Year in Review

Blogs of the Year

The Moodie Blog was launched in 2008, travel retail’s first Blog and since inception has been one of our most popular features, writes Martin Moodie. In The Moodie Blog, kindly sponsored by Bowmore single malt Scotch whisky, I like to get ‘up close and personal in travel retail’ as the tagline has it. I try to bring a personal perspective – whether it be humorous, poignant or, if necessary, critical – to my experiences and those of others. Here, in no particular order, are some of my favourites from a year that will remain unforgettable, albeit as with 2020 mainly for the wrong reasons.

In association with

Ringing the bells that still can ring as a third life chapter begins

Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack, a crack in everything That’s how the light gets inLeonard Cohen, Anthem

My life has been split roughly into two parts and two geographies to date – my New Zealand and UK chapters. Now a third, Asian, one officially begins and I am excited to be embarking on that journey. There are many difficult days ahead for our industry in the months ahead, which even the optimism delivered by the vaccines and the sector hotspots such as Hainan and Jeju cannot obscure. But there is light and the haze over our sector, like that over Victoria Harbour, is lifting.

The late, much-lamented master Leonard Cohen’s words seem so apposite, don’t they? We as individuals are all battered, sometimes exhausted, and most of our various companies are badly damaged, but we must still strive to ‘Ring the bells that still can ring’. Don’t expect things to return to the way they were (‘Forget your perfect offering’). But… there is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

{January 2021: Click here to read more}

Night and day at Discovery Bay, Lantau Island, Hong Kong


#Changedestiny – How Rikako Ikee returned to The Center Lane

“Before I became sick, being an athlete was all I knew. I took for granted that I could swim freely in a pool and live the life I wanted. All I thought about was getting stronger. And now there’s a second Rikako Ikee – the leukaemia survivor. I’m now capable of empathising with so many people. The very fact that I’m alive is in itself an immense experience.”

{March 2021: Click here to read more}

Hirokazu Kore-eda and Rikako Ikee chat poolside during the making of The Center Lane

Pondering a post-batch 210102 visit to Mauritius

There’s something that’s goin’ round, that’s shutting our borders down It’s a bad time for our sick and our old CNN’s nightly lullaby, tells of hundreds more that’ve died I shut off the TV and think all alone, how long can this go on? – Jeff Orson, Pray Many times every day as I work away inside the Moodie Davitt Asia Bureau here in Hong Kong, I swivel around in my chair and gaze at the giant world map that covers a whole wall alongside my desk. To me, it’s every bit as wonderful as the collective works of any art gallery. Each and every viewing offers up another nuance, another place of fascination that in my travel-starved imagination, I conjure up dreams of visiting after the world bursts back into life after the long and bleak COVID winter. {March 2021: Click here to read more}

Picture: Mauritius Tourism Authority

Sergei Bozhok, the correspondent who got away

What can I do but pretend to be brave? And pretend to be strong when I’m not? There’s no moon, no moon in Paris tonight And it’s lonely, and that’s what I got – Marianne Faithful, No Moon in Paris Remember Sergei Bozhok? I wrote about him in a Blog a few weeks back. For 13 years and two months Sergei was Business Development Manager for DERA-Vladivostok Co, the biggest duty free retailer in Russia’s Far East of Russia. He was good at his job, popular, respected. And then last August he got kicked in the teeth by the COVID-19 crisis, as passenger traffic plummeted. For a long while his LinkedIn picture carried the green garland and hashtag of ‘Open to Work’ that so many fine people from our industry now wear in a combination of pain, pride and hope. One day, it was the pain that prevailed in Sergei’s post. “Today is the day I woke up with some kind of panic in my mind,” he wrote. “The situation doesn’t change for the better no matter what I do. So many questions are running through my brain like crazy horses: What will the future bring to me and my family? Why can’t I get the job I will go to with a smile on my face and harmony in my soul? What else should I do to succeed? “Fear. It attacks without warning and hits hard. Every time I feel it, I remind myself of Mike Tyson’s words: ‘When I’m having a hard time I keep telling myself that it won’t be any better if I just give up.’ So I stand my ground and make another step forward, I fight my fears and keep not just hoping for the better future but doing all I can to make it real.” After recently securing a role with TW.O & Partners, his green garland and hashtag have now disappeared. There may be no full moon in Paris tonight in the achingly beautiful words of Marianne Faithful but I suspect a figurative one at least has arrived early in Vladivostok to shine on a man who had the courage to admit self-doubt and the perseverance to overcome. He may be my correspondent who got away but I can’t wait to celebrate that escape with him in person. {April 2021: Click here to read more}

