Virtual Travel Retail Expo: Knowledge Hub

Thought Leadership

The Knowledge Hub, Workshop Rooms and Engagement Lounge hosted a packed, powerhouse programme across the five-day ‘live’ event, all of which can be revisited during our 30-day encore period. We review some of the big highlights.

The Virtual Travel Retail Expo brought together some of the biggest names in the travel retail world and many high-profile speakers across channels of business from airports to cruise to airlines, to explore how industry recovery might take shape.

The combination of live discussions, filmed interviews and webinars in the Knowledge Hub blended neatly with the many category and brand-led sessions in the Engagement Lounge, featuring a dazzling array of launches, tastings, masterclasses and workshops.

In the pages ahead we select and show some of the highlight sessions, with the entire programme available to view in our 30-day encore period. Further Engagement Lounge sessions also feature in our exhibitor by exhibitor review.

Powerhouse players

“I would like to open my arms to all my peer players to shape a brighter future for China’s duty free market.” Those striking words from China Duty Free Group (CDFG) President Charles Chen came amid a compelling interview with The Moodie Davitt Report Founder and Chairman Martin Moodie to kick start the Knowledge Hub sessions. CDFG, via surging sales at its Hainan Island offshore duty free operations, is leading industry recovery, buoyed by the introduction of new allowances since 1 July.

For Chen, “cooperation and innovation” are the watchwords for an industry in search of wider reasons for optimism. Brand owners, notably in beauty, can attest to the boost that Hainan Island has already given their business, with others from luxury to liquor lining up to take advantage of the opportunity in the booming offshore duty free sector. View the full interview with Charles Chen below.

The Knowledge Hub sessions were noteworthy for the presence of many other heavyweight travel retail leaders. Dufry CEO Julián Díaz outlined the long-time sector number one’s aim to become the first “global travel retail digital company” following the announcement that Alibaba Group had agreed to form a strategic joint venture with Dufry in China.

That drive for greater digitalisation will come through engaging with customers at the “right time, at the right moment, even before they travel,” he said. Secondly, through greater relevance, including “delivering the merchandise when it is needed and where it is expected by the customer”; and finally, by the development of personalised digital offers.

Díaz spoke extensively with Martin Moodie about people, partnership, patience and prudence in this interview (see below).

Among the most memorable moments of the week came at the end of a wide-ranging interview with Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, where he revealed that all ten short-listed companies for The QDF Factor would receive a listing with Qatar Duty Free at Hamad International Airport. The QDF Factor, a partnership with The Moodie Davitt Report, was an initiative to champion creativity and newness in travel retail at a time when it was needed most (see previous page).

Al Baker also discussed Qatar Airways’ response to the pandemic and the expansion of Hamad International Airport ahead of the FIF World Cup in 2022. See video below.

Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman & CEO Colm McLoughlin was another leading figure to offer some key insights on leadership amid crisis in the Knowledge Hub. He said: “We have not experienced, in my opinion, anything as serious previously. We had SARS, Gulf Wars and 9/11, but they have paled into insignificance to a certain extent.”

McLoughlin outlined both the financial and employment impact COVID-19 has had on Dubai Duty Free, with sales down by -68% (to mid-October) year-on-year in a candid interview (see video).

“Travel retail can be the first continent of the retail sector and evolve even stronger.” So said an upbeat Dag Rasmussen, Chairman & CEO of Lagardère Travel Retail, who sent out a strong rallying call for a travel retail industry comeback.

“What we’re missing now is passengers. Simple as that, and I’m confident that once travellers are reassured on certain conditions, they will travel again. I think we should be ambitious. We should be the continent brands want to enter first. First, because we have the best customer profile. We have people who come to us, more than downtown, we don’t have to bring the passengers, airlines and airports do that for us.”

In a compelling and widely watched live session (1,149 unique visitors; click below for video) Rasmussen spoke too about digitalisation, ecommerce, risk and relationships.

Visitors to the Knowledge Hub sessions heard a range of insights from brand leaders too, from Diageo to SK-II, and Pernod Ricard to Moët Hennessy.

Among the most timely and vital was Beam Suntory President of Brands Jessica Spence’s presentation on women in leadership, and the importance of an empowered, diverse talent pool.

Spence told viewers that recent years have seen an improvement in the way women in whisky are treated, but that too often they are viewed in an objectified and passive way.

Using the recent outing of sexism in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, identified by whisky commentator Becky Paskin (Project Director for the World of Spirits Virtual Expo, organised by The Moodie Davitt Report), as an example Spence said: “It’s amazing we’re still having this conversation. The language in the Whisky Bible belongs in the 1960s; the fact we are still debating this in 2020 is quite shocking. What is it going to take to build up a different set of memories that can overcome that past that is embedded in the way consumers think about us?”

Spence concluded: “Where you do not see that level of inclusion, take quick, active and visible steps to address it.”

To view this key session in full, click on the video below.

Top Ten Most Viewed Knowledge Hub sessions

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The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 285 | 4 November 2020

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 15 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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