INTERNATIONAL. Retail in Asia, a leading multi-channel B2B title in Asia, today dedicated home page treatment to the Virtual Travel Retail Expo 2021 (11-15 October).

By permission of Retail in Asia, we reproduce the interview below. To subscribe to Retail in Asia free of charge click here.

Entering its second year, the Virtual Travel Retail Expo has already established itself as the largest virtual event in the global travel retail calendar, and the 2021 edition is set to be even bigger and better.  Before the expo starts, Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Martin Moodie, Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Davitt Report, to discuss the travel retail industry and what to expect at the Virtual Travel Retail Expo. 

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Retail in Asia: Almost two years into this pandemic, can you give us your take on how the business of travel retail is feeling and doing today in Asia?

Martin Moodie: Travel retail in Asia is still reeling from the impact of the pandemic and the related constraints on travel. Hitherto key markets such as Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Japan have all been devastated by the lack of travellers.

There have been some bright spots however, most notably Hainan where so-called ‘offshore duty free’ sales soared last year by around 127 percent year-on-year to circa US$5 billion. That performance was spurred by an enhanced duty free shopping policy introduced in July 2020 and of course by the fact that Chinese foreign travel was so restricted. That continues to be the case and Hainan will generate record sales this year, probably in the region of over US$9 billion.

Domestic travel retail,  i.e. airport duty paid sales, in China has also prospered this year and it has been good to see Macau bounce back so strongly over recent months. Jeju Island in South Korea, which has a similar ‘domestic duty free’ model to Hainan, has also done well this year with many Korean mainlanders choosing to holiday there due to outbound travel restrictions.

The traditional Korean duty free market, i.e. sales to Koreans and foreigners travelling internationally, which has historically been the world’s biggest duty free channel, went backwards in 2020 by around 38 percent and was largely confined to daigou sales. That has remained the case throughout 2021 as the country’s borders remain so tightly constrained.

For the rest of Asia, alas, it is largely a waiting game.

Despite the pandemic, there has also been some very promising news from travel retail players and brands globally and around the region. What were some of the highlights for you?

The obvious highlight was China Duty Free Group’s (CDFG) performance, driven by its superb Haitang Bay operation in Hainan. CDFG became the world number travel retailer by sales in 2020 according to The Moodie Davitt Report’s annual Top 25 benchmark rankings, jumping from its previous fourth.

In 2010, just ten years earlier, it had ranked a lowly 19th. An incredible achievement in a decade. Late 2020 and early 2021 also saw a flurry of new rivals to CDFG opening in Hainan – Hainan Tourism Investment Duty Free Co, Hainan Developments Holdings and Shenzhen Duty Free, all three working closely with a series of international partners including Lagardère Travel Retail, Dufry and DFS Group.

Though CDFG remains the overwhelmingly dominant force, that level of interest underlines just how critical the Hainan market has become to the global duty free channel. We have seen some amazing online-to-offline campaigns and activations from many of the beauty brands in particular in Hainan that have been as ambitious as anything that travel retail has ever witnessed.

Invest in Hainan: That’s the message from the Hainan Provincial Bureau of International Economic Development (Hainan IEDB), which is hosting the Hainan Discovery zone, exhibiting there and also acting as co-organiser of the event in 2021

You are once again bringing all the TR players together through the Virtual Travel Retail Expo which is happening in a few weeks. Can you take us through what we should expect from this exhibition/summit?

Yes, we are thrilled to be bringing back the Virtual Travel Retail Expo for a second consecutive year after its big success in 2020. Essentially, this purely digital event comprises three key elements over a five-day period – an exhibition, a conference (Knowledge Hub) and an experience arena featuring product masterclasses, remote tastings and so on.

We have attracted many of the sector’s top brands – Shiseido, SK-II, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Philip Morris International, Bacardi, Beam Suntory, Edrington, L’Occitaine and many more as exhibitors and we are expecting at least 5,000 visitors from all over the world. Excitingly, we have created a special ‘Hainan Discovery’ zone, where most of Hainan’s travel retailers are exhibiting, including CDFG which is creating its own CDFG City – which I promise you is going to truly wow.

Other top travel retailers such as Dubai Duty Free, Dufry and Lagardère Travel Retail are also exhibiting in the main Retailer Emporium. The exhibition actually remains open for a further six weeks after the main show week so brands and retailers and landlords will have ample opportunity to meet and do business without having to spend a cent on travel or accommodation and have no down time from their office.

As for the Knowledge Hub, that has a packed five-day programme of industry leaders including the President and CEO of Shiseido, Masahiko Uotani; Pernod Ricard Chairman and CEO Alexandre Ricard; CDFG President Charles Chen; DFS Group Chairman & CEO Benjamin Vuchot; Star Brands Travel Retail (Star Brands Asia/Bluebell) CEO Rob Roberston; Louis Vuitton President North Asia Michael Schriver; Phillip Nguyễn, Chief Executive Officer at IPP Travel Retail and Vice President Business Development Imex Pan Pacific Group, Vietnam and many others.

How can I attend?

Attendance for approved media partners, retailers, airports and exhibitors is free. For any non-exhibiting brand or distributor it is just US$250 via