TRConnect Covid-19 webinar questions answered: Anson Bailey, KPMG ASPAC

By Luke Barras-hill |

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The second TRConnect webinar will be held on 2 June at 14:00 – 15:30 PM CEST.

Last month, TRBusiness hosted the inaugural Travel Retail Connect (TRConnect) Covid-19 webinar.

Held on 5 May, the 75-minute session attracted 899 registrations, with just over 500 permitted to watch live [to view a repeat of the webinar, click below].

Entitled, ‘Emerging Stronger in a Post-Covid World’, the first showing in TRBusiness’ series of incisive, thought-provoking webinars struck to the root of what is a multi-faceted topic and as viewers discovered, one with many converging opinions.

A compelling Q&A session featured in the webinar. However, panellists also agreed to address unanswered questions at a later date. We can now provide the answers to those questions submitted to Anson Bailey, Head of Consumer & Retail, ASPAC, KPMG.

Register for the second TRConnect Webinar here.

Anson Bailey

Anson Bailey, Head of Consumer & Retail, ASPAC, KPMG.

How long before the Chinese will travel internationally again?

Anson Bailey: We have heard that there is an uptake of flight bookings by the end of 2020 (Dec) among Chinese travellers. We would expect to see an increase in international travel in 2021, but it will be longer than expected with safe travel zones and bubbles being set up. [Source: China Briefing].

There is no one-size-fits-all. But you need to be much more customer-centric and follow your customers on their journey, which is more virtual these days.

China Duty Free has been working hard to drive business online but still making use of their physical bricks +mortar [stores]. How? Be where your customers are, and where their eyes look, and that means to be on social media and digital channels.

Data analytics is the tool that enables retailers to better serve their customers… so really use that data! We are seeing KOLs (key opinion leaders) play a role, along with tribe marketing and the rise of live streaming with the likes of TikTok.

Can we expect some similar bounce back in other markets and an up trend in domestics [travel]?

Consumer sentiments vary according to each market. China has the geographical advantage with numerous tourist attractions for local travellers along with cities at of varying sizes  and tiers. Major cities in other countries may experience a return of local travellers, but to what extent, we cannot tell right now. We are hearing about the hospitality industry know focusing on those domestic travellers and offering various staycation packages.

There are claims about capturing data on travel intentions, but that would depend on a lot of factors. How can we ensure we capture real data as it happens?

It is not possible to capture real data on something intangible like travel intentions. One can extrapolate information collected and make a good prediction for it and the information on travel intentions can be tracked from social media posts and searches made on search engines.

We did a webinar with Google on consumer and retail and I noted three key messages, including: the spending intention is down significantly; optimism for an economic rebound is low; and the recovery will not be immediate.

When do you expect Asia to open up?

It is hard to tell, because parts of the world are still battling against the coronavirus. However, we do see a growing number of safe travel corridors or ‘bubbles’ of countries across Asia Pacific establishing limited international travel destinations. NZ-AUS is one of the first routes, but we do see North Asia opening similar corridors but at different speeds. [Source: The Diplomat].

What are your expectations for volume recovery in the duty free channel in Asia? When could we expect consumer uptake to go back to ‘normal’ in your view?

Consumption in general may not reach the level of pre-Covid-19 volumes for the foreseeable future! We may see a new normal with a lower level of consumption but in a more personalised way and more direct-to-consumer.

I guess travel by car or caravan will increase, especially in Europe, do you have any idea about this?

It is logical that there may be an increase of travel by car or caravan in Europe, as we are expecting an increase in local travelling first before international travel.

I do think countries are now focused on driving domestic consumption, so a potential boom ‘locally’ in car rentals, trains, buses and aeroplanes… perhaps an increase in self-guided tours and we have seen a significant uptick in hiking and exploring the great outdoors.

You’ve spoken a lot about e-commerce strategy ramp-up, but how will e-commerce cope with travel retail? we already have click and collect in some airport locations, but how can we improve the service, taking into account the duties issue?

We can expect to see greater collaboration with a cross-market approach using digital giants such as Weibo/Alibaba and Tencent. Online discounts has helped speed the recovery of Hainan’s duty free market. The luxury island is an epicentre for the Chinese duty free industry and many stores in the area recently resumed business after closing in the wake of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.


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