Jaya Singh, President, Tax Free World Association
The travel retail industry faces an existential challenge, but also an unprecedented opportunity. The time is surely right to reassess the fundamentals of our business; the customer experience, online and offline; the move to an omnichannel model; the better use of data; and the need for more meaningful partnership between stakeholders.
To open its Asia Pacific Conference 2021, TFWA was delighted to welcome the leaders of some of our industry’s biggest travel retailers to discuss the issues our market must address if it is to return to durable growth. This landmark panel brought together Charles Chen, President of China Duty Free Group; Julián Díaz, CEO of Dufry Group; Max Heinemann, CEO of Gebr. Heinemann; Dag Rasmussen, Chairman and CEO of Lagardère Travel Retail; and Benjamin Vuchot, Chairman and CEO, DFS Group.
Attendees at the conference had the opportunity to play a full part in the debate, which proved to be a fascinating exchange on the future of our industry.
The second session of the Conference explored the broader issues facing the travel industry on which we all depend. Can “vaccination passports” kickstart international travel despite the operational challenges? What more support is needed from governments to ensure a bright future for airlines and airports? And what role can the duty free & travel retail industry play in the rebirth of travel?
The discussion featured senior executives from the world’s leading travel and related associations, including Stefano Baronci, Director General of Airports Council International - Asia Pacific; Sarah Branquinho, President of Duty Free World Council; Conrad Clifford, Regional Vice President Asia Pacific of International Air Transport Association; Sunil Tuli, President, Asia Pacific Travel Retail Association; and Soon-Hwa Wong, Chairman of Pacific Asia Travel Association.
Online consumption has become a significant revenue stream for companies across the globe but how much do we really know about the consumer’s psychology when they purchase goods over the web? What gets customers to buy, to buy now and to buy from you? As the pandemic subsides, will customer behaviour change permanently or revert to pre-Covid patterns? This session heard from a renowned consumer behaviour and web psychology expert Nathalie Nahai.
As the duty free & travel retail industry ground to a halt across the globe in 2020, one location stood alone in providing cause for optimism: China’s holiday island of Hainan. Thanks to the Chinese government’s stimulus measures, mainland tourists have flocked to Hainan over the past year, taking full advantage of its status as a paradise for shoppers. New licences and commercial developments make Hainan the undisputed hotspot of our industry, and this session explored the latest numbers, new projects and trends.
To explore the latest customer trends in Hainan, research agency m1nd-set recently conducted a study based on interviews with 1,500 duty free shoppers on the island. The workshop featured highlights of the study presented by Dr Peter Mohn, m1nd-set Founder and President, and Clara Susset, the agency's Travel Retail Research Director. In addition, delegates heard from Han Shengjian Director of the International Economic Development Bureau (IEDB), responsible for developing Hainan's commercial potential. And senior representatives of two of Hainan's key travel retailers offered their perspectives on the offshore duty free market: Chen Hui, General Manager of Zhuhai Duty Free Group; You Jiangwei, Chairman of Shenzhen Duty Free Group; Xie Zhiyong, Chairman and General Manager of Hainan Tourism Investment Duty Free; and Ken Zhu Chief Operations Officer of CNSC Sanya Duty Free Co Ltd.
Most now agree that the Covid-19 crisis has acted as a catalyst for many trends that were already under way pre-2020. One such trend is digitalization, in all parts of our day-to-day lives – and especially in how and what we purchase.
But what does “digitalization” truly mean in the context of the duty free & travel retail industry? What tools and customer engagement channels should our market develop to fully harness the transformative potential of mobile and online?
Consumer behaviour and retail expert Professor Gary Mortimer of Queensland University of Technology gave his insights into what digitalisation means for brands and retailers in the post-pandemic world.
How will travelling consumers’ appetite for high-end goods change post-pandemic? Is “revenge shopping” a myth or reality? What impact will economic uncertainty post-Covid have on spending at the high end? And how will issues such as sustainability, brand ethics and others influence the way consumers behave, and the brand choices they make?
This session focused on the future for high-end goods, as the world emerges into an uncertain economic future. It explored the impact of the pandemic on premium and affordable luxury spending, and analysed the long-term implications for premium brands. This session heard from Incheon International Airport Corporation (IIAC) Director of Duty Free Management Sung-Bin Im; Lacoste Travel Retail Director Asia-Pacific Erin Lillis; and Lagardère Travel Retail Chief Commercial Officer - Asia Sabrina Wang.
Despite today’s challenges, history has shown us that travel is one of the world’s most resilient industries. Although forecasts may vary on exactly when travellers will be back in full force, we can be certain that they will return.
But their choices, preoccupations and preferences will be different, as will the travel experience itself. How will companies in the travel eco-system have to adapt in order to reassure a customer base that will be more demanding than ever before?
Delegates at TFWA’s final workshop heard from Sarah Mathews, Tripadvisor Asia Pacific Group Head of Destination Marketing, one of Asia Pacific’s most respected travel & tourism executives. And James Prescott, Managing Director of cruise concessionaire Harding Retail, offered a perspective on the restart of the crucial maritime market.