ASUTIL preparing for “the day after”

South American Duty Free Association ASUTIL continues to work diligently with its members and other industry partners looking for ways to ease the financial burden on retailers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that is decimating travel and travel retail.

“People are afraid to travel. The world has stopped. The industry has stopped,” said ASUTIL Secretary-General José Luis Donagaray, during a press briefing last week. “Business on the borders is zero,” he added.

ASUTIL has joined with Airports Council International Latin America (TMI Vol. 21 No. 12) to urge Latin American governments to issue financial relief to the airports sector and to business partners including duty free retailers, in the face of the devastation to the industry.

“The industry is suffering. The ASUTIL Board has had meetings with operators, suppliers and other groups like ACI-LAC and the Duty Free World Council asking our governments for help,” said Donagaray.

“We have two goals: the safety of our employees and trying to extend the business in some way,” he said.

Among the proposals ASUTIL has been exploring are ways to defer paying guarantee revenue and rents to airports, and suspension of tax payments.

Faced with such additional issues as product expirations, the Association is asking its stores to donate to people in need at the same time it is exploring such short-term solutions as online sales, perhaps with a special allowance people might use pre-travel or without travelling.

“This may allow us to keep a small proportion of the business going on,” he commented.

“This is a moment of solidarity. We are all preparing for the day after. We don’t know when that will be, but it will be. It is the now we are trying to survive,” noted Donagaray, reminding the journalists that the industry in Latin America has weathered many crises in the past.

At this time, ASUTIL is still planning to hold a border duty free conference in November, says Donagaray, and is currently working on details.

“Our message is that ASUTIL is working, the board is working. This is when the Association can show its value,” he said.