Year in Review

Interviews of the Year

In this page we feature our writers’ selections of some of the most memorable and inspiring interviews to appear across our titles and events over the past 12 months.

Taking a blue-chip duty free contract to market

“Duty free is the backbone of our commercial financing, our oil you might say.” With this neat summary Avinor Executive Vice President for Commercial Areas Joachim Lupnaav Johnsen (below right) underlined the importance of the state-owned airports company’s core revenue stream. It came as Avinor launched a major tender last January for duty free and Travel Value (single price) shops at 11 Norwegian airports via The Moodie Davitt Report. In this major interview to coincide with the tender, Avinor disclosed the scale of the opportunity (around €3.4 billion in sales over the five-year term, led by Oslo, below left) and its expectations of bidders. In a neat symmetry of timing, the next phase for speciality retail and food & beverage will launch in January 2022; full details to come. Click here to access the full interview.

‘The spirit of travel’

Amid a time of great uncertainty about the return of travel at scale last April, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport CEO Sean Donohue offered an encouraging signal of hope in this interview with The Moodie Davitt Report President Dermot Davitt. It was one of the big highlights of that month’s Summit of the Americas Knowledge Hub programme, organised by The Moodie Davitt Report alongside IAADFS, ASUTIL and technical partner FILTR.QINGWA. Donohue touched on the airport’s progressively minded support for its partners, noting that it made sense to offer relief so that concessionaires could not only survive the crisis, but could be in a position to support the airport’s growth. “When I go to airports, and I only see a handful of concessionaires open, what ask is when the recovery happens, will those concessionaires be there to help?” he said tellingly.

Offering a wider message to the industry, Donohue said: “This crisis is the single biggest disruption to the aviation industry we have ever seen in modern history, unquestionably. But I am optimistic about the recovery. I find that there’s a spirit to travel. I find that people like to make that connection and although it will take a little while to recover, we’ve got to continue working with all of our business partners and concessionaires to help them until the recovery takes full effect. “Travel and tourism accounts for 10% of global GDP. It is an incredible amount of jobs, an incredible economic engine and, that spirit of travel, combined with the economic impact, is going to carry the day.” For the full story click here.

Prioritising people and the planet

Another of the highlight sessions at the Summit of the Americas Knowledge Hub (see above) in April was Martin Moodie’s stirring conversation with Walmart Senior Vice President Sustainability Jane Ewing. She outlined the retailer’s ambitious environmental and ethical sustainability programme, and its mission is to become a regenerative company with nature and humanity at the core of its business.

Ewing said: “We know the impact of our actions on the ecosystem is irreversible. Sustainability as we know it is not enough anymore, we have to go above and beyond what we are doing today. “Walmart is committed to restoring and renewing instead of just conserving,” she added. “This includes advancing prosperity for our customers, associates and everyone in the supply chain, minimising our waste and carbon footprint and committing to regenerative farming and sustainable sourcing processes.” Sharing her views on Walmart’s approach to Environmental, Social and Governance practices (ESG), based around four areas: opportunity, sustainability, community and transparency. In advancing the agenda to create a greener future, Ewing said: “We have a critical role to play, but we can’t do it alone. We have to work together because due to the complexity of global supply chains and the systemic nature of these issues no one group can do it themselves. Equal work opportunities, sustainable supply chains, racial equity and environmental conversation are issues that require all stakeholders to come together.”

Inspired by India

One of the big Moodie Davitt Report brand interview highlights this year was the compelling story of Pankaj K. (PK) Garg (below). Revealing the journey to date of the House of Sōmrus (Hindi for nectar of the gods) brand, he told Martin Moodie how he has taken a beverage he created in his kitchen with his wife on a path to achieving an aim of becoming the third biggest cream liqueur in the world after Baileys and Amarula. It told the story of Garg’s early life in India, through his eureka business moment on a flight, to the development of his India-inspired alcohol brand in Chicago. It’s a classic entrepreneur’s tale of product development; getting a big break (in distribution); running out of money; finding ways to raise millions of dollars (including former McDonald's CEO Don Thompson writing Garg a cheque on the spot for US$2 million); and an exit strategy which Garg hopes will involve one of the biggest names in the alcohol market. Read the full story here.

