Asia Pacific duty free & travel retail sales rise 14.2% to $35.2bn in 2018

By Andrew Pentol |


DF&TR sales accross the Asia Pacific rose +14.2% to $35.2bn in 2018.

Sales across the Asia Pacific duty free and travel industry exceeded $35bn in 2018, up 14.2% from the previous year, delegates at the first plenary session of the TFWA Asia-Pacific conference were told today.

The session was moderated by TFWA Managing director John Rimmer, who said the aim of the conference was to explore the direction the industry is heading and the factors which will influence its future.

He said: “You don’t need statistics to feel the positive energy that has been created in Asia Pacific.

“There is ample evidence at Changi Airport, where our friends and supporters at Changi Airport Group recently unveiled Jewel, one of the most ambitious airport projects of recent years.”


He added: “From Seoul to Siem Reap and Bangalore to Beijing, there is investment in new transport infrastructure which is benefitting our industry across this region.

“This is reflected by the development of our conference and exhibition in Singapore.”

TFWA President Alain Maingreaud, who was presenting for the first time at the event as President, then revealed some key statistics highlighted in preliminary data from Generation Research.

While acknowledging that the accuracy of this data may be questioned, Maingreaud suggests we will never really undertand what is happening in our business until brands retailers, landlords and all other stakeholders agree on the advantages of sharing data.

Total worldwide DF&TR sales, broke the $70bn barrier for the first time in 2018, finishing at over $75bn. This represents an increase of 9.3%, around the same as 2017.


The First Plenary Session at the TFWA Asia-Pacific Conference took place this morning (13 May).

He said: “With momentum slowing in Europe and Americas, it was Asia Pacific which drove global performance.”

Maingreaud then pointed to a ‘remarkable rise’ in fragrances and cosmetics sales for travellers in Asia Pacific. The category generated over $18bn in 2018, growing just under 20%.

“Over 50 cents of every dollar spent in duty free and travel retail in this region, goes towards a fragrance and cosmetics purchase.

“Fashion and accessories claim a little over 30 cents by comparison and showed only half the growth of fragrances and cosmetics last year.”

With total international inbound tourism rising by 2.9% worldwide in 2018, growth in the Asia Pacific was more than double that at 6%, according to Maingreaud, who cited data from business intelligence company ForwardKeys.


Asia Pacific accounted for 31% of Inbound International Tourism in 2018, according to data from business intelligence company ForwardKeys.


“As we learnt at the recent TFWA China’s Century Conference, China continues to drive traffic in the region and beyond. Traffic to other parts of Asia such as Vietnam, Indonesia, South Korea and Philippines is also developing fast.”

Last year, Asia Pacific accounted for 31% of total inbound international tourism arrivals, behind Europe (34%).

Emphasising the importance of Asia Pacific as a key driver for the entire GTR industry, Maingreaud said: “I remember when industry sales in Asia Pacific overtook Europe for the first time in 2012, making this the world’s number one region for DF&TR.

“More than ever, this is where the trends for our industry are established and where we should look at planning for the future.”

The most significant challenge is relevance and determining why travellers should shop in our stores. “The best retail experiences are when there are great products at competitive prices, presented in a unique and inviting environment with staff which which are sensitive to our needs and who make us feel special.

“Human beings still make the difference between a disappointing retail experience and a great one.”


Inbound international tourism in the Asia Pacific region grew +6% in 2018 compared to the previous year.

The remainder of the presentation focused on the importance of Corpororate Social Responsibility, the need to improve the way we convey the benefits of the industry to customers and how the TFWA drives industry growth in addition to organising events.

“Collaborating with all the associations working in the channel is an important activity for us,” Maingreaud remarked.

He also spoke of his interest in innovation and how it opens up new possibilities in DF&TR. “The launch of the TFWA Innovation Lab in Cannes this year takes things a stage further and explores modern ways of doing business.


Total worldwide DF&TR sales, broke the $70bn barrier for the first time in 2018.

“Alongside exhibitors promoting high-tech solutions and mobile technology, we are inviting companies active in sustainability and corporate social responsibility to participate.”

Looking ahead the exhibition which commences tomorrow, Maingreaud, who joined TFWA in 1995, the year of the first Asia-Pacific Conference and Exhibition concluded: “The coming week promises to be one of the busiest yet for this eventm, reflecting the dynamism of  the region.

“The exhibition will operate with more floor space and exhibitors than ever before.”


The fragrances and cosmetics category generated over $18bn in 2018, growing just under 20%.


Next on stage was Asia Pacific Travel Retail Association (APTRA) President Andrew Ford, who is to stand down as President having held the role since 2017.

He begun with a brief overview of the Association and the work it does to protect the industry from various threats and challenges.

“APTRA was formed about 15 years ago. It comprises all key stakeholders in the industry. It is the only travel retail association which has that speciality.

“We have airports, landlords, retailers, brands and associations. We focus on advocacy, which is the most important, along with research, training and networking/seminars,” he commented.

In terms of advocacy, Ford said: “Singapore, for example, is introducing plain tobacco packaging.

“Rather than simply letting this be imposed in travel retail and duty free, we are trying to educate the government on our complex supply chain, so the brands won’t suffer too much.

“Governments won’t listen to individual brands, but will listen to a representative body.”


TFWA Managing Director and conference modertor John Rimmer (left) sits down with outgoing APTRA President Andrew Ford during the opening plenary session of the TFWA Asia-Pacific conference.

Tobacco is in fact one of the keys focus areas for APTRA, according to Ford. “The World Health Organisaion wants to remove tobacco in duty free. This will lead to the loss of 128,000 jobs and a $10bn drop in sales for the industry.

“Furthermore, 43% of customers who buy tobacco in a duty free shop also buy something from another category so the indirect impact will be even greater.”

In addition to the implementation of display bans, sin taxes and plain tobacco packaging in various Asian countries, the World Health Organisation is targeting alcohol and pressing issues relating to nutrional and health labelling.

Ford explained: “India’s Food Safety and Standards Authority implemented mandatory labelling for alcoholic beverages effective 1 April. This follows a trend throughout the region with Thailand, for example, looking to put graphic health warning labels on all forms of alcohol.”

On the confectionery front, governments are seemingly trying to remove drinks with high volumes of sugar due to a ‘big problem’ with diabetes.

“This is creeping into travel retail and for the first time in a few years, we are holding a confectionery workshop for all brands to discuss the issues and how we will tackle them.”


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