PTE interview: Bringing DEN’s commercial masterplan to life

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Pamela DeChant, senior vice president of concessions at Denver International Airport (DEN), discusses Vision 100, its mission and vision to provide excellence in service and support for 100 million annual passengers, ahead of her speech at Passenger Terminal Conference 2023. In her presentation, DeChant will speak about the importance of nonaeronautical commercial strategy, stakeholder engagement and remaining adaptable to changes in guest behavior as well as world events, like the Covid-19 pandemic.

What’s your presentation about?
Our presentation will explore the complete refresh of a large commercial program, in alignment with the airport’s strategic plan, at what is currently the third-busiest airport in the world. DEN went to market with an ambitious airport-wide commercial strategy combined with a genuine investment in the passenger experience. This presentation will show how an airport originally built for 50 million passengers annually is adapting to a fast approaching 100 million passengers. I’ll discuss the airport strategies and project examples that we used to adapt to the impacts of continued rapid growth and how the commercial masterplan withstood the uncertainty and challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

What has DEN done to reimagine the commercial development masterplan through the Covid-19 pandemic?
It’s important to understand how the needs of our travelers in today’s environment have changed as we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. The refresh of our masterplan includes strategies to identify changes in guest needs and behavior, analyze updated forecast information and remain committed to moving forward with a solid foundation that can adapt to change. We are reviewing the customer journeys and dwell times, and looking at the impact of forecast changes and capacity requirements. Current items under review are changes and trends in food and beverage and retail spending. So far, we have learned our original masterplan has withstood the massive changes in the industry and that the core planning principles will remain the same.

What has the executive team learned from this large commercial development?
We learned that remaining adaptable is the key to success. With a development of this caliber, constant evaluation and recalibration is critical. We also learned how important marketing and outreach is throughout the life of the development. The launch of the masterplan in 2019 included a robust outreach effort. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, we lessened our focus on marketing the development and focused more on maintaining the current program. Finally, we are reminded frequently that early and consistent stakeholder engagement is essential, especially with a project of this size. Because we are developing what some refer to as a mini city, the number of internal and external stakeholders is enormous, and each must be included in the process.

How important is DEN’s nonaeronautical commercial strategy to the airport’s overall revenue?
The nonaeronautical commercial strategy is critical to the airport’s overall revenue. We understand that not having enough concessions has financial implications like revenues becoming stagnant and even declining as a result of not being able to meet the needs of our guests. When capacity is stretched and our guests cannot get their needs met, we realize that due to time limitations, there is a chance they will trade down their original needs and desires for something less than they originally sought. This means developing and implementing a concession masterplan that includes right-sizing the program by adding square footage is the solution. Having a road map for our future with the masterplan positions our team to remain focused on growing the program, passenger satisfaction and ultimately the revenues.

How has the passenger experience informed the development?
Enhancing the passenger experience is one of the guiding principles of Vision 100, DEN’s mission and vision to provide excellence in service and support for 100 million passengers. The premise of the masterplan incorporates the passenger experience and is at the heart of our core planning principles. We believe in designing an intuitive and deliberate journey focusing on well-thought-out districts for food and beverage, retail and services. Creating convenient areas to encourage dwell time is reflected in the masterplan and, as we continue to develop the new environment, a focus will remain on the passenger journey.

To hear more valuable industry insights from top aviation executives, be sure to book a conference pass to Passenger Terminal Conference, which will be held on March 14, 15 and 16, in Amsterdam, Netherlands. 

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