Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, consistently ranked as one of Europe’s five busiest airports and most highly requested international transfer points, has been renowned for decades for its excellent retail venues.
Now, layovers at Schiphol are about to get even more tempting for travelers, with more lux shopping, dining and entertainment options, and even a new hotel.
The airport is close (April 2017) to completing an 18-month, $53 million renovation of its Lounge 2, its busiest international passenger concourse.
Some 12 million passengers pass through Lounge 2 annually, transferring from European to international flights. Their dwell time in the lounge could be as long as eight hours between flights.
(In addition to renovating Lounge 2, the master plan includes construction of a new Hilton hotel, the development of Area A to the south of the terminal and the renovation of the security filter in Departure Hall 1 – all of which are expected to be completed by 2018.)
As the esthetic work is wrapping up, an even more ambitious level of construction is about to begin on a new terminal, new pier and other facilities, a project that will run through 2023 and will increase the annual capacity of the airport by 14 million passengers. Schiphol handled about 60 million passengers in 2016, its centenary year. (No statistics are available on its traffic counts for 1916.)
The new Departure Lounge 2 has been sub-divided into seven themed experiences:
• On one floor, Luxury World; See Buy Fly (fragrances, cosmetics, news, books, electronics, liquor, tobacco); Fashion and Lifestyle (including the new Johnnie Walker House); and Modern Dutch.
• On another floor will be Care & Wellness; Travel & Culture (including an area where people can use tablets, computers, printers and scanners); and Family World (with a food court and playing area for children – including a real plane).
“In March, the Bvlgari store will open with a focus on jewelry and watches, and at the beginning of April we will open in this same area an Hermès store and a Gucci store,” according to Michiel van Goor, who is Lounge 2’s project manager,
A new Omega watch store is also planned for Lounge 2.
The renovation also includes an upgrade of the airport’s library and its smaller version of Amsterdam’s famous Rijksmuseum, which opened in 2002. (Yes, there’s a mini-Rijksmuseum at the airport.)
In its upgraded Lounge 2 – where European passengers connect to international flights throughout the world, to Tokyo and Dubai, New York and Chicago, Johannesburg and Buenos Aires (and all points east and west, as the railroad conductors used to intone) – traffic is expected to approach 15 million passengers per year.
And the average dwell time in Lounge 2 is estimated at between six and eight hours.
That’s a lot of captive shoppers spending a lot of time at the airport, and also a lot of captive diners.
So where will they eat?
Bethesda, Md.-based HMS Host, which provides the food and beverage experiences for thousands of airports around the world, enlisted the Amsterdam store design firm UXUS to create a comfortable, casual dining venue for international travelers – which means a variety of languages and multiple types of cuisine.
(Editor’s note: Read more here about UXUS founder and expat businessman George Gottl.)
“The client wanted a food offering that reflected the rest of the lounge,” said Oliver Michell, UXUS’ chief creative officer. “In too many cases, an airport’s food and beverage experience is so lacking that travelers have to depend on airline food – which nobody wants to do anymore.”
UXUS designed a street fair that is comfortable and eye-catching, with varieties of fare and operational efficiencies that make ordering meals easy for all foreign visitors.
“We were asked to redefine what a food court could be at the airport,” said Michell, “especially for the well-traveled millennial who frequents the likes of the Farmers Market in Los Angeles, Chelsea Market in New York, Borough Market in London or the Michelin-starred Hawker street vendors in Singapore.”
The collection of stands, sitting side by side, doesn’t at first glance appear to be terribly innovative: there’s a grill, a pizza offering, a bakery and an obligatory McDonald’s.
But bold colors, distinct shapes and authentic materials draw passengers and make them feel comfortable: real bricks and real wood, dining tables and counters topped with recycled material resembling granite, and a ceramic surface with an exaggerated, cartoon-like wood pattern.
The recycled materials, from locally sourced materials, have bits of stone and glass ground up in them, to create a lively bit of sparkle and funk. “A little street art, but functional as well,” noted Michell. “Surfaces have to be able to be wiped down and kept clean.”
There are also a number of seating options, from the lone diner who wants to be left alone to read his newspaper; to the family that requires a table of six or eight; to the millennial who wants to plug in and work, or surf the web, or watch a movie or listen to music.
Another bit of fun is the colorful, bottle cap-covered canopy to the condiments station.
Part of what makes the UXUS project so innovative are the approaches to the variety of languages and international dining requirements that pass through the lounge.
In The Grill area, for example, the menu includes everything from an American hamburger to satay, kabobs and wraps. And a bold and colorful, graphics-filled board behind the ordering counter allows customers of any language to choose the selection and combination of ingredients they want.
Also, the food is all fresh, prepared in open kitchens directly in front of the customers.
And, since international travelers tend to be on a variety of time-zone clocks, each of the stands is open most of 24 hours, so a passenger from the Far East can have an early morning breakfast just as an American traveler is having a late-night snack.
The entire lounge, named Holland Street, sits on a mezzanine level between two concourses. To maximize visibility from the concourse below, UXUS used LED tube lights on the dark, open ceiling, spelling out “food” in various languages – English, French, Italian, Chinese and Sanskrit. Plus, there’s one large set of golden arches. The international language.
Because it’s called Holland Street, and because Schiphol wanted to remind travelers they’re actually in Amsterdam, a number of local references have been built into the design.
For example, the bases on one set of tables are actually recycled bicycles, a nod to Amsterdam’s large biking culture. And, in the bakery area, there are stacks of crates with printed references to Amsterdam’s street markets: the Albert Cuypmarkt, Dappermarkt, Ten Kate Markt and Noordermarkt.
According to recent data from Airports Council International, European airports rely on non-aeronautical revenue – sales earned from such profit centers as retail, restaurants and car parking – for 40 percent of their revenue.
Of that revenue, said ACI, retail sales – including food and drinks – accounted for 46 percent. In total, about 18 percent of airports’ total revenue.
Little wonder that the fight is on for airports to secure as many international flights from as many international carriers as they can – and to entertain, supply and feed those connecting passengers who spill out of these planes every hour and wonder how they’re going to fill the next several hours.
(Editor’s note: See a related post here about how increasing competition for travelers at European airports is translating into big improvements and investments.)