DFWC President hails start of Academy journey

By Andrew Pentol |


Duty Free World Council President Sarah Branquinho (left) with Ireland’s Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor who spoke at the event.

Duty Free World Council (DFWC) President Sarah Branquinho is relishing the opportunity to take the association’s new academy forward and to build on the work undertaken by its various partners.

Launched at this year’s TFWA Asia Pacific Conference and Exhibition in Singapore, the inaugural course (Professional Certificate in Duty Free and Travel Retail) was delivered to the academy’s first students on 30 September 2019. Each course lasts for around 12 weeks with a new cohort set to begin each month.

The DFWC partnered with Generation Research and parent company Contineo Labs, as well as Swiss consumer insights expert, m1nd-set to work to develop the course content. The course is supported by the likes of Tax Free World Association, Dubai Duty Free and Dufry Group.

Branquinho, who officially succeeded Frank O’Connell as DFWC President on 1 November 2019 having been elected a month earlier, joined various industry representatives and dignitaries at an Aer Rianta International-hosted networking event in Dublin earlier this week at which TRBusiness was in attendance. The purpose of the event was to celebrate the creation of the Academy and enrolment of the first cohort of students.

She told TRBusiness: “I have come in at a time when the DFWC Academy has already been established. The first course is up and running.


“All the hard work has been undertaken by Frank, the advisory group, sponsors and Institute of International Retail (IIR). I am really looking forward to taking it forward and building on the next layers up really. The course which has now started is only the beginning of the journey. We are going to take it up through the layers of middle and senior management.”


The ARI-hosted event was attended by duty free retailers and brand owners and leading figures in the world of education.

O’Connell, who had served as President since the DFWC’s founding six years ago will adopt a consultancy role in terms of the Academy. He said: “I have spent nearly five years driving this particular project and am absolutely committed to the notion of continuous learning.

“It is really important for the industry to be able to offer a process of continuous learning. It shows a commitment to people and to the people we depend on to run the industry.

“I will be happy to keep promoting that and giving advice and opinions using my 30-plus years of industry experience, during which I have worked on the retail and lobbying sides of the business.”

Branquinho, who emphasises the DFWC Academy works in tandem with company’s own programmes, reports positive feedback from the first cohort. “There are so many people moving from different retail channels into travel retail, particularly on the brand side. This is a really fantastic way to get staff up to speed.

“We know from the first cohort who have already started going through the training that they are already giving some really enthusiastic feedback. This will snowball once we get a number of students going through it and giving genuine feedback.”

Consolidating and marketing the Academy’s first Professional Certificate course is the priority, with work on a Diploma Level course set to begin next year.


Derek Hughes, Managing Director, Institute of International Retail (far right) in deep conversation with Ireland’s Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor (middle), as DFWC President Sarah Branquinho looks on.

O’Connell explained: “The foundation is already there. It is a question of increasing the levels in each section of the course up to that sort of diploma level. This in turn will bring a higher level of Continuing Professional Development points and accreditation.”

The Diploma Level course could be up and running by next Autumn, according to O’Connell. “There is a lot of work involved. The Certificate Course took the best part of eight or nine months to develop. In the latter part of 2020 we will hopefully be looking at a Diploma Level Course. A year or two later, we will hopefully come to a degree level which obviously involves universities.”

Reflecting on the delivery of the first course by IIR and support obtained from the various partners and supporters, he remarked: “They all see the educational value and are able to bring statistics, data and information to the table. This is a big part of the course’s material. The library and resource centres will all use their reports.”

John Rimmer, Managing Director, TFWA told TRBusiness:  “We are delighted to celebrate the launch of the Academy today in Dublin and it is very appropriate we are here to do that. We have received a lot of good feedback from various quarters including our own members and a lot of the brands who are interested.

“It is important we stress that the DFWC Academy is there to complement the training courses that are already in place with a lot of industry stakeholders. It is there to strengthen the quality of the training that exists and to give new options to brands, retailers, airports and other stakeholders for their training purposes.

“We think it meets a need to raise standards across the industry. We at TFWA are delighted to support this and look forward to helping drive it in the months ahead.”


John Rimmer, Managing Director, Tax Free World Association highlights the positive industry feedback generated by the academy.


Derek Hughes, Managing Director, IIR is happy how the Certificate Course has been received across the GTR industry. “So far, we have people signed from 22 companies across all continents. These include big global cosmetics, fragrance confectionery and luxury brands. We also have airports as well.”

Regarding the benefits of the Academy for airports in particular Hughes added: “The airports want to understand the duty free retail business more. They also want to develop their staff. We want to discuss with Airports Council International how we can work together as it is important airports have the opportunity to gain insights into the retail element of their businesses.”

In terms of data and insights, Clara Pérez Perucchi, Travel Retail Research Director, m1nd-set told TRBusiness how the company has contributed to the opening DFWC Academy course. “We put together insights on consumer behaviour to help with the content for the academy. These insights mostly focused on consumer behaviour, how people interact with staff, what they expect and so on. There was a strong emphasis on staff interaction and consumer segmentation.”

On the Academy itself, Perucchi says this is exactly what the industry needs. “We see that expectation of travellers for better service, but can only expect staff to give better service if they have the right tools to do so.”

Martin Carpenter, General Manager, ARI Ireland concluded: “It was really important this event took place in Dublin given the provenance of duty free which started in Ireland in 1947. The Academy programme itself gives a good insight into the industry and complements the in-house training of various companies which tends to focus more on day-to-day elements.”


Before speaking separately to TRBusiness, DFWC President Sarah Branquinho told the audience that the Academy provides a platform for retail staff to gain qualifications and develop their careers within the industry.





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