Lifeguards, drag queens and Dave Dobbyn all say welcome home

kei te aroha au ki a koe e tānoatia nei e tauwhenua rawa kore mai koe ki konei ka toro te ringa ki tō kaha nau mai rā, ki te papa, papa tipu nau mai rā, te karanga a te ngā kau Tonight I am feeling for you Under the state of a strange land You have sacrificed much to be here There but for grace as I offer my hand Welcome home, I bid you welcome, I bid you welcome Welcome home from the bottom of my heart – Dave Dobbyn, Nau Mai Rā (Welcome Home) If any politician needed reminding just how fundamental travel is to the human experience, they should have taken a long look at the joyous scenes that played out across airports in Australia and New Zealand yesterday as the long awaited trans-Tasman air travel bubble was at last activated. Brisbane Airport Corporation CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff said: “Brisbane Airport will welcome flights from Christchurch and Wellington for the first time since 28 March 2020, some 387 days, which for us has felt almost as long as the last time the Wallabies won the Bledisloe Cup.” While that Aussie victory was actually 19 years ago – an All Blacks winning stretch I would normally love to see go on for another 19 – de Graaff neatly captured the frustration of this long-running pandemic and the euphoria of at last being able to push back against it. So I would just about concede the Wallabies the Bledisloe Cup if all of us could start to travel freely again and sing our own equivalent of Nau Mai Rā. {April 2021: Click here to read more}

Emotional homecoming: Picture courtesy of Wellington Airport

How Khun Top, Susan Whelan and the flying Foxes honoured a legacy

Of all the many emotional and joy-filled scenes after Leicester City Football Club won the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, none perhaps rivalled, at least in power, poignancy and symbolism, that of a giant image of the late Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha beamed from a giant screen as the players, management and supporters celebrated below. ‘Our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them,’ ran the words alongside the photo of Khun Vichai, killed so tragically in a helicopter crash close to the club’s ground in late October 2018. Down on the pitch, his son Aiyawatt ‘Top’ Srivaddhanaprabha was celebrating alongside the players, wearing an expression of unrestrainable joy anchored by a smile just about as wide as Thailand. {May 2021: Click here to read more}

Khun Top: Not only carrying on a proud family legacy but building on it [Picture: Leicester City Football Club]

Susan Whelan: A true Irish rover [Picture: Leicester City Football Club]

Back where it all began and a Flying Kiwi again

How good it was to be back on an aircraft, a Flying Kiwi again. Never did a glass of chilled Champers taste better, while the rediscovery and joy of the seatback flight map was better than any Netflix series you care to name. I almost wanted to parachute into Novosibirsk so happy was I to fly over it again. Heck, I was so glad to be in the sky that I nearly bought the Tangle Teezer Compact Styler Detangling Hairbrush (well it does say ‘Suitable for any hair type’) from duty free. I said nearly. {June 2021: Click here to read more}

Still standing after all these years: 19 years ago The Moodie Report was a one-man band run from the foot of the garden

Treasuring but moving on from the past

“What is an automatic garage door?” “It is a garage door that opens and closes itself on your behalf. What do you think of that?” “I think if I were a garage door, I should rather miss the old days.” – From A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles I’m here at what now passes as my Interim London Bureau, gazing down over a very soggy garden towards my original Worldwide Headquarters. The Moodie Report (Est. 2002) sign has weathered rather better than its owner. Unfortunately I was established in 1956 and the combination of the interim years and the particular pressures of the most recent one is starting to make me pine for the old days. {June 2021: Click here to read more}

Reverting to type: My old Olivetti looked something like this one (though less dusty) that I discovered on (and just might buy from) Amazon

Passion, pride and purpose at Hamad International Airport

With a skilled driver like this at the wheel, how could I possibly go wrong? But while the ride ahead will be safe, it is also sure to be thrilling for here is a man who seems to only go at top speed. “Come on Martin, jump in.” Meet Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive H.E. Mr. Akbar Al Baker as you have never seen him before, at the wheel of a buggy leading me on a tour of Hamad International Airport and some of its most exciting projects. The back-seat drivers? Well you probably know them too, Hamad International Airport Chief Operating Officer Engr. Badr Mohammed Al Meer (rear left) and Qatar Duty Free Vice President Operations Thabet Musleh. {July 2021: Click here to read more}

