FDFA’s new Executive Director discusses Advocacy and Future for TR industry in Canada

Headshot Barbara2One on One with Barbara Barrett, FDFA Executive Director

The Frontier Duty Free Association (FDFA) announced a new strategic direction for its land border duty free association in August when it appointed Barbara Barrett as the association’s new Executive Director and appointed advocacy firm Impact Public Affairs to be a proactive advocacy voice in Ottawa.

 “The Board is equally excited to bring Barbara Barrett on board to quarterback FDFA efforts. Barbara and our team will be imbedded in Ottawa with Impact so that they can provide members with a full range of lobbying, communications, media and social media support.”

Just a few weeks after her appointment as Executive Director, Barrett spoke to TMI about what comes next for the FDFA.

“Impact is an association with deep roots in the advocacy arena. The appointment of Impact will not change what the FDFA does, but it may change how we approach it. Impact has a holistic approach bringing a whole team of expertise. Although I am the voice and the face I have a whole team behind me and that team has a reputation of building award-winning advocacy campaigns at both the federal and grass roots levels,” says Barrett, who has held senior leadership and executive roles for Jaguar Land Rover.

“Ultimately we want to make the duty free industry as successful as it can be and we feel there is room to grow, particularly in comparison to other countries at this time. As a federally regulated industry we are challenged with how the duty free program is structured and know that it impacts how we grow. Our biggest challenge will be increasing awareness that duty free shops are a valuable part of tourism in Canada and really encouraging cross border travel. We are looking to reinvigorate the association and drive the agenda forward with the government and with media to bring greater value to our members.”

Impact Public Affairs brings a stellar 20-year reputation of building winning advocacy campaigns for trade associations with a specialty in the retail and small business sector. Impact is also known for building a partnership with association leadership to support member retention and recruitment with winning advocacy efforts. Impact is the only advocacy firm to win the Canadian Society of Association Executive’s award for business excellence to national associations.

Barrett says the Impact and the FDFA are looking at a four pillar approach to achieving their goals.

“We are looking at a strategic advocacy plan, public relations and communications, stakeholder engagement, and association communications. Blending all of them together and having them work as a whole will achieve our success.”

Strategic advocacy

“We are really rethinking the direction of the association. At both the federal level here in Ottawa and engaging with our members at the grass roots level we really want to be a bigger part of the conversation with the government about the tourism industry in Canada. To do that we plan to focus on building awareness about the duty free sector with the public and the government through the conversations about how we add value to the customer, and the end consumer, and the value proposition for the cross border travel and how that helps steer visitors to Canada as opposed to similarly distant destinations.”

Public relations and communications

“We will continue to work with the media, but we want to be more present with the consumer-facing media and tell the stories that they need to hear so the public is more aware of what duty free is and how it is part of the Canadian tourism industry. We want to be more present in the public arena.At the grass roots level we want to make sure that the individual stores and operators are given the tools in order to do that.”

Stakeholder engagement

“We have already started the process of reconnecting with partners in the retail and travel industry, such as the Retail Council of Canada and Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC). We want to be at the table with these other associations and find the common goals and work together with them to be a louder voice to achieve our goals together and ultimately support tourism and increase sales.”

Association Communications

“It is important for our members to be engaged because we are stronger together. If we are all together with the same message it is more likely that we will be heard. We need to ensure that we are communicating in an appropriate way with our member so we can all work together both at the federal and grass roots level to get our messages across.”

Barrett says these four pillars will help the FDFA raise awareness of Canadian duty free.

“Ultimately we are looking at protecting and enhancing the duty free program. We think that it is very important that we establish with the government that we are truly an export business, our products are sold for export and consumption in the US with the occasional Canadian bringing in products purchased in the stores and bringing them back as part of their duty free allowance,” says Barrett.

“We are very focused on raising awareness and we are going to do that through a very strategic and very planned methodical advocacy plan and we do that in a campaign where we tie in all these elements to drive our message and agenda forward.”