‘Travel retail industry is back,’ declares Tax Free World Association

By Luke Barras-hill |

The TFWA World Exhibition & Conference attracted 272 exhibitors as the global summit made its long-awaited return to the French Riviera.

This week’s TFWA World Exhibition & Conference (24-28 October) drew a total of 272 exhibitors and 3,408 visitors (correct as of close of play *Wednesday), with the latter equating to around half the volume of the 2019 event.

A total of 35 new exhibitors joined the programme this year, but information on the number of buyers was not immediately available [TRBusiness will update as necessary in due course – Ed].

During the traditional closing press conference, TFWA revealed preliminary dates for next year’s World Exhibition.

This is planned to take place on 2-7 October 2022, though an official confirmation will follow.

In addition, the association reported a ‘ravenous’ appetite for the Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference, which  will return to Singapore on 8-12 May 2022.

Jaya Singh, President, TFWA: “We are ready for a bigger show and that is what the numbers are telling us and we are going to grow.”


In a profound and at times sentimental address to sections of the media, TFWA President Jaya Singh paid tribute to the monumental efforts of the Board, Management Committee and permanent staff in bringing to fruition an occasion that at frequent times looked unlikely to take place.

“We are back and the show will go on,” asserted Singh. “At a time of greatest need in our industry, there is a need to show up, and people have showed up.

“We are ready for a bigger show and that is what the numbers are telling us and we are going to grow. We are in recovery; let’s not forget that. The question now is the rate of recovery.”

He said it would have been ‘inconceivable’ should the event not have materialised in-person in the way it has and would have questioned the association’s relevance moving forward.

The ‘darkness’ of the first half of this year due to the prolonged impact of Covid-19 shrouded the outcome for this year’s event, he continued.

“Decisions had to be taken whether we would have the show. The reason for that is very practical. It takes months to prepare for something like this as it involves so many stakeholders in normal times. But in the times we’ve been through it involved all the regulatory authorities, municipality of Cannes and our people.

“In life’s journey, you have to take a step forward, make a bold decision and despite the uncertainty, the price of not being here is far greater than the price of taking the decision not to be here. That’s the choice and I believe all of us have made the right choice.”

Adding his thoughts, TFWA Managing Director John Rimmer added: “The overwhelming feedback I’ve had is everyone is happy to be here. Nobody has I think regretted the investment they’ve made in the show, which is important, and the feedback we’ve had is the quality of the meetings has been strong.”

John Rimmer, Managing Director, TFWA: “The overwhelming feedback I’ve had is everyone is happy to be here. Nobody has, I think, regretted the investment they’ve made in the show, which is important, and the feedback we’ve had is the quality of the meetings has been strong.”


TFWA praised the support received from the core quarters, with all the major retailers having committed to sending teams to the summit.

“That is a commitment in numbers,” said Singh. “We had Middle East and North American customers. Asia by default due to the regulations in place due to quarantine is a challenge, but still the ones that showed up… that is commitment.”

While retailers, operators, agents and others will surely welcome news of the 35 new exhibitors this year, the absence of several key blue chip exhibitors – for reasons unknown – was noticeable.

This was something that was relayed to TRBusiness by attending suppliers and retailers during the course of the week.

“Not all are here, we know that, but we consider [the event] a success because the feedback that we’ve got is that the quality of discussions have been superb,” continued Singh.

“What warms my heart is the smaller brands have had an opportunity to sit down and spend time with customers that in a normal year would be hard to accomplish.”

Singh acknowledged there were ‘genuine cases’ where companies could not afford to invest in the exhibition due to the onerous financial situation.

However, he expressed his disappointment towards companies that chose to occupy space outside the Palais confines in a scenario that resulted in traffic being diverted away from the exhibition floor.

“Thankfully, they are the minority rather than the majority,” said the President in response to a question from TRBusiness. “Our believe is that the majority will prevail in the end.”

Asked whether there would be consequences for companies in that scenario, Singh responded: “We don’t have any hard-coded ramifications and it is not our preference. It is our wish there the realisation we are all part of one industry will sink in.

Travel and quarantine restrictions curtailed the number of Asia Pacific buyers this week. This makes the TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference in 2022 even more important, according to TFWA.

“I do hope these companies reflect post this show and spend time reflecting as they will hear feedback from others – we do not have a monopoly on point of view.

“It our hope that there will be a stronger coming together in one place next year. That is my preferred route going forward. There are conversations we will be having so they will realise they are an important part of the complete whole.”

Separately, TFWA had announced plans earlier this year to offer a rebate to Cannes exhibitors this year subject to the event going ahead and forecast revenue expectations being exceeded.

Rimmer said it is too early to go into the detail given the event has just concluded.

“As an association you have to bear in mind that this is our first show for two years,” he said. “We were not able to hold a Singapore show this year so there is quite serious pressure on our finances and thanks to the management of the Board over several years we were able to build up a solid situation that allows us to look forward and to ride through the current difficulties but it is still difficult. We have to take a hard look at it and look at where we go.

“We will work on making sure that we will continue to support the people that have supported us this year. In what form that takes, we will see.”

*As is customary, final figures including those for the last business day ­– in this instance, Thursday – will follow.


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