Sharing Changi’s Expertise at Chongqing Airport

Oct 2021

By Grace Cheung 


Located in Western China, Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport is a major aviation hub and among the top 10 busiest airports in China, welcoming close to 45 million passengers in 2019. 

Changi Airports International (CAI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Changi Airport Group, and Chongqing Airport Group (CAGC) formed a joint venture – the Sino-Singapore Chongqing Airport Commercial Management Co. Ltd in 2018 to manage the non-aeronautical business of Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport. This collaboration is part of the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative between Singapore and Chongqing. CAI holds a 49 per cent stake in the joint venture. The company has delivered strong results in its first year, exceeding its financial and operational targets. 

Refreshing the retail experience

Ma Yan, General Manager of the joint venture, shared what the team embarked on when she started working at the airport. “There has always been a focus on high-end brands at Chinese airports. One of the first things we did was to introduce a variety of brands with low- to mid-price points to appeal to a wider audience. This tiered tenant mix model allowed us to expand our consumer base as passenger numbers grew.”

Besides international labels such as Bally, Ferragamo, and Jimmy Choo, local heritage brands were brought in so that travellers can bring a taste of Chongqing home. Well-established local F&B names, such as 吴抄手 (Wu Chao Shou) and 丘二馆 (Qiu’erguan), and specialty stores for famous souvenirs, such as 荣昌三惠鹅 (Rong Chang San Hui Goose) and 陈昌银麻花 (Chen Chang Yin fried bread dough), were introduced.

Commercial storefronts were also designed with the city’s distinctive heritage to add a sense of place to the airport interior. These include famous tourist attractions such as 洪崖洞 (Hongya Cave), high-rise buildings in Chongqing such as those along the famous 南滨路 (Nanbin Road), and the scenic mountains surrounding the city.

Through these efforts, the joint venture showcased the best of Chongqing and uplifted the overall airport experience. The updates were well-received by travellers and visitors alike. 


Local heritage brands were introduced to enhance the sense of place. 

Creating win-win partnerships with tenants 

The joint venture places top priority in building long-term partnerships with tenants and believes in working hand in hand with tenants for joint success. To create a welcoming business environment, the team produced a Tenant Guide to help businesses set up in the airport. The presentation of information including various permits needed in a convenient format, not seen in other Chinese airports, greatly helped tenants with businesses at Chongqing Airport.

A tenant committee called 星空协会 (Star Association) was also formed to drive engagement. Besides meeting monthly, the team recognises tenants in an annual award ceremony, in categories such as Best Service and Best Sales.


Initiatives such as a new app enabling inter-terminal purchase and delivery helps to increase sales.

“To attract and retain tenants, we also introduced a revenue-sharing component in the Monthly Minimum Guarantee to have a lower fixed rental base and create win-win partnerships,” Ma Yan shared. This model successfully differentiated Chongqing from other Chinese airports and attracted a myriad of brands to the airport. These include the Audi VIP Service Center, the first hybrid CIP lounge and car model showroom in a Chinese airport, and 厉家菜 (Family Li Imperial Cuisine), a two-star Michelin restaurant which opened its first outlet in Western China at Chongqing Airport.

Overcoming business disruptions from Covid-19

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic caused a drastic decline in traffic worldwide. To retain tenants and conserve cash, the joint venture offered rental rebates to tenants beyond the state mandate, making Chongqing Airport one of the first airports in China to do so.

The joint venture also drove initiatives to help tenants recover lost sales and generated new revenue streams. In March 2021, the company launched a new app on WeChat to help tenants expand their sales channels and catchment areas.

With the Covid-19 situation under control, China’s domestic traffic recovered rapidly from July 2020. Chongqing Airport was the fourth busiest in China in 2020, entering the league of top five for the first time.

With these initiatives and the traffic recovery, the joint venture remained profitable in 2020. However, Ma Yan foresees headwinds in renewing contracts or signing on new tenants, given the uncertainties in global traffic recovery.

Still, she hopes that Chongqing airport can be the benchmark for other Chinese airports to emulate. “This is the first commercial joint venture between Changi and a Chinese airport. Besides being profitable, I hope to test-bed new concepts and look for constant breakthroughs in retail operations, tenant management and brand amassment,” she shared. 


Ma Yan has been working in Chongqing since 2017. 

Personal takeaways

Having worked in Singapore for most of her career, it has not been easy for Ma Yan to transit into China’s corporate culture. Ma Yan has learned to communicate, customise and localise ideas to achieve her desired outcomes. Ditching pre-conceived notions and relearning new ways of thinking was the first step. She encourages those interested in the China market to give it a try.

Her tips? “Be flexible in managing issues on ground. The key is to apply the know-hows of Changi creatively and communicate to achieve mutual understanding.”

CAI is a wholly owned subsidiary of Changi Airport Group. As a leading airport investor, manager and consultant in the global aviation market, CAI has extensive experience in over 20 countries and more than 60 airports.

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