Road to Recovery

Slow and uncertain: the region by region travel picture

We bring you the latest region by region account of reopenings and recovery, as presented by the leading travel retail associations from their respective territories.

A recent webinar hosted by Duty Free World Council (17 September) offered the major travel retail associations the opportunity to brief other industry stakeholders about the pace and rhythm of reopenings in their respective regions. The picture takes in the easing of restrictions, restart dates for commercial flights and how airport companies have responded to the plight of retailers as passenger traffic remains low.

Asia Pacific

The Asia Pacific Travel Retail Association (APTRA) highlighted the uncertainty in the market and the low level of international flights across the region today. We bring you key details from its latest update:

  • Macau – opening up to Mainland China flights towards the end of September
  • India – suspension of scheduled international flights to end of September, with a ‘travel corridor’ currently in place with the US, France and Germany
  • China – Civil Aviation Administration to review 14 countries for opening of international flights
  • Indonesia – announced the establishment of travel corridors with China, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) via specific points of entry, to facilitate the resumption of official business and government travel
  • Singapore – resumption of travel to Brunei and New Zealand from 1 September. Individuals arriving from Brunei and New Zealand are subjected to a COVID-19 test and possibly no quarantine if further criteria are met. Singapore plans more travel corridors with Japan and South Korea.
  • Vietnam – will gradually resume international commercial flights to six cities in Asia
  • Malaysia – will allow expatriates and business passes from 23 countries to enter, based on certain criteria; however borders will continue to remain shut until year-end

Malaysia plans to keep its borders shut until at least year end, meaning the outlook will remain bleak for retailers at KLIA

The regional association has also been active in its appeals for industry financial support, relief measures, awareness of travel retail’s position in the travel ecosystem and campaigning on the issue of travel and travel shopping guidelines through ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization).

Latin America

Duty free association ASUTIL is working hard to liberalise duty free regimes in Brazil, Uruguay and elsewhere to allow more potential shoppers access to the offer, with Customs support, with home delivery in certain cases also on the agenda.

The association said that:

  • In the next two months all airports will be open in Latin America
  • Some countries such as Ecuador will allow travel with a negative test COVID-19 test result. Uruguay currently allows arrivals from Europe with negative test without quarantine while Brazil accepts foreigners with a health insurance certificate.
  • Airlines are restarting international flights to most countries
  • Border stores are open and slowly recovering traffic

The border business in Latin America is expected to build back gradually, though case numbers remain high in key markets such as Brazil

North America

The International Association of Airport Duty Free Stores (IAADFS) is lobbying hard for financial assistance for concessionaires, in partnership with other industry bodies, including ACI North America, the American Association of Airport Executives, the Airport Restaurant and Retail Association, the Airport Minority Advisory Council, the American Car Rental Association and the National Parking Association.


  • Most airports are operational. Domestic traffic is recovering but the growth trend is affected by new travel restrictions and there are few international flights.
  • The US election creates uncertainty about the new policy direction and support surrounding COVID-19 challenges, said IAADFS

Domestic travel has picked up quickly in the US but international travel remains heavily restricted, halting recovery in duty free (3Sixty at Dallas Fort Worth pictured)

Central America

  • Borders between Mexico and the US are still closed for non-essential travel;
  • Air traffic between Mexico and the US is growing. Tourist destinations in Mexico show good recovery thanks to US tourists.


  • Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic air traffic has picked up and shows some recovery
  • US tourists are banned from travel to the Bahamas. Other islands have imposed strict restrictions for visitors
  • Ports in the Caribbean will reopen once the cruise business resumes operation but not before November with the ‘no sail’ order continuing

In Canada, reported the Frontier Duty Free Association (FDFA), over half of all land border stores are closed, while those open to essential works have low traffic levels. The US-Canada border has been closed to all but essential traffic since 21 March. This has been extended to 21 October and will likely last well beyond that date, according to the FDFA. The association has been pushing for loan and wage subsidies plus rent relief as part of a range of measures to support the land border industry.

Middle East & Africa

The Middle East & Africa Duty Free Association (MEADFA) updated the industry on the latest travel rules as states open up for travel.

  • Some international airports are open to visitors, while all countries are applying new health and safety regulations
  • Border crossings in GCC countries are only permitted for citizens travelling back to their country of origin (one way)
  • Jordan: Land borders and seaports remain closed but Amman International resumed flights on 10 September, with certain restrictions by destination
  • In Africa some countries have maintained a suspension of international flights, including Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Niger, Uganda and others.
  • Egypt, Nigeria, Mali, Kenya, Somalia, Ghana, Zambia and some other African countries have resumed international flights with strict health and safety measures implemented for international arrivals

Dubai Duty Free reopened on a limited basis in June but traffic levels remain low for now


The European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC) has been pushing hard with other partners to secure a common approach from governments for travel & tourism, with removal of quarantine rules a key element. With ACI Europe, ETRC is also lobbying for arrivals duty free to be introduced at EU airports to support industry recovery.

On the return to travel, intra-EU movement began at the end of June but with quarantines and other restrictions in place, the situation remains unstable.

Airport passenger traffic, which had fallen by -90% year-on-year in late June, was down by -67% by late August, although this has worsened since. Ferry traffic has resumed with the Nordic region about -50%, a relatively positive outcome to date, but here too potential government restrictions may hold back further growth.

There is a short EU ‘Green list’ to reopen external EU borders that features Australia; Canada; Georgia; Japan; New Zealand; Rwanda; South Korea; Thailand; Tunisia; Uruguay and China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity. Member states may diverge from this list as some have done with their own ‘travel corridors’.

Sense of recovery? ARI is one of many retailers hit by government decisions and consumer confusion around travel and quarantines

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The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 284 | 30 September 2020

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 12 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit and to subscribe, please e-mail

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