Why creating a sense of place is good for business: The experiment at Bagdogra Airport

Moutat, Sikkimis, Art Gallery, Potrait painting, Biswa Bangla, Sikkim-Darj Handicraft, Painting of DHR as mural, Music & dance of Bengal and Nepal and khata which is a traditional way of welcome guest on the mountains.

Bagdogra is in the midst of tea country of India. The team at Bagdogra undertook an endeavour to recreate the environment of the area viz. Tea, mountains, local handicraft of Darjeeling and Sikkim, the iconic “toy train” of Darjeeling, music and dance of Bengali and Nepali culture, local food to Gujarati tourists who flock in large numbers and the ever-present “Khata.” I must add that creating a sense of place is excellent business as the return to the airport is awesome and the concessionaires also earn a good revenue by appealing to the last minute shoppers desiring to collect a memorabilia or gifts for near and dear ones. In addition it serves to greatly enhance the ambience as a spinoff. The concept of ‘sense of place’ has developed an extraordinary momentum, featuring in almost every airport announcement of a new or planned development, particularly as a flagship element in any modern airport design. Indeed, new benchmarks in everything from the ambition to the retail and F&B experiences, particularly in its deeply embedded focus on ‘local’ input, passionately emphasised not on ‘passengers’ but on ‘the guest experience’. Distinctly local elements contribute strongly to the expression of the terminal’s sense of place, from the character of the architecture of the terminal building to how retailers and brands invoke the location in their offer. The perspective is that ‘sense of place’ begins with the architecture and design of the airport space, creating exciting spaces that deliver operational and commercial efficiency (OPEX).


Moutat is a concept that was conceived in the very heart of the Darjeeling tea gardens, Siliguri, an idea each and every one of us will relate to. The majority of the Siligurians do not find the pleasure in the tea as do the tea lovers in countries like UK, Russia and China. The basic motive of Moutat tea boutique is that they develop the taste of the tourists transiting through the region and people of the city who although have been living within the plethora of exotic Tea gardens but are not able to enjoy the aroma and the pleasing taste of the Darjeeling Tea. Moutat is basically a group of four Women who want to bring out the best of the culture of our region and present it to our people. A free cup of tea is served to every honourable passenger boarding the flights from the Bagdogra Airport as “WELCOME TEA”. The concept of creating a sense of place is best exemplified by Moutat – Bringing the tea gardens to Bagdogra Airport.


The area of Darjeeling which is the catchment area of the airport is home to the world famous Darjeeling Tea. Bagdogra Airport hosts all the well-known brands of the region e.g. Makaibari, Gopaldhara and Golden tips who have factory outlets at the airport.


Aims to provide a contemporary representation of Sikkim. An off-shoot of B.R.E.W (Bakery.Retail.Event.Workshop), each of its products have been inspired by some aspect of Sikkimese life. This makes it a great souvenir or gift that allows you to take a bit of the beautiful hills with you. With this, the Sikkimis family, will help you get a feel of Sikkim’s culture and what makes it unique to any other Himalayan state.  If you’ve been contemplating on whether Sikkim is worth the trip, then allow them to tempt you into making that move. After all, there’s nothing like a first-hand experience.


In order to promote local artists, Bagdogra Airport organizes LIVE PAINTING sessions. Local artists from in and around Darjeeling and Sikkim set up the painting stand inside the terminal building and make portrait of passengers desiring so at a nominal cost. The concept of live painting has proven to be a big hit at the airport and passengers have seen to be flocking to the artists to get their portraits made in the backdrop of local surrounding like toy train, tiger hills, char dham and ravangla. This initiative serves the dual purpose of promoting local artist as well as giving a unique experience to the passengers of a memory which they carry of places visited in this region as the backdrop of their portrait.


Artmart Gallery is the world’s leading online art gallery, connecting people with art and artists they love. Artmart Gallery offers an unparalleled selection of paintings, drawings, sculpture and photography in a range of prices, and it provides artists from around the world with an expertly curated environment in which to exhibit and sell their work. Based in Siliguri, Artmart Gallery is redefining the experience of buying and selling art by making it easy, convenient and welcoming for both collectors and artists. It is our continuous endeavour to provide you with best quality hand painted art of modern taste, and at most affordable prices possible online. They couple this with best pre-sale and post-sale customer service to make buying experience at Artmart Gallery only as satisfactory. They have a strong network of 100+ associated artists that can probably make any kind of art with top quality and detailing, and ensure we meet varied demands of every customer. They proudly support lot of economically backward artist communities that have a great hand and art sense, but just lack opportunities to be visible in front of potential customers. All paintings are 100 % hand painted and our artists and communities do not use any rouge techniques to make them – like canvas prints, canvas transfers, or painting on prints etc. They guarantee 100 % hand painted and of topmost quality. The Art Gallery set up at Bagdogra Airport serves the dual purpose of providing “a sense of place” as well as improving the ambience of the airport.