A bold duty free vision in Haikou

“We have full confidence in the new round of travel retail development here and we are expecting Hainan to become a key highlight within the travel retail industry globally.” In a world exclusive in May, Hainan Development Holdings Chairman of the Board Gu Gang told us about the exciting second- and third-phase plans for Global Premium Duty Free Plaza in Haikou, and unveiled details of a joint loyalty programme with support partner Dufry. For the full interview click here.

Excitement as GDF Plaza opened for business last January

Becoming ‘the greatest skincare brand’

“We started as outsiders in the beauty industry,” said CEO Charles Rosier as he looked back on the whirlwind three years that saw Augustinus Bader (Professor Augustinus Bader pictured right) go from a relatively-unknown name to becoming ‘the greatest skincare brand of all time’, according to some of the world’s leading beauty editors. In this interview with our Brands Editor Hannah Tan-Gillies in May, Rosier talks about Augustinus Bader’s skincare philosophy and how the brand sky-rocketed to cult fame. He also discusses its launch in travel retail with DFS and his vision for the brand to become ‘the Hermès of skincare’. Click here to access the interview in The Moodie Davitt eZine.

DFS as ‘a destination within a destination’

“Despite the crisis, I’m still incredibly positive and optimistic about what we do. With the last 18 months of restricted travel, the urge of people to get back on a plane, to visit destinations, to reunite with businesses and families, and to explore the world is very much there.” That was the upbeat note struck by DFS Group CEO & Chairman Benjamin Vuchot, speaking to The Moodie Davitt Report at his eighth floor office above T Galleria by DFS, Hong Kong, in his first B2B interview in June. While assuming a leadership role (on 1 January) for the world’s leading luxury travel retailer in the midst of a global pandemic brought plenty of commercial, corporate and strategic challenges, Vuchot was singularly upbeat about DFS’ prospects and its sense of purpose. The company was buoyed by several major developments (announced or opened) in locations as diverse as Brisbane, Hainan, Paris and Queenstown together with a resurgent Macau business. The full feature appears at this link.

Benjamin Vuchot, left; The magnificent exterior of La Samaritaine on rue de la Monnaie, right {Photo: @We Are Contents}

Compassion, commitment and conviction at Qatar Airways

“We needed to show resilience. We needed to show leadership. We needed to show people that we have compassion.” So said the charismatic Qatar Airways, Hamad International Airport (HIA) and Qatar Duty Free CEO H.E. Mr. Akbar Al Baker as he took The Moodie Davitt Report Chairman Martin Moodie on a detailed tour of HIA in August. They (pictured below in conversation) discussed the impact of the pandemic, protecting people and the principles of investment in the customer experience in one of our interviews of the year. For the full article click here.

Turning crisis into opportunity at Collinson

In a must-read interview, Collinson Asia Pacific President Todd Handcock discussed how the pandemic continues to reshape the travel experience; why employers must be acutely mindful of corporate liability in terms of employee travel; and how the group has pivoted impressively to adapt its joint heritage of providing medical and security assistance as well as a wide array of traveller services to a complex and ever-changing travel landscape. For the full article click here.

Finding a foothold in travel retail

At The Moodie Davitt Report we are regularly drawn to stories of entrepreneurialism, innovative spirit and efforts to push the traditional boundaries of category or brand. In August, Colleen Morgan wrote this story of young British entrepreneur John Lodge, Founder of flip flops, apparel and accessory brand BeachyFeet. A high street retail manager at 17 and the owner of a successful fashion & music company just a few years later, we discovered how he is striding ahead with plans to take his latest brand into global travel retail. Click here for the full story.

“Never lose hope”

Tegla Loroupe, a legend in the world of athletics, and one of the great names in long-distance track and road racing, shared her story, career highlights, ambitions and the driving force that inspires her to help change the world in conversation with Martin Moodie during the August Olympic Games. The interview was played as part of the Knowledge Hub sessions at the Virtual Travel Retail Expo. Her theme was ‘Standing Up for the Displaced’, an apt description in her latest role as Chef de Mission for the Olympic Refugee Team in Tokyo, as well as President and Founder of the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation.

A global spokeswoman for peace, women’s rights and education, Loroupe takes as her motto the phrase “never lose hope”. It’s one she uses constantly in her own life and in her mission to help refugees, many of whom have become top sportsmen and women. Loroupe encourages businesses to learn from displaced people, to acknowledge their skills and need for work, and to empower them. Watch the video for the full interview and prepare to be inspired.

