Time is right to put EU arrivals duty free ‘firmly back on the table’, says ETRC

By Andrew Pentol |

ETRC Managing Board shot

Recently re-elected ETRC President Nigel Keal has thanked his fellow Managing Board Members for their hard work during this challenging period. 

The European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC) has revealed it is lobbying for the opening of arrivals duty free shops at European airports.

According to the ETRC, which held a virtual briefing today (3 July) following yesterday’s re-election of President Nigel Keal, the implementation of arrivals duty free stores in Europe (for arriving passengers from non-EU countries) will be fundamental for a sustainable recovery from the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Should ETRC secure the required changed to EU legislation, which leads to the opening of European arrivals stores, this will provide employment opportunities and ‘important revenue generation’ for retail operators, brands and airports.

Elaborating on the European arrivals campaign — an initiative which has been mooted on a number of occasions over the past decade — Keal said: “We have embarked on a campaign over the last two to four weeks and secured the support of Airports Council International Europe. This, however, is very much driven by ETRC, which is calling for changes in EU legislation allowing arrivals duty free at EU airports.”

Despite being unsuccessful in its previous efforts to secure arrivals duty free at UK airports, ETRC is hopeful of a positive outcome this time round. Keal said: “The EU Commission has not traditionally been open for any discussion on this, but we generally believe now is the time to put this firmly back on the table providing we have support from here, here and here which we do.”


As mentioned, the opening of arrivals duty free stores in Europe would create new opportunities and help drive growth. “This is really a big thing for us as it is new business. We are not asking any government or the EU for cash. We are simply asking them to allow us to have arrivals shops in the European Union,” emphasised Keal (pictured below).

Nigel Keal vertical 4

With more than 40 non-EU countries operating arrivals duty free stores, opening the shops in Europe would level the playing field. He explained: “It is a two-pronged attack. We need to convince member states and finance ministers in members states that this is a worthwhile and advantageous response to the Covid-19 crisis.”

He added: “We also have to get the tax authorities in the commission to effectively overturn and write new legislation.”

On the prospect of European arrivals duty free shops in other channels such as cruise or ferry ports, Julie Lassaigne, Secretary General, ETRC said: “If you look at European legislation, duty and tax free sales are allowed for passengers leaving the EU by sea and air.

“The change of legislation would see the reverse for people arriving into the EU from third countries, also by sea and air. Potentially, there could, therefore, be arrivals shops in ports or cruise terminals for non-EU passengers.”

Offering further insight into the required legislative changes which will hopefully culminate in the opening of arrivals duty free stores in Europe, Lassaigne remarked: “Technically, what needs to change in so much of legislation is the excise directive of the EU.

“The arrivals shops would have to be placed before Customs control. This is because passengers are still technically in transit until they pass border and Customs controls. They have still not entered EU territory in that regard.”

Meanwhile, ETRC is also campaigning for EU international railway duty free shops, as this comes under the same jurisdiction.

Keal, who revealed both projects will ‘run simultaneously side-by-side’, explained: “In the original Brexit declaration about what would happen to duty and tax free in the EU, international railway stations were granted approval for duty free.

“This has gone back to an almost blank piece of paper, but we believe duty free railway station stores will be permitted in the UK. We should, therefore, be pushing for railway duty free stores in the EU as well.”


Further campaigns relating to digital labelling, Brexit, and Air Passenger Rights and threats to product categories in general remain ongoing, indicated Keal, who reflected on his re-election as President. “I am honoured by the trust our members have placed in me to serve another year as President of ETRC.

“The last few months have been exceptionally busy for ETRC, with the initial fall-out of the Covid-19 crisis. ETRC has been working to minimise potential negative impacts and supporting our members in any way possible.”

He continued: “None of this would be possible without the support of my fellow Managing Board members whom I would like to sincerely thank for their great work in these challenging times. I would also like to thank the members of the Supervisory Board, ETRC Corporate Members and the Secretariat.”

Boosting industry recovery from Covid-19 is the main focus for ETRC, which has vowed to concentrate on furthering strategies and developing new opportunities that will revive the industry in the long-term. This in turn will safeguard the future of duty-free and travel retail in Europe.

Stay close to TRBusiness for further updates on how ETRC has responded to the Covid-19 pandemic and insights relating to Brexit, digital labelling and other issues.

ETRC Virtual briefing new





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