Highlights of 2015

09/12/2015 With 2015 drawing to a close, we retrace 12 busy months in duty free and travel retail with TFWA. From Shanghai and the second China’s Century Conference in March to November’s MEADFA Conference on the Dead Sea in Jordan, relive the standout moments of a year that was often eventful, sometimes difficult but never dull.

A message from the President

Last year we celebrated TFWA’s 30th anniversary and three decades in which our industry’s global turnover grew tenfold. 2015 has shown how quickly things can change. MERS, currency fluctuations, slower growth in developing markets, geopolitical tensions and more have all affected the business this year. Of course, they seem insignificant beside the tragedies caused by terrorism on several continents, which inevitably affect attitudes to travel.

Without resorting to platitudes about duty free and travel retail’s resilience, I still believe we have reason to view the future with optimism. Passenger forecasts remain positive. Retail standards in many markets have caught up with the high street. Consolidation, while rarely painless, will create companies with the scale and resources to drive forward our fragmented industry. And I sense a new resolve among key players to engage travellers in the online and mobile arenas. On behalf of TFWA, I wish you a prosperous, productive 2016.

TFWA China’s Century Conference

Two years on from the inaugural event in Beijing, 388 delegates headed for Shanghai and the 2015 TFWA China’s Century Conference in March. While Asia’s leading economy continues to evolve, interest in its travellers is higher than ever, as demonstrated by the strong turnout. Talking points over the two days included the emergence of a more discriminating consumer motivated by experience and individuality, the burgeoning “domestic duty free” market and the step-change in quality at many Chinese airports. And raising a topic that would resurface repeatedly during the year, several speakers underlined the importance of online and mobile channels for reaching today’s travelling consumer. Many of those present were keen to broaden their contacts - the ONE2ONE service organised no fewer than 120 introductory meetings.

TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference

In May, Asia Pacific’s leading duty free and travel retail event turned 20, but pragmatism rather than celebration marked the mood against a background of slowing regional growth. Visitor numbers at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands complex held steady versus 2014 as 2,655 delegates worked their way around 285 stands, a new record for exhibitors. The Conference included a fascinating analysis of China’s consumer landscape and the story of Changi Airport’s remarkable rise, while the TFWA President spoke of a “watershed point” with regional economies no longer driving development so vigorously and traveller attitudes to luxury changing. Over 900 guests attended the Welcoming Cocktail at Raffles Hotel, and the other social and sporting events proved similarly busy as delegates took full advantage of the Networking Programme. 

TFWA World Exhibition & Conference

Despite earlier torrential rain and floods in Cannes, sterling work by the Palais des Festivals venue meant the 31st TFWA World Exhibition & Conference opened on time. Showers failed to dampen spirits at Sunday’s sporting events, and that evening the Carlton buzzed as more than 1,600 chatted at the Opening Cocktail. If the overall visitor count was down slightly on 2014’s all-time high, the number of key buyers rose to new levels. And although nearly all available space was already in use, there a small rise in exhibitors to 482 companies. Among the points discussed at the Conference were the need for a multi-channel approach while still speaking directly to customers, and the importance of leadership in tough times. Both were raised by speakers from outside duty free and travel retail, but the messages could not have been more relevant.


Since 2005, TFWA Care has supported humanitarian organisations and charities working to improve the lives of disadvantaged people, especially women and children. Focusing on start-to-finish projects that enable recipients to help themselves, the Association’s management committee pledged a total of €493,000 for 2015 spread across 17 causes. These range from building and equipping a health centre for pregnant women in Nicaragua to funding research into Rett Syndrome, a physically devastating form of autism, at the University of North Carolina in the USA. In September a new website dedicated to TFWA Care was unveiled. Using a responsive, one-page format, the site features highlights of the projects with background information plus recent updates, case studies, imagery, downloadable progress reports and video footage.

TFWA Research

2015 saw the completion of the TFWA Airport Insight Series, compiled by Mind-set, examining passenger perceptions of the travel retail offer at major airports worldwide. The final two studies (Los Angeles International and Changi Airport Singapore) were published at the start of the year. The focus then shifted from specific locations to the main product categories as research specialists Counter Intelligence Retail compiled a set of reports from traveller interviews in four leading international airports. Among the findings are data on footfall, conversion and spend as well as qualitative feedback on product range and promotions in store. The categories covered are Watches & Jewellery, Alcohol, Tobacco, Confectionery and Beauty. Fashion & Accessories were covered late last year. 

Both the TFWA Airport Insight Series and the TFWA Category Reports are available to download free of charge to Association members from the Members’ area at tfwa.com.

MEADFA Conference

If most of the industry’s 2015 events took place in a difficult business climate, none had to contend with the turbulent backdrop against which the MEADFA Conference was held. Managed on behalf of the Middle East and Africa Duty Free Association by TFWA, the event drew 342 delegates to Jordan’s Dead Sea for two productive days of briefings, workshops and panel discussions. With falling oil prices, political instability, terrorism and currency volatility among the headwinds facing the region, MEADFA President Sean Staunton said the Conference provided a real opportunity to discuss the challenges. It was an opportunity delegates seized, with lively debate on a wide range of topics.  The mood was upbeat throughout, the social events and networking sessions proving especially busy, enhanced by plenty of generous Jordanian hospitality.