What we learned at TFWA Asia Pacific

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The duty-free industry returned to Asia Pacific in person last week for the TFWA networking event. As travel recovers, it is more important than ever that stakeholders return to travel and meeting as personal interaction is at the heart of our market.

This also provided a chance to receive an update from a region which has gone from being a leading light to something of an unknown. While Hainan has given hope for some, the lack of travellers, and the changes in shopping habits among our previous high-spenders, have left many with questions about the future.

Lots of the points made are ones which have been discussed many times before, and it is time we saw actual action taken; but here are the key takeaways we spotted from last week in Singapore

Digital is evolving – and it hasn’t finished changing the game

To hear that social media is influential in Asia Pacific is not ground-breaking, but we must consider the scope of its influence. Delegates heard how social media influences everything from sales to elections. Asia Pacific is not a market which can be breached without social digital outreach which truly tells your brand story in an accessible and engaging way.

Such developments are not the future though. They are the present. The future is much more exciting as some believe the evolution to Web 4.0 will open up the wider Asian market even more. Less than 10% of sales in South East Asia currently happen online, so there is still a huge opportunity to seize.

Sustainability needs collaboration

Creating a sustainable business is at the heart of building our future. But Pernod Ricard’s Simon van Moppes was right that no one can make a true change alone. We must all stop just talking about sustainability – or simply greenwashing by removing some plastic from packaging – and begin truly putting it at the centre of our plans. This involves working closer together to bring about real change to every aspect of the business.

Variety & Discovery drive sales

Shoppers are younger, more vibrant and more excited than ever in the travel market. When they can travel they are going to want to discover new and exciting brands and products. Make no mistake, if the offer is the same for returning shoppers as it was then we have failed.

Plan long-term in Asia Pacific

Anyone hoping for a short-term solution to be provided by APAC is making a mistake. This market, China especially, will not reopen quickly. It will take time to open borders and even longer for travel to recover. This is a space where tailored and long-term plans are needed to make the most of the opportunity.

APAC is bigger than China

So often when people talk about the Asia Pacific travel retail market, they really mean China. But there is so much more in this region than that – and not all of it is locked out of reach. Our industry has been very guilty of tunnel vision over China and we need to look wider. India is a super vibrant market today with growth already showing and investment in airports ongoing. We all need to think bigger – and less simply.

Elevate in-store

I feel I am repeating myself here, but it was talked about again at TFWA Asia Pacific: The in-store experience is vital. Shoppers want experience and novelty when they walk into a shop. In-store staff are vital for engagement and shoppers want the digital experience brought to life offline. Get this right before shoppers all return.

The ‘fourth industrial revolution’ is re-shaping the world

The “fourth industrial revolution” was one of my favourite discussion points of the week. This new digitally-driven change is re-shaping and disrupting across the region by creating a blend of physical, digital and biological. If speakers are correct, the metaverse is just part of a seismic shift which will change our lives and our industries. Is your business ready?

Marco Passoni has decades of experience in the travel retail sector. He has spent the majority of his career in senior leader positions throughout the market, including a 12-year tenure as CEO of a leading international Duty Free distribution company and a further 8 years running a retail firm that operated fashion mono-brand stores in several international airports.
Today, as Senior Executive VP and founding partner of 2.0 & Partners, he leads the company’s efforts in developing and innovating services which create new opportunities and partnerships for all members of the travel retail Trinity. A former elite-level sailor, with a World Championship to his name, Marco now spends much of his time airside, experiencing the changing travel retail industry first-hand, to better guide partners and clients on the best way to do business in this vibrant and unique market.