Towards a better, more sustainable future

In an important signal of faith and investment in travel retail, Diageo Asia Pacific and Global Travel President Sam Fischer underlined the global drinks powerhouse’s continued, and in fact enhanced, commitment to the channel. Speaking with The Moodie Davitt Report Founder & Chairman Martin Moodie in a key Knowledge Hub session at the Virtual Travel Retail Expo, Fischer said he was “astounded” by the resilience of the channel, and of the Diageo team, during the long COVID-related crisis.

He offered an upbeat, optimistic view of the industry’s future, emphasising collaboration, innovation, premiumisation and the increasing important role of sustainability. “Travellers are going to be surprised and delighted by what they see in travel retail. This is a critical channel for us,” Fischer said. “We have had a long history in travel retail and we know that travellers are going to return, they are going to be energised… and we want to be there to ensure that our brands will enhance that experience of travel.” Click here for more from this wide-ranging, insightful interview (or click on the video above).

Dimitra’s Jon Trask: How technology can improve small farmers’ lives and solve the world hunger crisis

In this key interview, we talked to Jon Trask, CEO of Dimitra, whose mission is to place technology in the hands of millions of small farmers around the world. By doing so, Dimitra aims to enhance productivity and therefore the lives of farmers, improve food safety, and enable greater food security globally. Trask is passionate about using the power of information to deliver Agricultural Technology to smallholders who, while playing a vital role in keeping the world fed, often struggle to feed their own families. Trask’s determination is driven by a desire to equip the farmers of developing nations with the world-class tools already enjoyed by the richest nations. “This underserved group of farmers represents the production of almost 70% of the food in the world,” he says. “Increasing output and revenue by +20%, if we distribute it right and don’t waste it, theoretically could solve the world hunger crisis.”

Click here for the full interview.


Dimitra Chief Executive Officer Jon Trask talks to Martin Moodie on The Moodie Davitt Podcast

Walking and talking travel retail at Heathrow Airport

One of the highlights of October’s Virtual Travel Retail Expo was a terrific piece of video footage, shown in the Knowledge Hub, in which The Moodie Davitt Report President Dermot Davitt took a walk around Heathrow Terminal 2 in the engaging company of Retail & Property Director Fraser Brown.

In a tour that took in the new store openings (and closures) at T2, the latest traffic situation and the key issues facing the business, the duo gave us a great flavour of the pace of recovery at the UK’s premier airport and how it has reacted to the challenges of the COVID-19 era. In a nod to the times we live in, the conversation was conducted wearing masks, as per the strict COVID rules at Heathrow. Brown also offered a timely reminder – even with traffic at around one-third of normal levels – as to why Heathrow is one of the world’s great airports for retail and F&B.

Resilience, potential, brand-building

Powerhouse French drinks group Pernod Ricard retains its firm belief in the strength of the travel retail channel. That was the emphatic message from the company’s Chairman and CEO Alexandre Ricard during an outstanding Knowledge Hub interview with Martin Moodie at the Virtual Travel Retail Expo.

Addressing Pernod Ricard’s commitment to the channel, Ricard said: “Travel retail is still a ‘must win’ market for Pernod Ricard. We have continued to develop our relationships with retailers, and travel retail has demonstrated time after time its resilience. We need to take a long-term strategic view. This is a brand-building channel which still has huge potential.” For more on Pernod Ricard’s strong affirmation of the power of the channel, watch the video.

Bulgari’s journey to ‘irresistible luxury’

As a watch and jewellery brand with a strong reliance on travel retail, Bulgari’s travel retail business was disproportionately affected by the crisis. However, the pandemic opened up other opportunities, CEO Jean-Christophe Babin told Hannah Tan-Gillies in this interview conducted at October’s Cannes show. Babin spoke about the omnichannel space, a thriving hotel business, the ‘Bulgari tribe’ and how client relationships can make or break a luxury house in the post-pandemic world. He also underlined the company’s grand mission to raise its reputation and become the “epitome of irresistible luxury experience,” through watches, jewellery, fragrance and even luxury hotels. The full story appears in The Moodie Davitt Magazine for November.

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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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