Abu Dhabi Airports Company (Adac) is keeping the shelves of its duty free shops well stocked with orange juice, soap powder and milk formula to keep its newly discovered biggest group of customers happy.
Adac’s first annual passenger survey has revealed 32 per cent of passengers at the airport are from the Indian subcontinent, compared with 24 per cent from Europe and 16 per cent from Asia.
While the results are not necessarily surprising, they nonetheless provide hard numbers behind assumption.
“Based on a specific profile our commercial department customises the product offer according to the specific needs of the group. It’s very important to keep customers happy,” said George Karamanos, the vice president of corporate marketing and communication at Adac.
“Indians do not make spontaneous purchases. They decide what they want to buy before they reach the airport. They want authentic and quality products, which they know they can get there.”
In the past, marketing was something to which airport executives paid scant attention. But as competition between airports has intensified, it has become increasingly important for managers to understand how they can attract airlines, passengers and retailers to boost revenues.
Adac said its survey was the only comprehensive passenger analysis available from an airport in the region.
The research was based on interviews with 30,000 departing passengers in the 12 months from May last year and elicited information about characteristics including age, nationality, method of booking, shopping behaviour and customer satisfaction.
Men outnumbered women using the airport by a factor of four to one and the average passenger age was 35.
And while India emerged as the most popular overall destination, Saudi Arabia was the top destination for business travellers.
Manila was the number one destination when direct and indirect flights were combined. This means there is potential for Adac to invite airlines to provide more direct flights from Abu Dhabi to the Philippines.
While few would come to a city for its airport, it can add to the overall attractiveness of the destination, said Mr Karamanos.
Encouragingly for Adac, 93 per cent of passengers thought positively or very positively about Abu Dhabi as a tourist destination; 94 per cent said they would like to visit the capital for a holiday in the future.
“This is excellent information,” said Mr Karamanos. “When you go and sell to airlines the attractiveness of Abu Dhabi, I think, it is a very strong point you can make that Abu Dhabi is very appealing. And this is something that I can share with the Tourism Authority that everyone can use.”