Olivier Jager, Co-founder & CEO of travel industry analyst ForwardKeys, shared this optimistic outlook. He stated that international air arrivals in the Middle East and Africa showed a clear sign of recovery, registering an increase of 10.5% in 2017.
Sales Group Europe President Karen Durban-Villeval highlighted four channels for duty free sales that need to be developed – traditional in-flight, e-commerce, pre-order and sales to staff. Inati Ntshanga, African aviation consultant and former CEO of SA Express Airways, noted that cabin crew still see themselves as primarily as safety officers not sales people, and that considerable room for improvement in inflight sales exists among African carriers.
Sarah Branquinho, in her role as President of ETRC, outlined progress made in combatting three challenges currently facing the industry. These include initiatives to defend duty free tobacco sales against the implications contained within the World Health Organization’s Illicit Trade Protocol. She also detailed technological responses to increasing legislation on product labelling, and plans to tackle carry-on baggage restrictions. As an example of the severity of the problem, MEADFA Vice President and Aer Rianta International Middle East CEO Nuno Amaral noted that some airlines in the region were writing ‘no duty free’ on boarding passes.
Dubai Duty Free Senior Vice President, Finance Bernard Creed said the industry faced a number of challenges from the introduction of VAT and excise tax in some GCC states. His advice to those companies likely to be affected was to prepare early, hire a tax expert, set up an implementation team and organise an advisory board, keeping in mind the penalties for any companies not complying with the new rules.
Closing the conference, Victor Kgomoeswana, broadcaster, branding and business expert on Africa, said that aviation will continue growing in the continent. Africans value quality, and for now, non-African brands dominate among African consumers. Africa is, he concluded, open for business.