An airport tour with a difference, courtesy of the world’s most qualified chauffeur and the best back-seat drivers you could ever meet

Maintaining caution in Korea, becoming dumb & dumber in the UK

I’ve had so many sticks poked up my nostrils in recent weeks I’m starting to feel like Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) after getting his nose plugged by Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) to stop his snoring in that priceless scene from ‘Dumb & Dumber’. {July 2021: Click here to read more}

Out in the jungle while a mad Zookeeper runs amok

Idiot wind Blowing every time you move your mouth Blowing down the back roads headin’ south Idiot wind Blowing every time you move your teeth You’re an idiot, babe It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe – Bob Dylan, Idiot Wind My oh so quiet Interim Busan Bureau feels like a haven from the madding crowd of the UK, somewhere I now feel relieved to have escaped from earlier this month. While the Republic of Korea battles earnestly to contain the so-called fourth wave (over 1,200 cases for the second consecutive day, one death), it’s a case of Keep Calm and Carry on Maskless back in Boris of Blunderland’s patch (39,950 new cases and 19 new deaths). {July 2021: Click here to read more}

In training for the (very) modern Quarantine Pentathlon

The triple jump – What we used to call the hop, step and jump at school is a natural for a finely tuned quarantine athlete such as me. Hop? Why that’s so easy, I could do it on one leg. What about trampolining? Ivan Litvinovich of Belarus held his nerve to pull off an outstanding routine of multiple somersaults and spins, soaring 10 metres into the air, to claim his country’s first medal at Tokyo 2020. With a King-size+ bed, and a very soft mattress as an ideal springboard, who says I can’t go one better? Trouble is, if I do I will end up in room 649 as opposed to 549 and that may not be a quarantine floor. Best avoid. {August 2021: Click here to read more}

Levitating or training? Martin Moodie shows an extra spring in his step during a workout for the very modern Quarantine Pentathlon

Funny where the time goes

On that day The Moodie Report was born. Perhaps in kindred ship with its creator, it wasn’t a particularly beautiful baby. The first edition was a 6-page pdf. No frills. No photographs. No advertising. No subscription fee. And according to some, no hope. {September 2021: Click here to read more}

Ugly ducklings: The first edition of The Moodie Report (right) appeared on 16 September 2002 in PDF format; (left) our inaugural print edition made its debut in October 2003

The sky was falling and streaked with blood

Now there’s tears on the pillow Darlin’, where we slept And you took my heart when you left Without your sweet kiss My soul is lost, my friend Tell me how do I begin again? My city’s in ruins My city’s in ruins – Bruce Springsteen, My City in Ruins Like many of us, I recall the moment as if it was yesterday. I was on stage at the ASUTIL (South American Duty Free Association) Conference in Rio de Janeiro, moderating proceedings and beginning my introduction to a session on inflight retail. I was in my last four months as Managing Director at Duty-Free News International (DFNI), which had the contract to organise the annual event. It was 11 September 2001. As I spoke at the podium, I looked down to see Seagram Global Duty Free boss Dan Daly approaching the stage and beckoning that he needed to speak to me. I could not understand what it could be that necessitated such urgency mid-proceedings. “Martin, two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center. Looks like a terrorist attack but they don’t know,” he whispered. {September 11, 2021: Click here to read more}

Image courtesy of Paradies Lagardère President and CEO Gregg Paradies

Meet the Blue Sky thinker with Panda Blood in his veins

Upon learning about a girl who required o Rh negative blood after a car accident in another province, he rushed to contact the relevant hospital, encouraging the young patient with a microblog post declaring ‘Mr. Blue Sky is here to help!’ {September 2021: Click here to read more}

Tales of Shelleys, Sabrage and Sunilage from Hong Kong

Sabrage is a highly skilled technique for opening a Champagne bottle with a sabre. Sunilage, on the other hand is a highly dangerous technique best avoided as this photo, almost the last one of Antares Cheng taken alive, and which resulted in Dom and Perignon becoming separate brands, reveals. {September 2021: Click here to read more}

All aboard: Martin Moodie, Harry Kartasis, Antares Cheng and Sunil Tuli

How Ramesh Cidambi found himself in a literary frame of mind

You can almost picture the scene at Ramesh’s table as William Shakespeare opines “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” (from As You Like it) and Oscar Wilde retorts, “The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast” (Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime). Bloom would then wade in with some well-constructed analysis of both quotes and Master of Ceremonies Ramesh would chuckle with delight at the literary feast to accompany the culinary one being served at Chez Cidambi, desert-island style. {October 2021: Click here to read more}

