Data-driven revamp of Langkawi airport pays off big time for MAHB

Mohammad Nazli Abdul Aziz says MAHB’s study of trends and data is paying off.

LANGKAWI: Whenever Mohammad Nazli Abdul Aziz speaks of the “retail revolution” on which Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) is embarking, his excitement is clear, and for good reason.

Already, he says, the company’s efforts to revamp the retail experience for passengers is paying off.

He points to the success of efforts at the Langkawi International Airport (LIA), where the expansion which began in 2017 was completed last year.

As part of its commercial reset there, MAHB curated its retail and food and beverage offerings at LIA, bringing in new brands and “firsts” like Charles & Keith and Burger King, which have raised the profile of both the airport and the island.

Nazli says results have been encouraging, with sales recording an impressive increase.

He compares six-month sales data from September 2018 to February 2019 to the same period a year before. Sales of perfume went up by 6%, liquor by 18%, chocolates and confectionary by 40% and beauty and skincare products by 100%.

This is outside the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition period, when the island sees a surge of international visitors.

“Last year, LIA recorded sales of RM50 million. This year, our target is RM65 million, and I feel confident we can achieve it,” says Nazli, who is MAHB’s senior general manager in the Commercial Services Division.

Essentially, he says, MAHB has taken on a lead role in driving the retail experience for passengers instead of merely renting out space to businesses.

Driven by its own data and that shared by other airports, he says MAHB will be able to draw more customers and provide what they want.

“We are listening to trends and studying the data – there’s no guesswork. We know what is selling in other airports, so in our reset, we have similar offerings and the results can be seen.

“We also work with retailers and tell them what is selling in other airports so they can bring those products here.”

On top of ensuring that its five international airports offer a retail experience compatible with their regional peers, Nazli says MAHB wants to ensure that travellers, especially international visitors, get a clear “Sense of Malaysia”.

Sense of Malaysia is an MAHB initiative which aims to provide a platform for local businesses.

Nazli says many of these businesses have good products which are not always marketed well. MAHB is working with state and federal tourism bodies to improve their presentation.

“We are going to curate local products, unique to the locations of our airports,” he says. “We want to make sure that we are selling the stories behind these products.”

LIA aside, MAHB is also working on a commercial reset of its retail space in the international airports in Kuala Lumpur – both KLIA and klia2 – Penang, Sabah and Sarawak.