Airports Yesterday, Supermalls Today

It’s been happening for years now: airports are becoming the 21st century’s supermalls.

The New York Times points to the recession as one of the major causes. Mall visits plummeted and mass market retailers turned to the one location they were sure to have a captive audience.

“Someone may have a street concept or a mall concept that’s very successful, and bringing it to the airport environment, you capitalize on the captive audience and on the dwell time,” said Gerry Cecci, VP of airport management at the Westfield Group mall company.

Before, the only shop diversity you could count on in an airport was in the restaurants and fast food joints. Maybe a convenience store or two. Now, even well-known retail brands have become a ubiquitous part of the airport landscape.

It’s not just happening in the United States, either. Take Heathrow Airport, for example. In a blog post entitled “Heathrow in Search of Perfection”, by British parking service website Parking4Less, they note that when the Queen’s Terminal opened in 2014, British upmarket department store John Lewis was among the first to open up shop at the new terminal.

Thankfully enough for those who want to experience something culturally deeper, there are some airports around the world that have taken to putting their local cultures right alongside the high-end retail shops and restaurants.

Korea’s Incheon International Airport is one of the foremost examples. The airport, which coincidentally was ranked #2 in this year’s World Airport Awards, houses the Cultural Museum of Korea. The museum holds historic relics spanning 5,000 years and serves as a great introduction for travelers who want to know more about the country’s history.

Even better, Incheon International’s 4th floor passenger terminal is home to the Korean Cultural Street. The area is lined with traditional Korean architecture, giving visitors a glimpse of traditional Korean culture — even if they’re just stopping by on a long layover.

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