Airports Are Becoming More Like Tourist Destinations

There must be only a handful of people who want to spend more of their precious holiday time at the airport. But a select few establishments around the world are making it so. Some of the world’s airports have undergone revamps to become tourist destinations in themselves.

Munich Airport Duty free
Airports are becoming more than just duty free. Photo: Munich Airport

Airports as points of interest

Starting your holiday as soon as you get off the plane and making it last until you have to go home. That could very well be the tagline for airports that have undergone revamps in the last few years to offer tourists more than just flights home and over-priced catering. If you’ve never stopped long enough at an airport to visit the museum or play nine-hole golf, you might be wondering what this is all about. But we’ll forgive you. Making an attraction of an airport is a rather newfangled furor.

Let us explain. Hong Kong Airport is just one of a growing number of airports enticing passengers with extra entertainment. The airport hosts a four-month cultural festival, showcasing music and art and also boasts a workshop where passengers can make personalized gifts and enjoy VR experiences.

Similarly to Hong Kong Airport, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport brings Dutch heritage to the departure area. Two of the museums that you can find in Amsterdam’s city center can be located in the airport: NEMO and Rijksmuseum. It also has a library.

Rijksmuseum, Schiphol Airport
Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum is located at the airport. Photo: Schiphol Airport

What’s more, Vancouver International Airport offers a spa, dental service and, of course, an aquarium! Evidently, this is more than a regionalized trend. But why are so many airports pulling out the stops?

Why make airports special?

When it comes to demonstrating culture, Hong Kong Airport cherishes its responsibility. It says that the cultural festival it hosts ensures that all travelers have the opportunity to soak themselves in culture. In a press release, the CEO of Airport Authority Hong Kong said:

“In the past few years, with the full support and assistance from different sectors of the community, [Hong Kong International Airport] has become a platform for promoting local culture and art. The performances and exhibitions have also been well received by travellers and local citizens. HKIA handles over 200,000 travellers from around the world with different cultural backgrounds every day, making it a perfect venue for travellers to experience and enjoy Hong Kong’s unique cultural landscape.”

So it’s all about showcasing culture. Or is it?

What’s in it for airports?

Passengers spend a lot of time in airports whether it be waiting for departure or during transfers. So anything to make the wait a little bit easier, cultural or not, helps. But investing thousands to make passengers more comfortable surely can’t be incentive enough, can it?

Vancouver Airport Aquarium
Are airports’ primary concerns their passengers? (Vancouver Airport aquarium) Photo: Ken Eckert via Wikimedia Commons

Well, it might be for some, and it’s also a revenue generator. Vancouver Airport’s aquarium also has a gift shop. And the Audi showroom in Munich Airport is definitely not just for decoration. It appeals to consumerism and, notably, boredom. There’s nothing to re-energize those listless limbs than a peek at the new Audi R8.

That said, it would be cynical to suggest that the only reason airports provide any entertainment for their travelers is to make money. What do you think?

What are your thoughts on airports as tourist destinations? Let us know in the comments below!