Inside FCO’s new terminal: A fresh dawn or more of the same?

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By Marco Passoni

It is always exciting to step foot in a new terminal. It is a vision of the future and how it can play out. A fresh canvas creates the chance to paint with new strokes and craft new concepts.

So it was with some excitement that recently I used the new Terminal 1 at Rome Fiumicino Airport – known to some of you as Leonardo da Vinci Airport. The terminal is recently completed, and the retail offer is still being fully established, but it was an interesting experience nonetheless.

While the landside area appears as if little has changed, the airside sector has been fully overhauled to create a stunning space with striking architecture and the feel of something cutting-edge and fresh.

But looks can be deceiving and a new look does not always mean new ideas.

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Inside the enormous walkthrough duty-free store, it was excellent to see new concepts appearing: A remarkable toy area provides something new for children, while the deli area creates a real sense of place and an opportunity for those heading off to extend their Italian experience a moment longer.

However, a space this big opens up the opportunity for new, ground-breaking and exciting ideas, and those were not as evident as I passed through. I am hopeful that as the terminal is fully completed and begins to operate at full strength this large retail space will be filled with concepts and spaces that capture the imagination. We have talked a lot about making use of space. It is high time we saw that talk in action in airports around the world.

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While some fresh concepts were evident in the duty-free store, my feeling as I walked the rest of the retail space was that I had seen much of it before. There are still outlets to open and I am excited to see what will evolve and join this new terminal, but many of the names on show are those we have seen in travel retail time and again.

Doing something new during the current challenging time is, of course, difficult; but doing something great was never easy, we talk a lot about innovation and we need to be willing to try something new.

However, I was thrilled to see one new name on the list: Eataly. This brand is a popular eaterie around the world, delivering excellent and traditional cooking. A true piece of Italy located at the heart of this new terminal.

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The offer you are presented with on arrival is amazing – pizzas and pastas, health food, grab-and-go and delicatessen. What more could you want?

The true brand experience, that’s what. As is often the case, bringing a successful brand to life in a travel retail setting is fraught with challenges and Eataly and their partners for this venture Autogrill, are still fine-tuning the delivery of the service that established Eataly customers will expect.  Eataly is different to any other food outlet in our market and it should feel that way inside. At the moment, that is not quite there, with the experience being more of an Autogrill restaurant with Eataly branding. The food was too like many other restaurants in an airport and, for the time being, definitely not in line with the brand positioning and its price level.

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This is the challenge with bringing newness into the market and I am aware of the contradiction: I am asking for new and am not happy with some of the newness I find. But I understand and love this industry, many of our shoppers do not know the challenges we face – and they do not care. They want newness and excitement.

I have no doubt that the new Terminal 1 at FCO will flourish, but as it finds its feet it is a reminder to us all that if we are creating something new, it must be both fresh and excellent. We only get one shot at a first impression.

Marco Passoni has decades of experience in the travel retail sector. He has spent the majority of his career in senior leader positions throughout the market, including a 12-year tenure as CEO of a leading international Duty Free distribution company and a further 8 years running a retail firm that operated fashion mono-brand stores in several international airports.
Today, as Senior Executive VP and founding partner of 2.0 & Partners, he leads the company’s efforts in developing and innovating services which create new opportunities and partnerships for all members of the travel retail Trinity. A former elite-level sailor, with a World Championship to his name, Marco now spends much of his time airside, experiencing the changing travel retail industry first-hand, to better guide partners and clients on the best way to do business in this vibrant and unique market.