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Tampa airport seeks to become shopping destination

Spirit Airline employees Ted Wood, left, and Sammy Kirk check out Tampa International’s new Harley-Davidson store.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

Spirit Airline employees Ted Wood, left, and Sammy Kirk check out Tampa International’s new Harley-Davidson store.

You wait to check bags, wait to shuffle through security lines, wait at the gate for the plane that leaves late. Odds are, you're spending more time than ever at the airport.

The point isn't lost on those in charge, says Harriet Baskas, a travel columnist who also writes a blog called Stuck at the Airport. "Airports realized people were coming earlier and said: Let's make it a nicer place to be — and an easier place to spend money," she says.

Look no farther than Tampa International Airport. In the past week, three familiar brands opened for business on the bustling third-floor transfer level.

Sales clerks encouraged passers-by to hop aboard a custom Soft Tail cycle bolted down in front of the Harley-Davidson store. For sale inside hung all things Harley, from $400 leather jackets to a dog toy that emits a motorcycle roar when Fido chomps down. Harley T-shirts are the biggest sellers.

Around the corner, workers set up a free-standing Brookstone with roll-aboard bags, vibrating massage pillows and rings that read your heart rate. Tasty scents wafted from Carrabba's Italian Grill, which served its first lunches Tuesday.

The new arrivals are the last piece of a $13.8-million retail and restaurant remodeling, paid by concessions contractor HMS Host.

Airports are taking a financial hit from the sharp drop in passengers. Officials at a recent conference discussed making up the shortfall by finding new ways for travelers to spend more, Baskas said. Some of new trends:

Spas: The largest chain, ExpresSpa, offers a menu of table and chair massages, manicures, pedicures and facials in more than 25 airports in the United States, Mexico and Europe. Enroute Massage and Spa in Indianapolis has a 20-minute treatment with three technicians performing neck and shoulder, foot and hand massage all at once. At Tampa International, Cole's Hair Cuts offers chair massages.

Wine bars: Best known is Vino Volo, in nine U.S. airports. Each has a wine lounge, tasting bar, restaurant and retail counter. The shops are located behind security checkpoints, so taking bottles on the plane is no problem.

Pet kennels: Not inside the terminal but on airport property. Besides boarding, they often have pools, grooming and massage. Some offer Web camera feeds so owners can check in on pets and 24-hour staffing for dropoff and pickup. TIA doesn't have one. But a franchise called Camp Bow Wow (for dogs only) operates in nearby Drew Park.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Tampa airport seeks to become shopping destination 11/25/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 29, 2008 11:49pm]
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