The International Association of Airport Duty Free Stores hosted a critical, informative webinar on Dec. 2. An expert panel of duty free operators discussed their perspectives on the current business challenges confronting the travel retail industry in the Americas due to the COVID-19 crisis and their perceptions regarding future opportunities.
Entitled Managing Through COVID: From Crisis to Recovery, the panel was led by Rene Riedi (Dufry) who is chairman of the Association, along with Jackie McDonagh (Aer Rianta), who discussed the situation in Canada faced by both airports and land border stores; Erasmo Orillac (Motta Internacional SA), presenting his observations on the airports in South and Central America where Motta operates; and Matthew Greenbaum (International Shoppes), speaking about his company’s experience in North America. Rene Riedi also discussed the current state of travel in the airports where Dufry runs the concessions in Latin America and the Caribbean, ranging from Mexico to Brazil and Argentina.
Michael Payne, IAADFS President and CEO, updated participants on the advocacy and legislative efforts of the Association and its partners seeking relief for concessionaires, which he described as “evolving” and changing from day to day.
The structure of the session allowed time for audience questions and participation from supplier and retail members, as well as a series of interesting instant polls, where audience members responded to queries on topics ranging from staffing to revenue to future plans.
In his introduction, Riedi noted that one objective of the session was to gauge how the industry is perceiving priorities going forward. He noted the encouraging news that several promising vaccines are in the works and that the UK had approved the Pfizer vaccine that morning. But he tempered his optimism with the warning that there will be limited access to these vaccines in the immediate future.
“We will be deep into 2021 until travel restrictions are lifted,” he predicted.
Each of the panelists detailed how they have improved efficiencies and stepped up customer service to better cater to the greatly reduced number of passengers now traveling. All see some hints of recovery ahead- although how much and how fast will depend on the availability of vaccines, they concurred.
“We believe that the first half of 2021 will look the same as the second half of 2020, but that we will see significant improvement in the second half of 2021,” noted Riedi. He does not see “full” recovery to 2019 levels of international travel until 2023, however, or even 2024-2025 in some markets.
TMI will present further details of the presentations in our next issue.