In the age of Covid-19 air travel, one of North America’s largest travel retailers is launching personal protective equipment (PPE) vending machines in the United States and Canada.
Hudson, which has more than 1,000 stores at airports, suburban centers, landmarks and tourist destinations across North America, will begin its rollout later this month. By the end of the summer, the company plans to have 27 machines installed at America’s busiest airports as well as the Houston Space Center.
The new product offerings are sourced and made in the United States, said Hudson, 57% owned by Switzerland-based Dufry, the largest tour operator in the world. PPE is a new category for Hudson but could settle in the coming year at 18 months because growing demand for healthcare spills over into the consumer travel market.
“With the gradual return of passengers to airports in North America following Covid-19, we are noticing a change in behavior among travelers that puts health and safety at the forefront of the travel experience,” said Hudson executive vice president and chief operating officer Brian Quinn. PPE dispensers are designed to meet the expectations of passengers for this type of product.
The line will be sold under the exclusive Hudson Traveler’s Best brand and include PPE, cleaning products and UV LED light disinfection technology. The products – from individual and bulk-packaged face masks (disposable, KN95 and fabric options) to nitrile rubber gloves and multi-purpose thermometers – will also be available at Hudson travel convenience stores. However, vending machines provide the retailer with an all-day selling opportunity.
Hudson says that at some airports, travelers will also be able to purchase branded electronics and other travel items from its machines, including charging cables and wireless headphones. Gadgets and electronics are strong categories for Hudson.
This product diversity will give the retailer some flexibility to make additional sales through its duty-paid business, which is its main revenue generator, accounting for 78% of 2019 net sales of $ 1.95 billion. The rest comes from duty-free sales.
Vending machines, accessible to disabled people, will be located in pre-security locations in the terminals. This exposes them to the maximum number of terminal users, including airport workers. The touchscreens will be sealed with an antimicrobial shield which, according to Hudson, “kills germs on the surface for three to four months before replacement.”
There is evidence that air travel in the United States is recovering. Yesterday, June 9, Transportation Safety Administration airport control numbers reached 338,382, the equivalent of 13.9% of the 2,433,189 passengers who traveled on the same day in 2019. A month earlier, on the same day in May, this percentage was only 8.5% and the April 9, it was even lower at 4.2%.
How quickly air travel returns will depend on travelers’ perceptions of the safety of Covid-19 when they fly. A recent skift survey suggests that, for now, two-thirds of Americans will make their first trips by road, with just 20% saying they would fly.