In his recent address at the 2023 TFWA World Exhibition & Conference in Cannes, TFWA President Erik Juul Mortensen delivered a compelling message to the travel retail industry. He emphasized the critical need for the industry to adapt to new attitudes and values in order to move forward successfully.
Despite the challenges posed by social and economic obstacles, Mortensen commended the industry for its resilience over the past year. He acknowledged the strong dynamics of industry growth, but also highlighted some lingering challenges. While people are eager to travel again, global passenger numbers remain below pre-Covid levels, and staffing issues have emerged due to a surge in air traffic.
Mortensen pointed out that global recovery is uneven, with European airports approaching pre-pandemic levels faster than those in Asia. However, China's expansion of authorized destinations for group travel is expected to boost overall global air passenger traffic.
One of the major themes of Mortensen's address was the necessity of step changes within the industry. He outlined two key areas for improvement:
**1. Sustainability:** Mortensen stressed the need for the industry to set ambitious sustainability targets for its product assortment and communicate these goals boldly to customers. Sustainability is increasingly becoming a core concern for consumers, and the industry must align with these values.
**2. Data Sharing:** To protect and advance the industry, Mortensen urged greater data sharing within the sector. Reliable data is crucial for showcasing the industry's size and economic benefits. While acknowledging the competitive nature of the airport concession model, he proposed sharing region, channel, and category-level data with a three-year lag as a possible compromise.
Furthermore, a study commissioned by TFWA highlighted the importance of defining a value proposition for customers. Despite a strong recovery in traffic, average spend per passenger remains below pre-pandemic levels, and the product offer doesn't always meet traveler expectations. The study recommended a customer-centric approach across four pillars, including media and digital competence.
In closing, Mortensen mentioned the efforts of the Duty Free World Council to counter threats to the industry, such as the World Health Organization's Illicit Trade Protocol.
Attendance at the 2023 TFWA World Exhibition & Conference is expected to reach record levels, reflecting the industry's positive outlook. Mortensen concluded by emphasizing that the industry cannot simply return to pre-pandemic norms; it must embrace values like sustainability, authenticity, and responsibility to create a better future.
The call for change is clear: the travel retail industry must adapt, innovate, and prioritize sustainability to thrive in the post-pandemic world.