From A (Angostura) to Z (Zacapa): Toeing the line in a new kind of Rum Diary

The upshot, confirmed via x-ray, was that my digitus pedis primus (big toe), more well-aged than any dark rum you will ever find, had developed a large crack that was as neat as a Havana Club poured straight. Not quite Grand Canyon-esque but alarming nonetheless, the crack had appeared in the all-important distal phalange, one of 14 phalanges (a posh word for bone, as in ‘I’ve got a phalange to pick with you’ or ‘My favourite red wine is Côte de Phalange’). {November 2021: Click here to read more)

“It was a maddening image and the only way to whip it was to hang on until dusk and banish the ghosts with rum” – Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary

They may both be Greek but Omicron is not Armageddon

I’m not sure what the beautiful Greek language did to deserve a series of coronavirus variants of concern (VOC) besmirching it (Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta have all attained VOC status, which frankly sounds more like a French wine classification). Whatever the reason, it’s likely that the term Omicron will be uttered throughout the non-Greek world more often in the next three months than it has been over the past three centuries. Poor Omicron. It is actually the 15th letter in the Greek alphabet but only the fourth to enjoy VOC ranking, which in French wine terms makes it a Grand Cru I suppose. After Delta come Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, Mu, Nu and Xi. In fact it wasn’t a case of queue jumping as Epsilon (first detected in California in late 2020); Zeta (Brazil 2020); Eta (about two dozen countries); Iota (New York late 2020); Kappa (India); Lambda (Peru December 2020); and Mu (Colombia) have all enjoyed moments of fleeting fame. However, none made it beyond lowly Variant of Interest (VAI) status, a kind of COVID-themed Vin de Pays. Of those, Epsilon and Zeta have lost their ranking altogether; while Eta, Iota and Kappa have now been demoted to Vin de Table… sorry, Variants under Monitoring. Lambda and Mu retain Vin de Pays status. {November 2021: Click here to read more}

Cover picture: South China Morning Post

Why Penny’s Bay remains key to the big prize

In Penny’s Bay they poke your nose And swab your throat There beneath the blue South China sky I sit and wonder why… - From ‘Penny’s Bay’ by Helium3 (with apologies to The Beatles) I get the Hong Kong government’s position. We’re just going to have to take it on (and in) the nose. While that means further frustration for Hong Kong residents and the tourism industry, it’s all about the size of the prize. And no-one can doubt which is bigger. {December 2021: Click here to read more}

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam visits the newly completed Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre Phase 2 on Lantau Island in late September {Pictures: The Government of the Special Adminstrative Region of Hong Kong}

Omicron anxieties pale in the wake of Kentucky tragedy

In the US, CNN, supposedly the balance to the rabid right wing extremity of Fox News, seems to have mislaid its sense of perspective. Its lead story as I write is titled, ‘Why hasn’t China approved Western mRNA vaccines?’, followed by the following teaser, ‘Beijing’s homegrown vaccines are less effective. Yet even with the new challenge of Omicron, it’s not clear if officials will ever sign off on Western jabs.’

If that is your lead story to the world on 1) a day that huge swathes of the state of Kentucky lie destroyed by the weekend’s cataclysmic tornadoes with 74 dead and at least 109 missing and 2) when the USA has just reported 818,208 new daily COVID-19 cases (the highest in the world, ahead of the UK and South Africa) and 253 new deaths [Source: Worldometer), then you have lost your way. On that same, constantly updated Worldometer league, China ranks 113th for total case numbers, reported just 75 new daily cases and NO new deaths. In fact the official count from the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China for the past five days (working backwards) is 80, 49, 51, 37 and 60. Number of deaths? Zero. Balance matters. {December 2021: Click here to read more}

Twinkle Twinkle Little Earth – a timely tune from Sestus Omicron 3

Have you considered the possibility that on a star, the star-people wish upon an earth? For example, ‘Earth light, earth bright, first earth I see tonight’, or ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little earth, how I wonder what you’re worth.’ Sound strange? Well, on Sestus Omicron 3 the all-time hit song is ‘Earthdust’. Also people will sing ‘Catch a falling earth and put it in your pocket’. {December 2021: Click here to read more}

The very room where the QWERTY concerto was composed

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The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 304 | 21 December 2021

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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