Wine, Maori Art and Rugby Mania at awesome Auckland …
Auckland International is the first port of call for over 70% of visitors to New Zealand. In fact, 13.4 million visitors to the country of the Long White Cloud pass through here each year, making it easily New Zealand’s busiest airport. And for the most part, travellers are clearly very happy with what they find. Indeed, in the latest influential Skytrax Airport Awards Auckland International was voted the world’s eighth best airport, one place higher than in 2010.The airport’s excellent levels of customer service and facilities keep on getting better. For instance, in the last year the airport has upgraded its international departures area, adding many more retail stores and restaurants. The retail offer across the airport’s two terminals now totals 100 different stores. Add to that one of the world’s most generous duty-free allowances, and you have the recipe for happy travelling shoppers.
Auckland International is fairly unusual in having two competing duty-free retailers within the same international departures terminal•DFS and James Richardson (JR) Duty Free. The latter also operates stores at Christchurch and Wellington airports, and runs a top-notch customer website, www.jrdutyfree.co.nz, where travellers can not only browse the offer, but also buy before they fly.
The liquor offer at JR Duty Free is particularly impressive, especially when it comes to American Bourbon, which is very popular in this part of the world. Look out for the duty-free exclusive Jack Daniel’s Silver Select at NZ$79.90 (GBP38.80), for instance, or the gloriously spicy and complex Woodford Reserve at NZ$64.90 (GBP31.50).
However, New Zealand wine with all its amazing diversity of styles is rightly the main draw here. The selection is both wide and deep. Wines vying for attention on the shelf include Esk Valley and Villa Maria from Hawkes Bay; the world-famous Cloudy Bay from Marlborough, the very popular Brancott Estate (formerly known as Montana), and many more.
Apple gadgets such as the ipod and more recently the ipad have taken the world by storm in recent years, and JR Duty Free sells a range of products from the famous Californian computer brand at the centre of its departures store, where there is also a demonstration table, where travellers can try them out before they buy.
A little competition is obviously a good thing because rival operator, DFS, also mounts an excellent offer (www.dfs.co.nz), especially when it comes to liquor, where current deals include two bottles of Bacardi white rum for NZ$59 (GBP28.74), Absolut vodka for NZ$34.90 (GBP16.95) and the recommended Kiwi vodka brand 42 Below for NZ$48 (GBP23.30).
Newly-listed beauty products at DFS include Bvlgari The Jewel Charms Collection Rose Essentielle edp purse spray at NZ$71 (GBP34.46), Guerlain Abeille Royale Day Cream at NZ$205 (GBP99.50), and Ralph Lauren Polo Red, White and Blue edt at NZ$90 (GBP43.68).
Both DFS and JR Duty Free operate arrivals stores at the airport and it is worth noting that New Zealand’s personal arrivals allowances for passengers are pretty generous by international standards: three bottles of spirits, no fewer than six bottles of wine, and 200 cigarettes.
Many international airports around the world frankly do a pretty poor job of promoting the cities and countries they serve. T-shirts, baseball caps and cheap key-rings vie for space with over-priced pottery and stuffed toys. However, Auckland International’s crop of souvenir outlets are in a class of their own, and one of the best is the award-winning Kiwi Discovery outlet (www.kiwidiscovery.net), which has proven very popular with the many Asian travellers who fly from the airport.
Founded in 1997 by a Korean ex-pat, Kiwi Discovery has subsequently racked up 23 awards for its marketing skills, which include changing its product displays several times during each day as different groups of departing travellers pass through the terminal. It majors on exotic Kiwi foodstuffs such as honey, salmon, royal jelly, mussels, paua meat (a type of seafood), chocolate, jams and health foods.
It is worth noting the same company also runs the Merino Discovery shop at the airport, which as the name suggests sells clothing lines made from Merino wool. It also operates the airport’s excellent Sushi Bar Hayama, which employs trained Japanese sushi chefs and has outlets in both the international and domestic terminals.
If you are still on the souvenir trail, Around NZ stocks handicrafts, jewellery, toys and gifts, while rugby fans should definitely seek out the official Rugby World Cup 2011 store, which stocks branded merchandise related to this September’s rugby extravaganza, which is being staged in New Zealand. Last but not least, Artport specialises in New Zealand, Maori and Pacific art and sells everything from paintings, sculptures to carvings from top Kiwi artists such as Valerie Beale, Peter Latham, Tony Ogle and Brad Novak. See www.artport.co.nz for a flavour of what is sold there.
After all that shopping, why not treat yourself to an ice-cream at Valantino’s Gelato, where flavours include popcorn, green apple and kiwi fruit? A glass or two of some of New Zealand’s great wines can be bought at either the Blue Bar or City of the Sails.
The shopping offer in this part of the airport is solid rather than spectacular. Most of the usual boxes get ticked without setting the heart racing: there is a Sunglass Hut outlet, a luggage store (Carri-On), a newsagent (News Travels), a florist (Sunflowers Florist) and a bookstore (Whitcoulls). NZ and Beyond stocks Kiwi gifts and clothing, including lines made from sheepskin and leather.
If you are going to be spending any time on the beach during your stay in the country, a visit to beachculture might just be the ticket as it features the latest surfer fashion brands such as Billabong, Arnette, Oakley, Havaianas, Kustom, Element, Nixon, Von Zipper, Quiksilver, Roxy, Seafolly and many more.
When it comes to grabbing a coffee on the go, there are no fewer than three cafés with ‘espresso’ in their name (Velluto Espresso, Take Off Espresso and Espresso Plus). Clearly, people in this part of the world like their coffee strong! Alternatively, if you want to avoid the caffeine, head to Tank Juice for a fruit juice or smoothie, and if you wish to carry on being virtuous eat at Sumo Salad, which also sells sandwiches, wraps and soups (www.sumosalad.com).
Auckland International airport
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