People of the year

Each year since our founding in 2002 The Moodie Davitt Report has recognised those individuals who by their deeds, attitudes and behaviour have most advanced our industry’s cause and reputation.

This year our selection features a diverse line-up of outstanding men and women nominated for a wide range of contributions, from business achievements to innovation to charitable endeavours.

Hung Jean

Jewel Changi Airport was one of the most talked about airport complex openings of 2019. The spectacular facility adjacent to Terminal 1 already ranks as one of the wonders of the aviation world since it opened its doors to travellers and the Singaporean public (among whom it was an instant attraction) in April.

The spectacular 135,700sq m complex at the heart of Changi Airport houses over 280 retail and F&B outlets, one-of-a-kind play attractions, a hotel, and aviation facilities within one of Singapore’s largest indoor gardens.

Leading the hugely ambitious project as Jewel Changi Airport CEO was Hung Jean, a long-time member of the Changi operations and concessions team. She led the development and the implementation for three years from 2016, and as Deputy CEO for two years before that. Alongside the wider Changi commercial team, she helped put in place this “game-changing development that will raise Singapore’s standing as a tourism destination”.

Any travel retail executive who attended The Moodie Davitt Report’s ‘Duty Calls’ charity dinner at the venue in May, kindly hosted by Changi Airport Group, would testify to that.

Colm McLoughlin

Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Colm McLoughlin, travel retail’s great modern-day statesmen and a hugely influential force behind the rise and rise of Dubai Duty Free, marked a remarkable milestone on 1 June: 50 years in travel retail.

He began work with Shannon Duty Free in his native Ireland on that date in 1969 before moving to Dubai as part of a ten-man consultancy team from Aer Rianta in 1983 to create what would become Dubai Duty Free. McLoughlin stayed on to head the company as it grew into the world’s best-known travel retailer.

What a story it has been. From sales of US$44,000 on day one (20 December 1983) to US$20 million in the first full year to well over US$2 billion in 2019. From a few scattered shops around an old, decaying airport before Dubai Duty Free’s creation, retailing at DXB is now a byword for excellence of service and range of offer. Dubai Duty Free has also played a vital role in building Dubai as an aviation brand and as a world-leading hub – today the world’s number one airport by international passenger numbers.

Dubai Duty Free has acheived all this while maintaining an admirably strong commitment to consumers and staff and to the wider society and environment in which it operates. All of that was driven by the vision and personal philosophy of Colm McLoughlin, whose astonishing 50 years of service to the industry we are delighted to recognise.

*The Moodie Davitt Report, in association with Dubai Duty Free management, produced a special video tribute to Colm McLoughlin to mark his landmark 1 June anniversary. It can be viewed below.

Kay Spanger

On 1 September 1979 a young man called Kay Spanger arrived to take up a new job with German travel retailer and wholesaler Gebr Heinemann. It would be the start of a remarkable 40-year career with the family firm, one that is still going strong.

In a family-owned firm, especially one that has survived through multiple generations, trusted lieutenants play a critical role and there are few, if any, more trusted than Spanger, who is now Chief Commercial Officer under CEO Max Heinemann (fifth-generation Heinemann).

Spanger has earned a reputation over the years for being a tough negotiator in his dealings with the brand community, but those same suppliers also honour him with a deep respect for his straight talking, integrity and commitment and passion for the business.

As we noted in a tribute feature in our Cannes edition to mark his 40 years in travel retail, “When Kay champions something – fragrance and wine, notably – he does so with a vengeance and makes a real difference. He is known, as [long-time Gebr Heinemann Managing Director] Harry Diehl notes fondly, as a “tough cookie”, which by definition of course does not crumble. If the industry could bottle Kay’s passion and enthusiasm for the business as an ‘Eau de Kay’, it would be a better place.”

Gautom Menon & Paul George

One of the boldest, most daring and ambitious CSR initiatives ever to take place in travel retail – the Wild Tiger Roar Trip – captured the imagination of the industry as the men behind the Indian rum brand embarked on a 65-day epic journey from Coimbatore to Cannes.

As reported in our rolling online coverage, Wild Tiger’s Founder and Chief Brand Officer Gautom Menon and Brand Creative Head Paul George V travelled from Kerala to Cannes in a journey that took in 25 countries, 25,000km and just about as many outrageous tiger puns, before culminating at TFWA World Exhibition on the French Riviera.

The goal: to raise awareness for tiger conservation while promoting the duty free industry and Wild Tiger along the way.

