MEADFA grows affiliates as Beirut conference nears

By Luke Barras-hill |

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MEADFA President Haitham Al Majali (left) and association Board Members at the TFWE press conference.

The Middle East and Africa Duty Free Association (MEADFA) has increased its volume of affiliated members, which mainly concerns suppliers and brand companies.

Responding to a question from TRBusiness during the MEADFA press conference at last week’s TFWA World Exhibition & Conference, MEADFA Secretary General Sherif Toulan confirmed that seven alone have joined in the past six weeks and the association is hoping more will subscribe from different categories in due course.

MEADFA President Haitham Al Majali added: “I’ve met a lot of suppliers who are keen to register and by November we will have good numbers.”

As reported, the association introduced the new affiliated membership category earlier this year.

SALES REBOUND

During the address, the MEADFA President drew on Generation Research figures supplied by TFWA to remind attendees that the Middle East region enjoyed growth of +7.3% to US$6bn last year.

He took the opportunity to praise the sales rebound in the region after a difficult period. “Africa is also now a key part of our association, with sales growing from $778m in 2016 to $787m in 2017,” he commented. “This marked three successive years of growth for the continent.”

Referencing a recent United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) report, he said arrivals in the Middle East grew by up to 5% in 2017 (58m) while tourist spending shot up by 15% ($68bn) as many destinations returned strongly following weaknesses in 2016.

He outlined how growth of +9% in arrivals to Africa (63m) outpaced growth in tourism spending of +8%, driven by a recovery in arrivals to North African countries such as Tunisia (+23%).

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Left to right: MEADFA Board Member Karl Raphael; TFWA Managing Director John Rimmer; Lebanese Minister of Tourism H.E. Avedis Guidanian; Beirut Duty Free Business Development Manager Lynn Zeidan; and MEADFA President Haitham Al Majali.

Closer dialogue between the association and ACI aims to build MEADFA’s profile on the continent, where it also operates closely with other associations and suppliers.

The upcoming MEADFA Conference will be held in Beirut, Lebanon (19-20 November) at the Phoenicia InterContinental Hotel in a re-scheduled itinerary following its postponement due to safety and security issues last year. MEADFA says it has received reassurances and support from the Lebanese government on the these issues ahead of the event.

Managed by TFWA it will be hosted by Beirut Duty Free and held under the patronage of H.E. Saad Hariri, Lebanese President of the Council of Ministers.

MEADFA has yet to release the speaker lineup in full, but delegates can expect to hear from leading fashion designer Elie Saab; Phoenicia Aer Rianta Company Chairman and Middle East duty free industry pioneer Mohamed Zeidan; and Middle East Airlines Chairman-Director General Mohamad El-Hout.

“So far, attendance is looking great. We are expecting 400-plus delegates,” commented Al Majali. “The MEADFA Board is hugely grateful to H.E. Saad Hariri, Lebanese President of the Council of Ministers for his patronage of our conference, and to H.E. Avedis Guidanian, the Minister of Tourism, for his unwavering support.

“We are delighted to be able to finally bring the MEADFA Conference to the historic city of Beirut, which will provide the perfect backdrop to debate the current issues influencing trade in the Middle East and Africa. As our conference in Dubai last year proved, there is a great amount of interest in the region and the growth opportunities within it.”

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A press conference to launch the MEADFA event in Beirut was held last month.

BUSY PROGRAMME

The conference will seek to explore emerging customer profiles and consumption habits in the Middle East and survey the current aviation and travel retail landscape in Africa.

A social programme includes the traditional welcome cocktail on Sunday 18 November and a glitzy gala dinner at the Music Hall in downtown Beirut featuring Lebanese entertainment and sumptuous cuisine on Monday 19 November.

Lunchtime and afternoon networking sessions will also take place on both days of the conference, while MEADFA and Al Awael Travel and Tourism are also offering delegates the opportunity to visit Lebanon’s many historical sites of interest on tours pre- and post-conference.

Sponsors include JTI, Mazaya, Jordanian Duty Free Shops, Dubai Duty Free, Al Fakher, Kings Tobacco International, Aer Rianta International, Castania, Dufry, Lagardère Travel Retail, Imperial Brands, Ouzo of Plomari, Oris, Tourvest Inflight Retail Services, Nestlé International Travel Retail, International Duty Free Shops Morocco, Interworld Duty Free Lebanon, Haribo Group, Denizen, Capi, Hershey’s, Majani and Zalatimo.

Aphrodite SARL is sponsoring the welcome cocktail and Beirut Duty Free is sponsoring the gala evening.

The conference’s official carrier Middle East Airlines is offering special fares for delegates. Pre-registration closes on 8 November.

TRBusiness is supporting the event as one of the official media partners.

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