AFCOV stands tall on tobacco threat with DFWC

By Luke Barras-hill |


AFCOV is comprised of (left to right): Antoine Clément, Advisor; Filip Soete, President; Ambroise Fondeur, General Delegate; and Vincent Romet, Treasurer (not pictured).

Association Française du Commerce du Voyageur (AFCOV) has affirmed its complete alignment with the Duty Free World Council (DFWC) and European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC) in defending the interests of the industry against illicit trade in tobacco.

As reported, DF&TR reacted favourably to a World Health Organisation (WHO) decision at the first Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (MOP1) one year ago that postponed an evidence-based research study ‘into the extent to which duty free contributes to the illicit trade of tobacco products’.

The WHO Illicit Trade Protocol (ITP) entered into force on 25 September 2018. At the time of writing there are currently 54 signatories. MOP2 is expected to be held around November 2020.

Antoine Clément, AFCOV Advisor said: “The topic of the illicit trade protocol is still there and AFCOV will continue building and improving its relationship with French customs authorities, ministries and the Prime Minister’s office. At the moment we have a very strong proposition for the French government on this topic.”

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Filip Soete, President, AFCOV and Chief Commercial Officer, Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur.


He continued: “We are a legitimate business and have nothing to do with illicit trade. There is a clear need for clarification that duty free is not free trade zones.”

AFCOV confirms it is in direct contact with French customs regarding the new global track and trace rules for tobacco, effective from May, a chief provision requiring implementation within five years of the protocol becoming active that tracks tobacco products across the entire supply chain.

The above comments come as the French lobbying force held a trade press briefing during the TFWA World Exhibition & Conference in Cannes last week.

This was used to announce its revival, discuss its alliances with other associations, membership remit and future ambitions.

With its roots dating back to June 1988 and the creation of the French Association of Tax Free Trade (AFCOHT), AFCOV has contributed towards protecting the industry’s interests over the past two decades.

Two years ago, Filip Soete – currently AFCOV President and Nice Côte d’Azur Airport Chief Commercial Officer – was approached by Lagardère Travel Retail’s Vincent Romet to help re-launch the association to lobby tourism, transport and other ministries in government on issues related to the defence of DF&TR in France.

The press briefing was conducted in the presence of Soete and Ambroise Fondeur, General Delegate, AFCOV, with support from Clément.


Ambroise Fondeur, General Delegate, AFCOV and Chief Business Officer, Lagardère Travel Retail.


Soete outlined that the association reformed with three objectives in mind: Ensuring good financial management, lobbying, exchanging ideas and best practice specific issues, and fostering networking opportunities.

“After two years, the membership is growing and now we are very active towards the French ministries on different subjects,” he told the press.

These subjects include Brexit – despite all the uncertainty – and an array of other optics including tobacco control, border regimes and ecological issues.

As it stands, France’s top seven airports count among AFCOV’s membership base, which is bolstered further by a strong contingency of French suppliers.

Having strong, French brands in travel retail is a huge advantage to the association, said Soete.

Lagardère Travel Retail and Dufry Group are retail members, alongside other companies.

This is in addition to stakeholders in fields such as distribution and stand building, with AFCOV unsurprisingly keen to expand its membership.

The association is also trying to engage with F&B operators to broaden discussion across the travel retail value chain.

“On the duty free level towards the French ministries, it also has an impact on the legislation and development for our interests in Brussels,” said Soete.

Fondeur added: “We think it is critical that national associations are strong, and we invite other nations to get involved with their associations and speak to regulators about their own specific issues related to travel retail. By all moving together we reach something.

“It is critical in France that we are seen by the authorities as an association; this is a collective and common approach.”

SUSTAINABILITY: MORE ACTION NEEDEDPlastic-Pledge-and-Travel-Retail-Sustainability-Forum-lead

Fondeur said more committed action is needed by DF&TR on sustainability, including – but not limited to – the reduction in single-use plastics.

He said: “We see the environment as a major issue for our industry. We are seen as a polluting industry and we need first to understand that and take it into account. We cannot stay silent on the topic.”

On single-use plastics specifically, he added: “Today we are only raising the issue but we have not found a solution. It is a major issue, strongly associated with airports. We think airport environments can play a key role in educating travellers around this issue and the need to recycle.

“We do not think banning plastic bottles in airports is the solution. Plastic in itself is not an issue – as long as it is recycled, and it does not finish up in the sea.

“Through AFCOV we are trying to open up the discussion with brands, retailers and airports to see how we can at least play a role in [offsetting] this. Apart from the traditional regulatory issues, this is a new chapter that could be more and more important in the months and years to come.”

He also flagged the importance of raising the issue of sustainability among non-traditional duty free players outside the major brand companies.

AFCOV plans to hold three meetings a year. The next is due to take place at the end of January, with a venue yet to be confirmed.

Click here for a history of AFCOV and its remit, and here to contact the association.


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