South American Duty Free Association ASUTIL announced today that it will be holding its own in-person duty free border conference in November 2022 in Foz de Iguaçu, Brazil, (safe and health concerns permitting) and a return to the full ASUTIL conference in 2023.
Speaking at an online press conference from Montevideo on Wednesday, ASUTIL Secretary General José Luis Donagaray also confirmed that the Association will not be partnering with the International Association of Airport and Duty Free Stores (IAADFS) at the Summit of the Americas scheduled to be held in Palm Beach, Florida this coming April. The partnership had been a three-year agreement, which has now been completed. ASUTIL will be providing content for the Summit, however, said Donagaray.
ASUTIL is planning to hold its traditional Conference at a location to be determined in the Caribbean in June 2023. Donagaray said they chose the Caribbean because of its wide range of facilities, connectivity and proximity to major travel retail hubs such as Miami and Panama. Pricing was also a consideration, he said, which he believes will be a critical factor for years to come as the industry tries to recover from the effects of the pandemic. ASUTIL hosted its very popular conferences at locations throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean for two decades through 2017, until entering into the partnership with IAADFS in 2018.
Despite the current rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, Donagaray says he is optimistic that the industry in the Americas will see some recovery by the end of 2022. In fact, he said that ALTA (Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association) – which originally did not see a return to 2019 air traffic numbers in the region until 2024-2025—now expects recovery in 2023 – 2024.
With the availability of more vaccines, LATAM has started to see recovery. Argentina has finally opened its borders, while in Uruguay, 74% of the population have now received three shots of vaccination. The number is so high that the European Union is accepting Uruguay’s sanitary passport in lieu of its own.
Nevertheless, any sustained recovery will depend on more vaccines being made available to all countries, especially in Africa, where the low number of vaccinated have allowed the virus to mutate into the new variants, he stressed.
Looking back over the past year, Donagaray spoke of how busy the Association has been with its governmental efforts, working globally with the Duty Free World Council and locally working very closely on the opening of the border free shops in Brazil.
“We have been doing a lot of work with the Brazilian government to facilitate border duty free, which is very different from the airport duty free Brazil has been familiar with,” said Donagaray. “There are currently about 20 shops that have opened on the Brazilian border, with 35 expected by the end of next year.”
Higher border allowance approved
One of ASUTIL’s main goals has been to raise the duty free allowance for Brazilian shoppers in domestic duty free shops from $300 to $500. This week, Brazil’s National Congress finally approved the increase, setting the stage for Customs to implement the increase quickly, said Donagaray.
“This is good news, and is in immediate effect,” he said. “Brazilians can buy can purchase a wider variety of goods and it will raise the average ticket.”