SMART Airport Convention

by Carly Allen

Aug 6, 2019

Last week Global Traveler editor in chief Kimberly Krol and I traveled to El Paso, Texas, for the SMART Airports Convention to hear what’s next for our domestic airports. I’ve never been to this interesting city but was looking forward to not only seeing how close it actually was to the border (extremely close) but also trying some authentic Tex-Mex cuisine and margaritas. We later heard the margarita was invented in Juarez, the neighboring city in Mexico; thus, they had the best selection for all travelers.

But back to airports. We were only able to attend Day 1 of the conference but got lucky with some interesting CEO panels moderated by CNN correspondent Nick Valencia. The panel included key airport players like John Selden, general manager, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, director of airports, chief executive officer, St Louis Lambert International Airport; Stacey Stegman, senior vice president, Denver International Airport; and Daren Griffin, director, airport operations, Portland International Airport.

Hot topics discussed on the panel ranged from economic growth and the key to bringing top headquarters to cities to attract business travelers, the role of biometrics on travel experience versus privacy concerns, and how they are trying to attract the next generation of aviation and airport operation careers. The airports present were able to convey the importance of looking ahead not just two to five years but 10–15 years, and how the role of the airport will play out in the future.

— Carly Allen, executive vice president, associate publisher

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