Travel retail has many stories of wonderful commitment to worthy causes to be proud of. For sheer bravura, this effort is right up there. We salute the achievements of these two adventurers who showed truly tigerish tenacity in completing their extraordinary journey.

Simon Chiang

One of the most impressive yet understated figures in the travel retail industry, Ever Rich Duty Free Shop Chairman Simon Chiang has seen the company he founded ignite a new wave of progress in the business, led by its eye-catching recent openings at Taoyuan International Airport.

In November we were on location as Ever Rich Duty Free officially opened the new-look central duty free shopping zone and fourth floor food & beverage area at Taoyuan Airport Terminal 2. That followed a NT$1 billion (US$33 million) investment in phase one reconstruction after Ever Rich won the tender for a new contract last year – a significant gain ahead of intense international and local competition.

The retail zone’s startling transformation is a brilliant fusion of local and international, traditional and modern – but it represents a lot more besides.

The project was underpinned by clear principles that combined both business and social values. “Ever Rich is always motivated by public service and a belief in giving back to society – that is the most important thing to us,” Chairman Chiang commented at the opening.

“We try to market Taiwan to the world while also implementing the Ever Rich belief in integrity, professionalism, charity and innovation.”

That chimes with Chiang’s previous statements that a commitment to CSR is no longer enough for companies – they should instead become “social enterprises”. In Ever Rich’s case that means making a profound impact on community and wider society – and contributing investment to its airport partners’ public areas and gate rooms so that the airport can become the “story teller for the country”.

It’s a neat phrase that sums up the Chiang family ethos, one that offers lessons for the entire industry.

Angela Gittens

ACI World Director General Angela Gittens, who retires in 2020 after 12 years leading the airports body, is a woman with a stellar track record in aviation.

She was formerly CEO for Miami and Atlanta airports and Deputy CEO at San Francisco International Airport. She also served as Vice President, Airport Business Services for HNTB Corporation and as Vice President at TBI Airport Management.

In her time at ACI – which includes the organisation’s outstandingly cooperative long-term partnership with The Moodie Davitt Report to co-organise The Trinity Forum – she has been a relentless champion of higher standards in customer service and elevating the role of commercial in ensuring traveller satisfaction. The importance that so many airports attribute to ACI’s Airport Service Quality rankings today underlines that message – and represents a powerful legacy from Ms Gittens’ tenure over the past 12 years.

Charles Chen

As China’s duty free industry gets set to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2020, the sector finds itself in robust health. One of the key drivers of that status is Charles Chen, President of China Duty Free Group and (from August 2019) also President and a Board Director of the travel retailer’s parent company China International Travel Service (CITS).

The appointment – and Chen’s dual status across both organisations – represents noteworthy high-level recognition for the CDFG veteran who has transformed its fortunes since he assumed the leadership role in 2016.

When Chen, a youthful company veteran who joined CDFG in 1987, took over the President’s role in 2016, group turnover was just RMB10 billion (less than US$1.5 billion).

“I can say that by the end of the year, sales of CDFG will be nearly five times the level compared with just three years ago,” Chen said during the recent inauguration of the CDFG stores at Daxing International Airport.

“We were then ranked number 12 in the world [according to The Moodie Davitt Report Top 25 Travel Retailers]; by last year we were number four and this year we should be number three.”

With explosive growth inside China, particularly in Beijing, Shanghai, Hainan and Guangzhou, and offshore business also developing fast, few who know Chen’s goal-set determination would bet against CDFG achieving exactly that.

Tony Fernandes

The traditional view of the airline’s role in the travel eco-system has been turned upside down in recent years. The successful airlines of the future will be those that deploy innovative technologies, personalised services, can optimise ancillary revenues and build customer service levels and loyalty to new heights.

AirAsia – a true disruptor in the channel – is at the forefront of this industry change, led by Group CEO Tony Fernandes.

The 2018 launch of OurShop is a powerful example. It’s a marketplace designed to connect international travellers with airport, high street and local specialist retailers. The pioneering initiative links the consumer with multiple marketing and shopping touchpoints throughout the travel journey. And it’s clear why the Fernandes-led company believes in this as the future.

“We have the data and insights, the passengers, the marketing tools and the passenger touchpoints. Based on the data we are able to see what passengers do, watch, see and play, and propose personalised recommendations,” said OurShop CEO Lalitha Sivanaser at The Trinity Forum in Doha. Airlines and a new world of inflight retail should be “the complementing piece” to the traditional Trinity of retailer, airport and brand, she added.

