TRConnect Covid-19 webinar questions answered: Sarah Branquinho, DFWC

By Charlotte Turner |

Branquinho-DFWC-PresidentAs reported, TRBusiness received a tidal wave of cross-industry support for the inaugural Travel Retail Connect (TRConnect) Covid-19 webinar, which aired on 5 May.


The 75-minute session hosted at 14:00 CET 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.


During a dynamic Q&A session, panellists agreed to address unanswered questions at a later date. We can now provide the answers to those questions submitted to Sarah Branquinho, President of the Duty Free World Council (DFWC) below.


Register for the second TRConnect Webinar here.


Do you think that states and governments will need to agree on some international standards before opening to international pax? How long it will takes for all airports to be equipped to immediately test and check people leaving/entering a country?

Sarah Branquinho: The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is in the process of drawing up recommendations for global standards on resuming business for airports and airlines, with input from other global organisations including ACI and the DFWC.


The ICAO recommendations do not have the force of law, but are the global United Nations standards for airports and airlines and will be extremely influential in determining decisions taken by governments. Having a common approach to passenger safety across the world is absolutely vital if we are to restore consumer confidence. People need to know that they will be safe in airports and onboard airlines, regardless of destination.



Do you foresee Europeans willing to travel within EU during summer?

The mind-set survey shared on the call (see above video) gave a view of consumer sentiment. However, even those who may wish to travel may not be able to do so for practical reasons – airports not able to resume operations, lack of flights, quarantine restrictions when returning home. Early indications suggest that domestic travel will open up first, followed by intra-EU flights between countries where infection levels are similarly low, followed by international flights. The EU will be presenting its operational guidelines for airports and airlines in the coming days. ETRC has been working extensively with both the European Commission and the European Aviation Safety Agency to show how our shops can keep passengers safe whilst allowing business to continue. Duty free and travel retail is a very different business to domestic retail, and therefore a very different approach is required in many ways.


Does the industry look at a business restart as of September?

Some airlines such as Ryanair have already announced their summer schedule and will be operating at 40% capacity from 1 July. Other airlines will do the same in the coming weeks. Much depends on how workable the new restrictions will be. Social distancing in airports and airlines is not always feasible so we need to manage risk effectively. Maintaining high safety and hygiene standards is key if we are to convince people to travel again.


Are ‘Covid-Free’ passports a realistic global solution? How long should we wait for this?

This is just one of many ideas being put forward, but it poses as many questions as answers. What is really needed is a coordinated international approach to aviation safety which will give travellers confidence and encourage people back on planes again.


Shouldn’t there be a joint campaign that can be drafted out for the industry across the geographies?

There is already a coordinated campaign by the Duty Free World Council and its regional members to ensure that global and regional institutions, and national governments, are aware of the position of the duty free and travel retail industry. This is also being fed into the work on reopening the aviation and maritime sectors by ICAO, ACI World, CLIA and others.


What’s the collective messaging that the industry can put out to the travellers?

It will be important to ensure travellers that it is safe to travel, and safe to shop in our stores.


Is the collaboration getting worse or better between retailers and airport authorities?

It’s in everyone’s common interest – airports and retailers – to get our shops commercially viable again. Retailers, brands, airports and ferries are direct and valued members of the associations at national and regional level that feed into the DFWC.

The DFWC has no involvement in commercial relationships between stakeholders, but the DFWC has a shared and common interest with our airport partners in shaping the policies that provide the frameworks under which we all operate and we have a positive and close working relationship with the associations that specifically represent airports.


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