Reporting that attendance at the 2019 FDFA Convention was up, with more than 230 people in attendance, Frontier Duty Free Association Executive Director Barbara Barrett told TMI that the goal is for everyone to have “meaningful connections.”
“Suppliers, buyers and owners are all busy in meetings, doing business,” she said about the annual event which took place Nov. 11-14 at the Omni King Edward Hotel in Toronto.
Among the highlights of this year’s show was a special tour for media and VIP guests to the Pillitteri Estate Winery conducted by Charlie Pillitteri (full report in a future issue), a welcoming Opening Cocktail, a 1920s-themed ‘Speakeasy” evening sponsored by JTI, and the award-studded Imperial Gala. The Opening Cocktail featured mini stations hosted by Pernod Ricard TRA, Bacardi Canada, Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits, Wine Classics International and Labatt’s Breweries, with main bars offering brands from Peter Mielzynski Agencies.
Always special, Patrick Nilson and Roger Thompson of Haleybrooke International host an annual invitational dinner for client brands – this year including Simon Roffe of Halewood, Atianna Carafoli of Bottega, Giancarlo Bianchi of Penderyn Distillery, Gautom Menon of Wild Tiger rum, Warren Goslett of Schlumberer/ Mozart and Jean Noel Christe of Labouré-Roi, and guests.
At the luncheon on the first full day of the convention, FDFA presented the Missing Child Society of Canada—an organization it has been supporting for years – with a check for C$15,500. The money was collected from boxes in border stores throughout Canada, a portion of the registration fee and proceeds of the silent Auction held during the Opening Cocktail.
The lunch itself was hosted by Tax Free World Association, with TFWA President Alain Maingreaud attending the event for the first time. TFWA Vice President Commercial, Donatienne de Fontaines-Guillaume, also attended the lunch.
FDFA Advocacy role
The FDFA has been strongly focusing on its advocacy role this past year, regularly meeting with government ministers on the “Hill” reports Barrett, who shared a specially prepared video highlighting efforts of the FDFA Board in Canada’s capital of Ottawa.
The FDFA Board saw more than 35 Ministers, staffers and government officials during Hill Days.
“After our efforts this past year I feel we are now at the point where when we walk in the door at one of the Ministries, we do not have to explain what the duty free association is but can start with our advocacy messages, especially about the return of the Visitor Rebate Program.”
The FDFA is particularly interested in having the government reinstate Canada’s Visitor Rebate Program – which had previously been administered in the border duty free stores, driving significant traffic into the stores.Canada is one of the only EC countries not to currently have a Visitor Rebate in effect.
“The return of the rebate is a top priority for the Association, and they are hearing us. The rebate was not on any of Canada’s political platforms this election year, but that does not mean it won’t be going forward,” said Barrett. The return of the rebate program is also supported by the Retail Council of Canada and TIAC, the Travel Industry Association of Canada.
Complicating the situation, Canada had an election only a few weeks ago, resulting in a minority government situation. This means that a new election could take place at any time within the next two years.
Barrett says that in their conversations over the past year, the FDFA has been generating interest, and now it is a matter of making it a priority on the tourism side. Any efforts must now wait until the new ministers have been announced.
“But a number of our champions for the return of the rebate were re-elected,” she added.
The FDFA is also dedicated to protecting and maintaining the duty free business in Canada, and everything that the association does has to support this effort. Part of this is keeping an open dialog with the Canada Border Services Agency and maintaining that relationship. Barrett pointed out that a representative of CBS attended the FDFA Operator’s Meeting, even though it was a national holiday.
She also reports that the FDFA will be issuing land border sales numbers on a quarterly basis. The numbers will be collected and collated by a third party agency, and released at the end of the year.