Record passenger numbers at leading airports in Hong Kong and Singapore, a major new terminal in Seoul, and even the prospect of the world’s first airport retail to accept digital currency in Brisbane – there seems to be no stopping the commercial momentum in Asia Pacific these days. As so often, China is the common factor in many of the region’s big stories. It was the routes to Mainland China that provided a good proportion of Hong Kong International Airport’s 72.9 million passengers in 2017 (+3.3% vs 2016), although Japanese traffic was also strong. And Chinese travellers led the charge at Changi Airport, where total passengers last year rose 6% to 62.2 million, with Indian nationals also registering double-digit growth. Seoul Incheon’s Terminal 2 opens as tourist arrivals from China seem to be on the way back up after dropping over 40% last year, a decline triggered by the THAAD missile dispute.
As the region’s duty free and travel retail summit, TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference (6-10 May in Singapore) naturally reflects the business conditions in surrounding markets. Few will be surprised to learn that exhibitor reservations for this year’s event are currently running well ahead of 2017. Some 297 companies have already confirmed their participation by taking stand space at the Marina Bay Sands venue, an increase of 6%. 38 brands are appearing for the first time in Singapore or returning after a break. These include Marni (fashion & accessories), Banyan Tree (fragrances & cosmetics), Galler (confectionery & fine food) and Advini (wines & spirits). The event’s formal business gets underway with a full-day, thought-provoking Conference and Workshop programme on the Monday. Online pre-registration opens at tfwa.com on 14 February, running until 5 April. Visitor interest in the summit is expected to be strong, so anyone planning to attend should reserve their place as early as possible.