TAMPA — Imagine a Taco Bus at Tampa International Airport. Or maybe Cinnabon making its long-awaited return flight. Get ready for a slew of new places to eat, shop, drink and maybe even get a massage and facial while waiting for flights at the airport.
Tampa International is set to revamp its entire dining and shopping lineup by 2017. The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which governs the airport, got its first glimpse of the plan to assemble a new roster of eating and shopping options in the next few years.
"In days gone by you used to see hot dog stands at the airport, like it was a bus station," said Tampa International chief executive officer Joe Lopano. "Now customers are arriving two hours before departure, and aboard the airplane there's not much to offer."
Lopano said research shows its customers want a bigger variety of options: healthier food, more places to drink wine, to sit down to some fine dining, even a spa to relieve their travel stress.
Lopano has made it a priority to give patrons more options — and thus more incentive — to spend money at the airport. In fiscal year 2012, the airport made $9.60 per passenger. In fiscal year 2017, the airport projects that will rise to $13 a passenger.
When the new lineup is assembled and construction on the new shops and eateries in the main terminal and four airsides is complete by 2017, the airport expects that will boost concession revenue by 31 percent. This fiscal year, the airport projects $16.7 million in revenue. But by 2017, that revenue figure is projected to grow to almost $22 million.
That doesn't even include the concessions that could be added to the new consolidated rental car facility, a building that will be built 1.3 miles south of the main terminal. It's also slated to be finished by 2017.
Concessions are big business. In fiscal year 2012, Tampa International saw $81 million in total sales from the main terminal and four airsides. The most sales came from Airside C, which accounted for $23.5 million. That was even more than the $22.9 million generated by the main terminal. Airside C is home to the airport's biggest carrier, Southwest Airlines, local brands like Shula's Bar & Grill and Cigar City Brewing and national chains like Chili's Too and Quiznos.
The airport is gearing up for 2015, when its contract with longtime concessionaire HMSHost expires. HMSHost has been the airport's only concessionaire since it opened in 1971.
Instead of having just one concessionaire, Tampa International will be signing contracts with eight to 12 different concessionaires who will be providing the new food, drink and retail options. In the coming weeks the airport will host a series of informational meetings to brief local businesses on how to do business with the airport. Next year the airport will start accepting bids and awarding contracts.
For years airport officials said local franchises like Taco Bus and growing brands like Evos have called. The airport could also consider bringing in entirely new services, like a spa that could offer facials, manicures and pedicures. Or it could bring back brands that disappeared years ago, like the aforementioned Cinnabon.
But Tampa International wants to do more than just build its own mall, and Lopano said he doesn't want his airport to look like every other airport.
"We want to create a sense of place," vice president of operations John Tiliacos said. "When we develop the program, we want to create a sense of the Tampa Bay area."
Jamal Thalji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amount the airport projects to make per passenger in 2017. It made $9.60 per passenger in 2012.
Estimated concession revenue in 2017. This fiscal year, the airport projects $16.7 million in revenue.
Total sales from the main terminal and four airsides in fiscal year 2012.