A recent post by Malcolm Allan at Place Matters about the role that airports can play in the branding of places caught my attention. In working with small cities around the world I have been struck by the disconnect between many airports and the destination or city brand of their home area. Passing through some regional airports, with their blank walls and open spaces, its obvious most aren’t making an effort to communicate the strengths and personality of the surrounding region.
On a number of occasions I have waited for my flight home in a very sterile airport of a city where we have been working with an enthusiastic community to develop their brand strategy. Some of our client cities have approached their local airport without success in the hope of working with them to project a stronger local identity in parts of the airport usually without success.
Malcolm Allan spotlighted the opportunities in a presentation at the annual European Regional Airports conference in Madrid. He advocated that airports should be involved in city region brand strategies. He advocates this because airports are a major driver of local economic development in terms of job generation, workforce expenditure, investment in direct business services and indirectly through visitor expenditure. They also have an important role to play in that they are, like rail termini, a "brand gateway". They are a place where visitors get a first "taste" of the brand offer in action and up-to-date information on its offer to reinforce any pre-trip research they may have undertaken.
I am very fortunate that my home airport (pictured) in Portland (PDX) is an exception. It constantly works at being a welcoming gateway to Portland and Oregon through local merchandise, food, wine, culture and art, and displays. Any wonder that passengers vote for it as on of the best airports in the USA.