Avolta begins Milan pilot of VAT refund programme from travel fintech Utu

By Benedict Evans |

The programme is accessible through utu’s dedicated web solution, available on all smartphones.

Avolta and Utu, a travel fintech company, are launching a pilot programme to maximise duty free shopping opportunities at Milan’s Malpensa Airport Terminal 1 and Milan Linate Airport in Italy.

The Avolta x Utu programme is designed to enhance the VAT refund process, offering travelers 25% more spending power by upcycling city-side VAT refunds.

Selected as one of 14 finalists from over 140 entrants at Avolta’s NEXT Global Innovation Challenge in 2023, Utu secured a funded project with Avolta.

The programme is live as of June 2024, and while the pilot is focused on Avolta’s Milan duty-free operations, if successful, the programme will be rolled out across its global shop network.

Tourists will need to continue to complete the standard tax refund process at the airport prior to departure.

Ameer Jumabhoy, Co-Founder of Utu, commented: “Our partnership with Avolta demonstrates the untapped potential within the travel retail ecosystem.

We believe this model can be replicated in airports worldwide, driving multi-billion dollar growth for the industry.”

According to Utu projections – based on Global Blue publicly available data – $4 billion in VAT refunds processed at airports go unclaimed each year.

Maurus Lienhard, Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer at Avolta, said: “utu’s proposition puts the traveler at the centre by providing additional value and enhancing their journey; this fits perfectly within our Destination 2027 strategy.

We are excited to launch Utu in a major European travel hub where tax-free shopping  plays a key role, and look forward to sharing its benefits with our customers.”

Avolta said its programme will be the first to capture this market at scale, capturing VAT refunds that might otherwise leave the country, and acting as an incremental sales driver for Avolta’s airside retail stores.

“We see potential to leverage our global network with a presence over 73 countries and 5,100 points of sale to roll out this programme, driving sales growth for our business,” noted Lienhard.

The programme launch will be supported by a strategic marketing campaign featuring a mix of digital promotions with in-person engagement.

READ MORE: Avolta hails ‘transformative’ 2023; reports FY results

READ MORE: Alpha Kreol India welcomes Avolta’s Freda Cheung to Board of Directors

READ MORE: Avolta secures duty free concessions for Hong Kong-Macau ferry terminal

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