores and new entertainment. Others like the safety of a known brand – some like international brands, some like artisans.

But it’s not JUST about the stores and restaurants. A sense of place is a combination of local architecture, local experiences, local food, souvenirs and local culture through art and music. It’s a combination of your senses coming together in your surroundings.

The terminal could have visual art displays representative of the city’s art scene accompanied by local food and retail offers. While new and modern uses of steel and glass can be found in many terminals, they may lack unique character. Many elements for which cities are known, such as the historical and modern architecture depicting history and local neighborhoods, local music, local natural foliage, and the colors that are prominent in your town, supplemented with water features and/or lighting provide an opportunity to further define a “sense of place”. When people are inspired by their surroundings, and are enjoying themselves in a stress-free environment, they tend to spend more. It is important to recognize that a sense of place is not simply achieved by inserting local offers in restaurants and shops, but is achieved by framing elements that together define the location you are in.

This picture of Venice gives you a sense of being in Venice. Yet, you are in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

Photo Credit

Figure 3 – Venice in the Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas


The shops and restaurants need to provide the customer with what they want or need, not just to depict the home city.  That’s why it is best to supplement the “feel or character of the place” with local flavors and international brands.  You can further create the character by creating the sense of place through base building attributes like characteristic wood or stone pillars, colored or symbolic floor surfaces or painted, paneled or muraled walls.  These characteristics should be present in and outside of the shops, restaurants and services.

The painted mural of the city you are arriving in, gives you excitement to think about and anticipate while waiting for your baggage.  You begin to dream about how you will enjoy your first visit to the city, or the comfort of coming home.

Figure 4 – Arriving in Venice Airport


Remember it’s not just about the departure experience.  Yes, you want people to remember their time in your city, but you also want to woo them on arrival.

The Second Pillar is Engagement.


Engaging with your customers makes them feel good, important, and likely comfortable. It’s all about talking with someone who can either help or provide you with a service that makes you feel good inside.

Enjoying technological solutions that make your experience that much easier and entertaining. An example of this is the Rebecca Minkoff store, a high-end clothing designer, in New York. She offers the opportunity to see what the outfit will look like on you, without taking a stitch of clothing off.

The business traveler who goes into the electronic store and is recommended to purchase a new tool that will help her accomplish more with her daily office routine will save valuable time.

While the mother and father with 3 rambunctious six-year-old children will enjoy the McDonald’s and play area, to occupy the kids, and make their trip less stressful.

The sounds of music or rushing water will help to take the stress out of the traveler who doesn’t like flying or has had a really bad morning. This experience will be appreciated and remembered.

A fellow business traveler who meets a great network contact, while enjoying a glass of local wine in a wine bar, makes that time spent at your airport, pleasant, and creates a memory.

An airport information clerk or a shop clerk or waiter can also change a typically benign airport just get me from this place to where I need to go as quickly as possible to and enjoyable encounter that is remembered and talked about with friends or business associates in years to come.

If a traveler receives service that is far beyond their expectations, it creates a memory and is likely shared with others through the years. This type of service usually results in loyalty. Loyalty to fly through your airport or visit your store. The traveler likely wants to be blessed with the same service and to share with others as an affirmation.

The First Pillar… THE WOW!


The memory of the The WOW can be present in the check in areas, the Immigration Zones but don’t forget, it needs to be present in the Commercial Zone to create a financial return.

This is the area that will give you the biggest payback. If you develop the memories in this zone, you will likely generate more sales resulting in more rent. The more rent the airport makes likely translates into more sales and profit for concession operators and, higher customer satisfaction for the passenger. The more all business partners make, the more each of them can spend to continually update the environment, so that there is always something new to experience and remember.

THE WOW is sometimes a store that you haven’t seen anywhere else like Amazon Go, a new retail concept in the U.S. where you enter the store, pick up what you want, and the item is automatically charged to your credit card through your app, without the need to scan and pay. It’s quick, easy and takes no time…frankly it’s likely a memorable experience.

Or it’s entertainment that made you de stress and enjoy yourself, or an unexpected experience with someone you met for the very first time.

The great experience may also be the new restaurant that serves you a great meal, or the new retail store, that has just what you need for a gift.

All of these, result in forming a memory that sticks with the passenger and is shared with likely 6 or 7 other future travelers, who will want to travel through the airport.

