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Aussies heading overseas might be tempted to part with some of their holiday money before they leave with a new luxury shopping precinct unveiled at our largest airport.

It’s called SYD X, but as MARK ZAOUK, Sydney Airport’s Executive General Manager (Commercial) reveals in this exclusive interview, there’s plenty more to come.

Q: When did the remodelling of Sydney Airport start and what was the initial goal?

A: When we officially kicked off the redevelopment in 2019, we wanted to create the best luxury travel precinct in the region, based on where we saw travel retail trends heading.

We also wanted to make the precinct more upmarket to give passengers something worth arriving early for.

Certain aspects of air travel were feeling a bit commoditised pre-COVID and we wanted to do something that harked back to the golden age of air travel, when the whole experience felt more exclusive.

Q: You’ve just unveiled SYD X. Has that initial goal now been achieved?

A: It’s been incredibly rewarding to see our vision come to life. The brands have gone above and beyond, and the execution in terms of store formats and concepts is incredible.

It also justified our investment in the physical works in the precinct, for example, by raising the height of the roof from four to nearly 10 metres. This created room for larger stores and more exciting formats, and the Louis Vuitton store is an amazing example of this.

Q: Can you tell us what is to come in the future?

A: There is definitely more to come and the work doesn’t stop here. Now that we have the physical space right, we want to work on the service offering.

Things like a concierge service, VIP rooms, personal shopping and exclusive brand experiences.

We’re also examining a food and beverage upgrade, to make sure it represents the world-class culinary scene we have here in Sydney.

We’re also focused on our domestic precinct and the project to develop in-terminal department stores with Heinemann.

Mark Zaouk, SYD X General Executive Manager, Commercial Leasing

Q: Why do airports go to such lengths to provide quality shopping experiences for travellers?

A: Shopping is a key travel motivator for a lot of people and once they have passed check-in and security control are often in the mood to indulge, to start off or cap off their trip.

Passengers can find themselves with a lot of spare time in airports as well, so well-thought-out retail spaces are key for determining which airports are a cut above the rest.

Q: We’re seeing a welcome resurgence in people travelling overseas. What trends have you noticed at the airport and do you think international travel is “back”.

A: We’re optimistic about the number of international travellers we’re seeing in the airport.

In January we had 3.12 million passengers through the T1 terminal, which represents almost an 80 per cent recovery compared to pre-COVID January 2019.

Australians are also eager to explore the world again, and the number of Aussie passengers travelling through the airport is close to pre-COVID levels.

2023 is the first full year of our borders being open and we are starting to see capacity increase across our key global tourism markets. We’ve seen an encouraging increase of travellers from India and the Philippines and a growth in U.S. and British passengers.

The number of flights to and from China has also rapidly increased since the border reopened earlier this year and as a result, we expect this crucial tourism market to pick up in the coming months.

Q: Running an airport is a competitive business. What sets Sydney apart from the competition?

A: We’re the largest airport in Australia and now we’re home to Australia’s largest collection of luxury brands all under one roof.

Having 20 of the most sought-after stores has cemented our spot on the world stage of luxury retail.

In the precinct alone we’re home to a vast array of Australian first store experiences, including Louis Vuitton’s first travel retail store in the southern hemisphere and Gentle Monster’s first store in the region.

Sydney is also uniquely placed as the number one tourist destination and financial capital of the country, and across the world not many cities hold both titles.

We have a really diverse passenger base coming through Sydney Airport and that has always helped set us apart from the competition.