Asia Pacific's accelerating pace of change

28/01/2016 Things rarely stand still in duty free and travel retail’s largest region, but recently the pace of change for Asia Pacific seems to have moved up a gear.

Lower growth, currency depreciation and an uncertain investment climate are transforming Chinese travellers’ habits, concession changes have radically altered South Korea’s downtown market and the world’s largest standalone airport duty free shop will shortly be completed in Australia. All within the space of 12 weeks.

Unsurprisingly, it is China’s economic news that has caused the biggest headlines. Accustomed to higher momentum from the Middle Kingdom, commentators view its latest GDP growth of 6.9% with growing concern. Following the fall in conspicuous consumption, the brands faring best are those offering an experience to which Chinese consumers can still aspire without straining their wallets. Cue the rise of affordable luxury for Chinese travellers, from fashion and accessories through cosmetics (a boon for Korean and Japanese brands) to liquor, as shown by VSOP cognac’s new-found popularity over XO.

The expanding route network to and from China, much of it bypassing the major gateways of Beijing and Shanghai for the next tier of airports such as Hangzhou, Kunming and Chengdu, is also making North American and Australian cities more accessible. Not for nothing has Sydney Airport revolutionised its Terminal 1 retail offer with a major new store that will occupy 5,751m2 when it opens next month. Elsewhere, the potential of other markets is clear to see, with IATA forecasting a near-doubling of Indonesian passengers by 2034 and Burma opening up to the outside world.


Keeping pace with such a fast-moving picture is a challenge. TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference (8-12 May in Singapore) is the region’s biggest rendezvous for duty free and travel retail, bringing together the industry’s leading suppliers with key deciders from the operators and landlords that matter. The Conference and Workshops offer fresh thinking on industry-relevant issues, while more companies than ever before have booked stand space at this year’s Exhibition. Factor in a comprehensive networking programme, and it is easy to see how TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference provides an unrivalled view of this ever-changing region.