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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 24/11/2021

In this week’s Winners’ Wednesday feature we hear from Jemma Cumming, Commercial Manager at Aberdeen International Airport, on receiving the Working Together for Tourism award at the Scottish Thistle Awards national event in March 2020 for their Northern Lights Lounge.

The award celebrates partnerships, collaborations and team working between tourism businesses and destination organisations to deliver new and innovative campaigns or activity that offer a great and collaborative experience to every guest. 

Aberdeen International Airport and its Northern Lights Lounge was praised by judges for its innovative approach; creating a unique space to showcase the best of Aberdeenshire’s fayre and celebrate all that the region has to offer to domestic and international passengers alike.

The judges commended the strong collaborations with local suppliers and impressive growth of valuable partnerships that continue to enhance the project.  

Aberdeen Airport receiving Working Together for Tourism Award. From left to right: Janice Andrew Harris, Susan Smith, Craig Hill, Jemma Cumming, Scottish Thistle Awards Industry Panel member and Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Marc Crothall, Lorrain Willis, Tom Martin and presenter Jennifer Reoch.
Aberdeen Airport receiving Working Together for Tourism Award. From left to right: Janice Andrew Harris, Susan Smith, Craig Hill, Jemma Cumming, Scottish Thistle Awards Industry Panel member and Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Marc Crothall, Lorrain Willis, Tom Martin and presenter Jennifer Reoch.

Image credit Chris Watt

We were delighted to be nominated for the Working Together for Tourism award and to be announced as the Scottish Thistle winners on the night was simply amazing. It was a tough category because there were some great initiatives also shortlisted along with us.

Our staff and suppliers work extremely hard and we love being able to showcase our amazing region and all the north east has to offer. Winning was recognition for all the hard work the Northern Lights Lounge and Aberdeen International Airport had done and the vision we had when the lounge was created in 2017 as part of the terminal transformation project.

We have had to adapt the last 20 months as many will know how badly the wider aviation industry was affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Like many businesses we had to close for several months having a direct impact on our passengers and customers and just when we had reopened the Northern Lights Lounge, we were forced to close again.

Passengers now enjoy table service by trained staff with food prepared to order and drinks delivered to your allocated table. QR codes have also been created so passengers can access menus via their phones. Tables and chairs were positioned to allow for safe physical distancing with hand sanitising stations set up throughout and a one-way system for entering and exiting. 

Despite restrictions and a slow recovery expected for aviation from the pandemic, the Northern Lights Lounge has some unique additions.

Local celebrity chef, Craig Wilson, more widely known as The Kilted Chef signed a new partnership with lounge operators ESS. The Eat on the Green chef and owner will be showcasing a range of exclusive recipes for the lounge. New to the menu at the Northern Lights Lounge, and created by the Kilted Chef, is the Grants of Speyside garden vegetable slider with sunblush tomato, red peppers, and Benzies of Turriff roasted baby potatoes.

In November we also introduced a new hydroponic pod to grow micro cress and greens for our menu. The hydroponic unit, called a Kube, allows the lounge to grow a range of products that our chefs can use to enhance the flavour, aroma, and presentation of dishes. Recipes specifically designed using the Kube will be offered as part of the menu.

The units are remotely managed by Bloomkubes as part of a partnership with ESS Energy and the Northern Lights Lounge.  Bloomkubes is a modern agritech company that has developed a range of self-contained farm to fork hydroponic units using a system of soilless plant cultivation that delivers water, nutrients, and oxygen to the roots of plants in precise cycles.

Key benefits of the hydroponic pod are that it is pesticide-free, with all products being grown in carefully controlled facilities eliminating the need for chemical pesticides, and it saves water as the Kube recycles approximately 90-95% of the water compared to conventional farms. The approach also eliminates delivery mileage and plastic packaging as the products are grown on the premises.

The Kube is front and centre at the Northern Lights Lounge allowing passengers to watch the micro cress and greens grow in front of their very eyes. 

With exciting additions already made during the pandemic, we are excited for the future at the lounge. Our customers and passengers can expect a comfortable and pleasant experience on their next visit and we look forward to welcoming them back.

Jemma Cumming, Commercial Manager at Aberdeen International Airport