The day after the Winter Olympics ended, Vancouver International (YVR)
processed 57,000 bags, checked in 36,000 people and did CA$1.4M in
concessions sales – up 261% from March 1, 2009.
Full sales for the period of the Games weren’t available. But those
one-day numbers alone beat the airport’s previous all-time busiest day
by about 10,000 people and 17,000 bags, and put the finishing touches
the city’s two weeks in the spotlight.
“It was probably one of the best experiences ever,” says Susan Stiene,
director of retail and passenger services. “The entire airport
community pulled together.”
The preparation at YVR began before the 2006 Winter Olympics ended.
Stiene and other airport officials talked with airports and
concessionaires with experience hosting Olympics visitors.
One thing YVR did to maximize its Olympics-related revenues was get
retail stores open at least a couple years’ ahead of time. That’s
important so airports can recoup as much of their construction costs as
possible and because visitors want the merchandise, Stiene says. YVR
started opening the stores in October 2008. Eventually, there were six
stores, and Hudson Group also operated 13 retail merchandising units.
Olympics merchandising stores did CA$13.7M in sales.
“There’s lots of money to be had out there,” Stiene says. “They want to have that merchandise.”
Another strategy YVR officials utilized to ensure a smooth experience
was to educate the community through a 5-4-3-2-1 article it sent to
hotels, newspapers and radio stations to inform visitors how to
approach their return trips home. The document suggested travelers
check on their flight five hours ahead of time, get to the airport four
hours ahead, pass through security three hours before their flight,
shop two hours before and then arrive at their gate an hour before.
“That message, because it was so succinct, really caught everybody’s
attention,” she says. “When they came to be processed at the airport,
it was really quick.”
On the final day, YVR conducted many check-ins off-site, but also
staffed up security lines and worked with retailers to ensure there
were ample opportunities to shop, have fun, and maybe even sample some
Canadian wine and salmon.
Stiene has plenty of evidence that the airport’s efforts were
successful. YVR hired a firm to conduct customer service surveys
throughout the games and scored 4.6 out of 5.
Or, she says, she could trust her own eyes. The day after the Olympics
ended, Stiene went to the international departures area after work
hours and saw people dancing, sitting on floors watching musical
performances and lining up to eat at restaurants.
“It was absolutely full of people,” she says, adding that the entire
endeavor was very tiring but worth it. “It was a really, really fun