Let's Create A Sense of Place

Carlos Kaduoka, Director, Airports, SITA | Wednesday, 07 February 2018, 11:08 IST

Using technology to be smarter at every step of the journey is one way to heighten the passenger experience. So is the ability to create a ‘sense of place’.

Technology and the senses

Information and communications technology is an integral part of the airport. Today, it’s right in the front line: used to engage with passengers and create a great connected travel experience. Travelers fully expect this connectivity along every step of their journey. That’s why IT investment remains a top agenda item for airports.

It's in the design

But there’s now also a crucial focus on heightening this experience by creating a ‘sense of place’ throughout the airport. The phenomenon is about conveying lifestyles and traditions, making the airport a destination in its own right, so it’s not just a place you fly to and from.

Zürich Airport is a great example. Going from one terminal to another, travelers notice cow noises, yodeling and an animated Heidi, giving them a flavor of Switzerland.

In another example, Los Angeles International Airport uses video walls to create an immersive multimedia system to give passengers a real LA feeling.

And at Mumbai’s airport, the ceiling designs of the Terminal 2 building portrays the feathers of a peacock, India’s national bird.

Think technology

In designing such airports, technology must be thought about at the outset. Planning and factoring in all aspects of IT is crucial if airport operators want passengers to enjoy the sense of place that they have invested to create.

Get the IT wrong, and you will fail. No matter how much the airport appeals to the senses, if the IT infrastructure cannot support every step of the journey, travelers will leave dissatisfied and with a poor perception.

Enhanced experiences

That means creating an advanced IT and communications infrastructure that’s part and parcel of making the total travel experience enjoyable and seamless – from self-service check-in to biometric identification, allowing travelers to get through border security quicker and proceed with their onward journey.

So while the physical infrastructure of the airport building is important, technology holds the capability of ‘breathing more life’ into the airport environment.

Critical to this is the traveler’s ability to stay connected throughout the journey (from both a departure and arrival perspective), which creates a lasting impression.

In fact, you don’t necessarily have to rely on a massive infrastructure to use technology intelligently to help create that sense of place.

For example, integrated with business intelligence and beacon technology, wayfinding at the airport enables travelers to enjoy their dwell time. In doing so, it’s capable of adding significantly to a great sense of place that passengers will enjoy.

Connecting people and cultures

A sense of place is about connecting people and cultures. It’s about making the airport a destination and treating the passenger as a guest, giving them a lot of information and welcoming them.

Technology can help to deliver that by enhancing the airport experience, reducing the stress through self-service and faster connectivity.


An example of premises improvement is the addition of automated border control at the airport, enabling those with European passports to clear themselves through immigration.

Looking ahead, Brussels Airport and Brussels Airlines are in the process of running trials for automated boarding. These trials will be done in the Schengen zone, with the look to extend this to non-Schengen flights.

This will greatly impact the traveler experience in a positive way, allowing travelers to be in control of a new aspect of their journey. 

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