Arrivals duty free ‘a top priority’, maintains AFCOV

By Luke Barras-hill |

AFCOV hosted a press briefing at Ondine Plage, Boulevard de la Croisette, on Thursday 6 October.

Association Française du Commerce du Voyageur (AFCOV) is reporting strong stakeholder engagement in its efforts to support the push on EU duty free and tax free on arrival.

Updating sections of the trade press last week during the TFWA World Exhibition & Conference, Filip Soete, President, AFCOV, said: “Arrivals duty free for a long time has been our top priority. We work very closely with ETRC.

“It’s a very tough one – if you need 27 European Member States [to approve] there is always one that can say ‘no’. But, with Covid there was a real opportunity as our airports and operators have suffered severely.

“This could be a quick way to help the airports by allowing duty free on arrival to restart. It doesn’t cost anything, and we believe it can give 20-30% more revenue. This is an easy measure to help the airports get out of the crisis.

“In France, we’ve had the re-election of President Macron. It was very tight this time and he doesn’t have the absolute majority like he did before. He has changed the whole government and therefore we have to restart contact with ministers. Fortunately, we [already] have very good contact with French customs.”

Bruno Balerdi joins Board

The campaign for arrivals duty free and tax free on arrival in the EU, which is being spearheaded by the ETRC, secured a recent, timely intervention after it emerged that the EU Commission will conduct a study into the potential of extending the scope of duty free within the EU through duty and tax free sales to inbound and railway passengers.

It had been hoped by trade lobbyists that the forthcoming publication of the EU VAT Tourism Package would offer a possible framework for the introduction of arrivals duty free shopping in the EU via the inclusion of a proposal on the issue. [Click here to read more on arrivals DF in the TRBusiness October e-zine].

The sun-drenched Côte d’Azur provided the backdrop as members of the DF&TR trade press met with AFCOV President Filip Soete (fourth right) and AFCOV Advisor Antoine Clement last week during the TFWA World Exhibition & Conference.

The French duty free organisation is represented at Board level by Filip Soete, President; Vincent Romet, Treasurer and Chief Executive of Lagardère Travel Retail France and Lylian Vignau, General Delegate and Chief Executive of Lagardère Travel Retail/Duty Free Global.

It has ambitions to increase the Board by a further two or three individuals, to include brand representatives.

Bruno Balerdi, Commercial Director at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, was recently admitted to the Board.

During the meeting, AFCOV updated on its activities with regards to the opportunities and challenges facing France’s DF&TR sector, including fostering greater engagement on the importance of sustainability.

Lylian Vignau, General Delegate and Chief Executive of Lagardère Travel Retail/Duty Free Global, will steer the AFCOV/UAF sustainability working group.

French airports working group

As part of this mission, AFCOV has formed a working group with Union des Aéroports Français (UAF) that represents the interests of circa 169 airports across France.

The working group, facilitated through UAF’s commercial division, brings together AFCOV and the airports to establish ‘quick wins’ and ‘longer term forces’ to build sustainable interests, according to Soete.

Rather than defining goals or targets – it remains commonplace for airports, retailers, airlines, brands and other stakeholders to possess independent and at times divergent sustainability objectives – the working group has been established to stimulate ideas and knowledge sharing.

It is hoped it will support and assist stakeholders in their pursuit of common actions like the removal of single-use plastics in terminal settings. 

“There are so many things to do, but I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel,” stated Soete. “We would like to have a kind of action plan for the operators and airports to make things move. This is a major objective and together with the French airports, a new mission.”

The working group is being guided by Vignau, who possesses strength on the buying side and strong contacts with the brands in his capacity at Lagardère Travel Retail.

Currently, AFCOV boasts 30 members but the association is keen to increase this number to 50.

Major French airport operators including Paris, Nice, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse are among AFCOV’s membership, which also counts a strong lineup of French suppliers and leading travel retailers.

In addition, AFCOV works closely with other French associations such as Union des Aéroports Français, ferry companies and the French spirits industry.

In a bid to foster increased representation, it is permitting non-French speaking executives to take part in meetings, and is implementing translation services.

With its roots dating back to June 1988 and the birth of the French Association of Tax Free Trade (AFCOHT), AFCOV’s raison d’être is to defend and represent the interests of France’s duty free and tax free industry.

Soete spoke about the ‘shift’ he is encouraging in the association’s activities, aligned towards three chief objectives: lobbying, sharing best practice and networking/members events.

In July, association members enjoyed gathering and networking in Reims at LVMH-owned Champagne house Krug.

AFCOV is planning to host its next members meeting in late December.

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