Art Mart have an outlet at Bagdogra Airport from where they promote local artists and display paintings on local theme which the region exemplifies Tea gardens, mountains and wildlife of Dooars.


Biswa Bangla echoes the heartbeat of West Bengal — its art, craft and culture. Their products are authentic hand-crafted items that connect customers and connoisseurs to the lives of Bengal’s people and their myriad expressions. While the products retain the deep-rooted elements of the state’s heritage, those are strategically developed in contemporary design to suit the needs and preferences of today’s customers. Biswa Bangla reaches out to hundreds of craftsmen and weavers in the state to develop handicraft products that stand out in terms of quality and uniqueness. Their ‘social business’ approach is creating entrepreneurs out of artists at one hand, and bringing back profits to the bottom of the pyramid on the other. This helps sustain the art and craft by creating viable livelihood opportunities. Bagdogra Airport proudly hosts an outlet of Biswa Bangla in the waiting area. The well-stocked shop attracts a large number domestic as well as foreign tourists who are looking for a local memorabilia.

Visitors to the showrooms are tacitly enlightened on West Bengal’s heritage art and craft forms that help them appreciate the heritage and culture of West Bengal. Their objectives are better achieved when customers learn to appreciate the nuances of Bengal’s heritage through our in-store experience.
When you shop at Biswa Bangla showrooms, the tourists not only hold a piece of Bengal in their hands, but reach out to make the lives of thousands of weavers and craftsmen a little better. Biswa Bangla which runs under MSME Govt of West Bengal have made a pledge that every penny that they make goes back to them as an appreciation of the wonderful things they create and the joy that they give us.


On 27th March 2015 Bagdogra Airport crossed 1 MILLION passengers for the first time. AAI in association with Tourism Department Govt of West Bengal organized a welcome ceremony for the Millionth passenger. The ceremony included a traditional dance from Bengali dance with traditional Dhak and Nepali dance which was very well appreciated by the passengers. Presenting a glimpse of local dance form was proud privilege of AAI and tourists were seen to be enjoying the occasion and preserving the memory by clicking pictures with the artists who were readily obliging. The festive ambience thereby lowers the stress which the passengers otherwise feel at the airport.


Momo is a very popular Tibetan delicacy in Sikkim. It is prepared by stuffing minced meat, vegetable or cheese in flour dough and then moulding them in the form of dumplings. These are then steamed for about half an hour in a three tiered utensil that has bone or tomato soup in the lowest compartment. Steam from the boiling soup rises through the perforations in the containers above and cooks the dumplings. Momos are taken along with soup and home-made chilly sauce. Eight momos which constitute one double are quite filling. It is available in most of the local restaurants.  At Bagdogra Airport we like to give a taste of local cuisine to our valued guests. A vendor has been shortlisted and very shortly Bagdogra Airport will have a shop dishing out authentic Momos.


Mr Chalit Maniyakul, Ambassador of Thailand to India being welcomed at Bagdogra Airport by presenting a Khata by Airport Director Mr Rakesh R Sahay.

One of the most prevalent and visible articles in Sikkim’s culture is Khata, the traditional ceremonial scarf. It is a multipurpose element which can be used on almost all occasion to represent the giver’s goodwill and regards to the recipient. Khata has become an indispensable part of Sikkim’s life for centuries with its great significance and a broad usage ranging from religious to social ceremonies. For religious purposes like when visiting temples and monasteries or meeting important Lamas, here Khata is offered as a token of respect and faith. Khata finds its place in social ceremonies like birth, graduation, wedding or any form of celebratory function to symbolise the greetings and good wishes of the giver on those occasion. At Bagdogra Airport in order to give a sense of place to visitors, Khata is presented to the dignitaries arriving at the airport.

In order to further enhance passenger experience as well as improve earnings, the experiment continues and is expected to yield rich dividends for all stakeholders. It enhances the ambience too and gives a cheerful look to the airport environs.  Creating a sense of place that reflects the architecture, culture, cuisine and local community served by the airport has become a common goal of all stakeholders of Bagdogra Airport. Creating a sense of place is a proven concept that gives the passenger, particularly a visiting passenger a differentiated experience from other airports and provides direct linkages with the local community. Creating a sense of place is popular with passengers and has been shown to encourage additional spending and increase customer satisfaction as customers are able to experience local cuisine or acquire merchandise that is different from what they have seen elsewhere.


Rakesh R Sahay

Airport Director, Bagdogra Airport (West Bengal)