The 30 year-old Frontier Duty Free Association (FDFA) is celebrating its anniversary at its annual convention in Vancouver from November 15-18, and will introduce a number of new initiatives as it moves forward, says FDFA Executive Director Laurie Karson.
“We are thrilled to be back on the West Coast to celebrate our milestone. We developed a Sea to Sky theme this year, really celebrating British Columbia. We are hosting the welcome reception on a beautiful luxurious yacht dockside to the hotel,” Karson tells TMI.
“We are hitting the attendance numbers we anticipated, even though 60% of our suppliers are located in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area).”
Online Training Program
To prepare for the future of the industry, the FDFA has developed a partnership with the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) to host and develop the first ever online Canadian duty free employee certificate program.
RCC’s online duty free test, which goes live on October 28, 2015, will assist stores in the career development of their employees, to ensure that basic land border duty free knowledge is consistent across the country. RCC will create a new training module each year for duty free land border
employees – developing a library of training for stores to choose from based on their needs.
The National Online Duty Free Test consists of 50 training questions online with training modules developed specifically for the test available for pre-learning. The employees receive a certificate for every course they pass. The test is recommended for new employees hired within the past six months, any new employees hired in the future, and existing employees that managers would like to have refreshed on the industry.
Karson says the FDFA will be lobbying the Canadian government again for the passage of its Road TRIP program, which was not included in the 2015 Canadian Federal Budget.
Road TRIP (Travel Rebate Incentive Program) is a three-year pilot program developed by the FDFA to help incentivize U.S. tourism visits and related spending in Canada by allowing U.S. travelers to have their 5% tax rebates processed on the spot at Canadian land border duty free stores.
As part of the program, travelers would have been encouraged to “Take 5” and consider making a final purchase with their rebate before returning to the U.S.
“We are absolutely going after Road TRIP. Last year we lost out by a hair simply because of the oil crisis. We are going into a federal election in Canada. But whatever government is in place will be hearing about Road TRIP.”
For seven weeks this summer, the FDFA’ s National Marketing Program launched a customer contest created to increase American/Canadian customer knowledge of the Canadian duty free industry. The “Win with What You Know” contest had weekly prizes and a grand prize of $5,000.
“We had 24,000 people enter, with around 60% Canadian and 40% Americans. A lot of our stores engaged in the contest on a store level on social media, via twitter and facebook, etc.,” says Karson.
“With the currency exchange we are seeing more Americans coming by, and not as many Canadians. This is certainly impacting the business. We have to educate Americans that ‘yes you should stop at our duty free stores on your way home.’ We have to start making this message part of their travel plan and engage this new demographic who we haven’t seen in so long. If the currency exchange stays the same and we continue seeing Americans, the 2016 high season should be an exciting time.”