‘Real step change’ in wines & spirits recovery expected in Americas first

By Charlotte Turner |

At last week’s TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes, Thorsten Hartmann IWSR, Director of Custom Analytics and Clara Susset, m1nd-set COO provided a comprehensive update on the evolution of the beverage alcohol business in global travel retail, powered by the companies’ joint venture data and research tool, 1nSpirit.


According to the latest data shared by IWSR, spirits volumes were down by more than 70% in GTR in 2020. While a recovery was initially expected in early 2021 the emergence of new virus variants and ongoing travel restrictions mean that the ‘real step change’ towards recovery is now not expected until 2022.


“Asia Pacific GTR suffered more of an impact in 2020 than other regions – an early lockdown in China, a lack of Chinese travellers in the wider Asia Pacific region, full closure of Australia/New Zealand borders and no functioning India arrivals duty free were all factors,” said IWSR.


Europe benefited from the summer holiday season, albeit much-reduced and border crossing shops that continued to function over and above reduced air traffic.



2021 is currently predicted to favour the Americas first (primarily US/Mexico/Caribbean leisure travel, but also functioning land border traffic US/Canada/Mexico and in Southern Brazil).

Growth in Europe and Asia Pacific will remain somewhat muted until at least early 2022. In the longer-term Asia Pacific and Europe will start to catch up to the Americas’ earlier trajectory.


The Asia Pacific Travel Retail market for spirits will only just recover 2019 volumes by 2025, barely holding 2nd place over the similarly-sized Americas.


Asia Pacific will, however, remain the best prospect for Cognac and Scotch whisky.



Within the Americas, Agave-Based Spirits and Gin and Genever will be among strongest performers. Meanwhile, Africa & Middle East will grow in importance for the total market.

Moving on to the rapid acceleration of digitalisation in GTR and how the industry can benefit, according to m1nd-set, more than half of travellers (53%) are willing to pre-order duty free products online in Q1 2021 vs only 24% in Q2 2020.


This preference/tendency is higher amongst Chinese (62%) and lower amongst Europeans (45%).


Moving on to the importance of China in the liquor markets travel retail recover, m1nd-set revealed that shoppers in Hainan are particularly likely to pre-plan the specific alcohol brand/product which they want to purchase


“Compared to Chinese shoppers at airports, alcohol buyers in Hainan DF shops are significantly less likely to buy for gifting,” said m1nd-set.

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