EXCLUSIVE: Rachel Bulford, UK Travel Retail Forum

By Luke Barras-hill |

The UKTRF, led by Rachel Bulford, is impressing on UK government ministers, MPs and special advisors the case for UK duty free sales on arrival following the publication of a recent report.

UK Travel Retail Forum (UKTRF) Chair Rachel Bulford has told TRBusiness that the introduction of duty free on arrival in the UK would represent a ‘great Brexit win’ for the government and a victory for the industry.

In a trade media exclusive video interview, Bulford discusses the economic implications of implementing UK arrivals duty free sales.

This follows a recently commissioned report undertaken by York Aviation, which assessed the possible ramifications on the UK High Street and UK Treasury revenues.

Earlier this year, a cross-party group of more than 60 MPs and Peers wrote to UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for the introduction of arrivals duty free shops in British airports, international rail and ferry terminals.

“[Arrivals duty free] would provide a much-needed economic boost at a time when we really need to find ways to sustainably get back on track as an industry,” said Bulford. “That’s one of the things I am really trying to work towards: how do we continue to find that common ground and areas that matter to our members.”


“It will help us create jobs and bring prosperity back to regions that have been so badly hit by the absolutely catastrophic impact on aviation by Covid-19.

“We don’t underestimate the challenge of what we are trying to do here in terms of changing Treasury policy around this but we are confident that we have a really strong case, both for the industry and for the consumer, and will continue to drive that home to our key stakeholders.”

The UKTRF has been working alongside the European Travel Retail Confederation to raise awareness around the issue.

While the industry has suffered due to the removal of airside tax free sales aside liquor & tobacco [as revealed by TRBusiness it has emerged that customers at Heathrow Airport have been reacting with caution when faced with new pricing rules on goods – Ed] and the VAT Retail Export Scheme, Bulford reminds that there is scope for customers to buy VAT-free goods in downtown shops for shipment to an address outside the UK.

UKTRF Chair Rachel Bulford tells TRBusiness that it remains very difficult to get an accurate read on the impact of the post-Brexit restoration of duty free sales for travellers between the UK and EU.

While caveating that it remains early days, she said: “That is something we want to explore and maybe work with officials to see whether or not there is anything that can be taken from that.”

Gatwick Airport’s Head of Retail was elected UKTRF Chair earlier this year, taking over from François Bourienne who has stood down from his roles at UKTRF and AGS Airports to assume the position of Chief Commercial Officer at Abu Dhabi Airports.

During the interview, discussion turned to the post-Brexit restoration of duty free liquor & tobacco sales for travellers between the UK and EU, which kicked in from January.

Intra-EU duty free was abolished in 1999, but the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on 31 January paved the way for the return of sales between the UK and EU countries.

Non-EU and EU travellers to Great Britain can enjoy 42 litres of beer and 200 cigarettes as part of an enhanced personal allowance.

Bulford says it remains problematic to obtain a read on the current data given the adverse effects of perpetually low international passenger volumes linked to Covid-19.

“It’s very difficult to get a sense of what the impact really is,” she responded.

“Anectodally we hear quite positive news from some of our retailers, but I wouldn’t want to draw too many conclusions at this stage because the industry is in so much flux and turmoil that it’s very difficult to get a sense of what the true underlying picture is in terms of consumer behaviour.”

For the full interview with Rachel Bulford, watch out for the TRBusiness October e-zine.



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