It’s not the only big digital innovation from the airline. As we reported this month, AirAsia Group has joined forces with Universal Music Group to launch a music label, RedRecords. It will be focused on signing, developing and breaking new Asian artists and elevating ‘A-pop’ globally to new audiences.

For Fernandes, who began his career in the music business, the move was a further signal of how “we are focused on transforming the airline into a global digital travel and lifestyle leader.”

Expect Fernandes to be among the leaders as travel retail and airline commerce takes on a new dimension in the decade ahead. As his own motto goes: “Believe the unbelievable. Dream the impossible. Never take no for an answer.”

Costa Kouros

On its corporate website, Melbourne-based awpl dubs itself “the heartbeat of travel retail”. It’s a nice phrase which underlines the strong sense of community that the independent company brings to its thriving retail footprint across Australian and New Zealand Airports.

In 2020, awpl will celebrate its 25th anniversary, a period in which it has grown into Australasia’s leading destination merchandise retailer, operating over 50 stores on both sides of the Tasman Sea notable for their championing of local producers.

Yet outside its home region awpl is largely unknown, largely because the company founded by Costa Kouros in 1995 has remained a family business focused on delivering results rather than talking about them. In an industry which too often pays lip service to the vital role that quality destination merchandise plays in the tourism and travel retail sectors, we think that should change.

To create, sustain and grow a business of this excellence and focus over a quarter of a century in what has often been a volatile region, commercially speaking, is an outstanding achievement.

And while awpl is far more than the Costa Kouros story, it is the founder and archetypal entrepreneur who we recognise here for his success in shaping a business based on a compellingly simple philosophy – “Our ultimate aim is to leave every customer with a positive and memorable feeling.” The Kouros family heartbeat is healthier than ever.

Antonio Alicea

One of the highlights of our annual Airport Food & Beverage Awards is the accolade for FAB Team Member of the Year – and in recognition of the importance of employee excellence we also recognise the 2019 winner in these annual awards.

The story of US F&B concessionaire Tastes on the Fly’s Antonio Alicea is a testament to the human virtues that our industry is built on but too often fails to recognise. Determination, selflessness, commitment to quality, passion, consideration for others, teamwork, a belief in constant self-improvement, a love for food, service and people.

Antonio Alicea was hired by Tastes on the Fly as a dishwasher at Jerry Remy’s at Boston Airport in February 2012. Despite having no restaurant experience, he was promoted to lead line cook in less than a year. In April 2014, he was invited to transfer to a new full-service restaurant, Stephanie’s, in Terminal B. In less than two months, he became Executive Sous Chef under mentor and supervisor, Chef Julival Rocha.

Today, he is General Manager of Stephanie’s, Boston Logan International Airport, with expertise across back and front of house, and a driver of staff morale, guest satisfaction and sales.

His desire to learn, commitment to improvement and leadership offer an inspirational example to our industry. So does the way Tastes on the Fly has recognised, nurtured and rewarded talent.

Patricia Bona

Patricia Bona, partner with her equally remarkable husband Jean-Jacques in Florida-based Essence Corp, is among the most inspirational people in our business. Not only is she the face of one of the industry’s most professional players – a master distributor of fragrances and cosmetics across the Americas travel retail – but she is also a passionate and unquestioning supporter of industry charities such as Women in Travel Retail (WiTR) and Hand in Hand for Haiti. 

Her many community projects include charitable works in support of the Buoniconti Fund To Cure Paralysis; Act4Me (a non-profit organisation helping children with neurological disorders and developmental delays receive much-needed therapy); Surfrider Foundation; breast cancer cause Susan G. Komen; A Chance for Therapy and many others. She is also a constant advocate for the rights and empowerment of women.

Lois Pasternak of Travel Markets Insider sums up Patricia’s contribution to our industry. “I think that Essence Corp's influence on the industry in the Americas may be greater than some people realise.”

“For more than 30 years this family-owned and operated group has managed to endure through the many cycles that the channel has experienced. But more than endure, they have demonstrated that ethics, kindness and doing the right thing can allow a company to flourish and be the guiding principles even in the face of much bigger and stronger competitors. I believe Patricia and Essence Corp represent the ultimate role model that our industry should aspire to.” 

Patricia’s hallmark smile lights up a room. And she lights up our industry.

The Moodie Davitt eZine

Issue 274 | 31 December 2019

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 20 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd).

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