The memory is also a WOW. Wow’s can be created through elaborate architectural elements like the beautiful Jewel Water Zone in Singapore Changi Airport.

Photo Credit

Figure 5 – The Jewel at Singapore Changi Airport


But they also can be achieved through excellent customer service, where an employee makes the voyage easier, and makes one feel better than they did before the encounter.

When your child gets their face painted and they feel so good.  This is an unexpected experience that brings pleasure, both to the child and the parent who naturally loves to see their child smiling.

The key is to keep creating those memories and WOWS.

Transit hubs are kinetic places and leading hubs that must continue to evolve and project Sense of Place, Engagement and WOW during the customer’s journey, to drive Value and Revenue…

Photo Credit

Figure 6 – Singapore Changi Airport


The road map needs to include Comprehensive Planning, A Common Vision, Great Partnerships, and a Memorable Experience.

To secure endorsement, just check out customer satisfaction results for airports and shops that deliver a sense of place, you will see that the sense of place and enjoyment usually results in the highest revenue to both the airport and the concession operator.  The top airports and shops in the world all provide a memorable experience.

So, keep creating those memories and WOWS.

In the wise words of Albert Einstein, it’s a reminder to us, that we cannot stand still and be complacent.  An airport’s commercial program must be unique to engage customers and the program must continue to evolve.  Just when you think the program is complete, another airport or concession operator is doing something different.

Photo Credit Flickr

“Life is like riding a bicycle.
To keep your balance,
you must keep moving.”
– Albert Einstein

So, keep pedaling!

Who knows what shops and airports will come up with next, but we are sure that the outcome will be memorable and continually evolving!

Entering the World of Travel Retail by Lucy Hillyard, Public Relations Director, FILTR

The world of travel retail, what a fascinating and exciting industry – it’s complex, unique and diverse.

As someone who is new to the industry, I’m particularly excited about the opportunities this giant world of travel retail presents.  After three months with FILTR (an integrated retail marketing and design agency, based in Singapore), it’s safe to say that I have already learnt a lot, met fantastic and interesting people, and got a glimpse of what this industry is all about.

As a woman entering the industry, I thought it relevant to share some of my key learnings so far:

  1. 1. Ask questions: there are a lot of fantastic people, with a lot of knowledge, in the industry, all of whom are eager and willing to share information. They just need to be asked.  You will never know what you don’t ask, so talk to people, ask questions and be a sponge – absorb as much information as you can.
  2. 2. Put your hand up: if there’s an opportunity, take it. A conference in Rome?    A show in Singapore?  Go.  A store opening in Sydney?  Go.  The more you go, the more you get.  This industry is about meeting new people and seeing new places to help gain insights and learn about travellers and what they want.  So, don’t take a back seat, put yourself forward and if you’re given an opportunity, take it.
  3. 3. Explore, explore, explore: growing up in a family involved in the travel retail industry, also meant I grew up in a world that was travel and airport obsessed. Need to be at the airport 90-minutes early?  We’d be there 3-hours early, walking around airport shops, looking at different display units, talking to shop assistants and everything in between.  At the time, it didn’t make much sense to me, but now, having entered the industry myself, I understand that it’s one of the best ways to learn – observation and interpretation can spark creation.  So next time you’re boarding that ferry or walking through that airport, put your phone down and check out what’s around you.
  4. 4. Reach out to people, stay in contact: you’ll meet a lot of people, and the people you’ve met, will also meet a lot of other people, so it’s your job to stay in contact. Establish a rapport with someone or find out something you have in common with them and follow-up.  It’s not enough to set and forget, you’ll get a lot further by staying in contact with people – connect on LinkedIn, send them the occasional email and go out of your way to see them when you can.
  5. 5. Buy business cards, and lots of them: this is one I wish I’d followed on day one. I’d almost go so far as to say that even before you’ve got your computer login, you need business cards.  This industry is largely about networking, so make sure you have a big stack of business cards with you wherever you go – you never know who you might meet.  (Note: the writer of this article attended her first ever TFWA show sans-business cards and wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone… although it does provide a good excuse to follow-up with people [see point 4]).


Lastly, and it goes without saying, enjoy it!  After three months, I can already say that the travel retail world is your oyster.  Do with it what you want and enjoy the journey.