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Coronavirus: Travel retail must prepare for rebound

The coronavirus outbreak will have a “significant” short-term impact on the travel retail industry, but the sector “must be ready for the rebound when it comes”, the president of the Tax Free World Association (TFWA) has said.

Alain Maingreaud, president of TFWA, said the industry must be “ready for the rebound when it comes”

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak (Covid-19) began in Wuhan, capital of the Hubei province, in China, last December, and has since spread to more than 20 countries. To date, the death toll has reached more than 2,600 worldwide.

Earlier this month, the TFWA and the Asia Pacific Travel Retail Association (APTRA) released a joint statement to confirm they will be working closely to support retailers, brands, airports food and beverage, and inflight operators while the coronavirus outbreak continues.

Though the TFWA said it remains “hopeful that the situation will soon stabilise and gradually improve”, it acknowledged the “widespread concern” within the duty free and travel retail sector as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking to The Spirits Business earlier this month, TFWA president Alain Maingreaud said: “There is no hiding the fact that the short-term impact of this crisis is significant.”

He said: “Travel both to and from China and within the Asia Pacific region is down, as is spending among key nationalities.” However, Maingreaud believes that Chinese travellers “will return, and in large numbers”.

He continued: “It is still too early to speculate about how long the negative impact on our market will last, and about how long it will take for consumer confidence to recover.

“The post-Sars [2003 coronavirus outbreak] recovery was relatively swift; however, making forecasts and comparisons is not necessarily useful. The most important thing is to be ready for the rebound when it comes, as it certainly will.”

Precautionary measures

The TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition and Conference is currently set to go ahead in Singapore as planned from 10-14 May. It will be held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore.

Maingreaud said: “The situation in Singapore will be the main topic for discussion at the upcoming meeting of the TFWA management committee in early March. All options will be reviewed and the management committee’s decision will be communicated promptly to our exhibitors, members and visitors.”

Maingreaud said the number of registrations to its Singapore event has “so far been encouraging”, but “exceptional circumstances could have an impact on final numbers”.

Extra precautions will be implemented for the show, including the installation of thermal scanners to carry out temperature screenings of guests and public areas will be thoroughly cleaned.

“The authorities in Singapore are also taking a number of steps to screen visitors and ensure high standards of hygiene within the city, where major events such as the Singapore Air Show went ahead in mid-February,” added Maingreaud.

“We are working alongside the Marina Bay Sands and local authorities to ensure any necessary precautionary measures are in place before the event.”

For an in-depth analysis of coronavirus’ impact on the travel retail industry, see the March 2020 issue of The Spirits Business, out soon.

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