Asia Pacific defies the downturn

25/05/2016 A buoyant week in Singapore lifted the mood for duty free and travel retail just as new figures showed a dip in global sales for 2015. 

The 21st TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference (8 - 12 May) set a series of records. 310 exhibitors participated, a 9% increase on the previous year, with a quarter either new to the event or returning after a break. Visitor numbers rose by 12% over 2015 as 2,905 industry professionals thronged the Marina Bay Sands venue. And if further evidence were needed of the show’s success, the ONE2ONE bespoke meeting service arranged 360 appointments, up 9% on last year. Over 60 airports and airlines took part in the programme, which also included ferry and cruise operators for the first time.

The opening Conference drew nearly 1,400 delegates (+17%). Evoking the challenges facing the industry, TFWA President Erik Juul-Mortensen illustrated his comments with the latest findings from Generation Research. Worldwide duty free and travel retail sales dropped 2.3% in 2015, the first decline in six years. Unsurprisingly given the strong turnout all week at the Marina Bay Sands, the outlook is more positive in Asia Pacific, the only region to achieve significant growth last year with a 2.6% rise in turnover. However, several speakers highlighted that sales per head had failed to match rising traveller numbers, and urged better use of customer data to reverse the trend.

Whatever the business climate, relationships need to be nurtured and the Networking programme in Singapore attracted widespread participation. The golf and tai chi leisure activities were both well supported, while the Raffles Hotel has never seemed busier than at Sunday night’s Welcome Cocktail. Storms threatened the closing Singapore Swing Party on Sentosa Island’s Mambo Beach, but the rain relented and over 500 guests danced the night away, and even more enjoyed the Chill-Out Party 24 hours earlier.

If the environment for duty free and travel retail is currently challenging, few can question the positivity in its lead region after such a busy, productive TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference. Judge the mood for yourself from The Review, TFWA’s official highlights of the event with video and photo coverage plus written reporting, online at tfwa.com from the end of May.