Michael Payne talks on IAADFS issues

By Administrator |

Following the announcement that next year's IAADFS Duty Free Show of the Americas will revert to its old Orlando Marriott Hotel home, IAADFS Executive Director Michael Payne talked with Anouska Forte at this year's show

in Fort Lauderdale yesterday about the reasons behind the move and that other important issue relating to liquids and gels.

Asked for his thoughts generally on the show this year, Payne said: ‘The show floor itself is 85% capacity, so we are down about 15% from where we were last year. I consider that not bad given what it going on. We have essentially minus four or maybe five of the perfume houses that have not come back this year. We have got the same companies, plus 36 new ones from last year. So the number of companies is strong.

‘I think where we are going to feel it is people are going to send fewer individuals to the show, if they've sent 20 in the past, they are sending 12 or whatever the numbers are. So I think we are going to have some drop off in attendance and I will know those numbers on Tuesday pretty firmly. We'll get a lot of on site registration today, so I don't know what those numbers are going to be.

‘Yesterday we had about 2200 people register ? which is frankly pretty good and if we get a good number today in the morning, it should be fine ? given what's going on. But we are going to feel it.’

So was he pleased with the quality of stands, we asked?

‘Yes, I was actually just walking through the floor before it opened and again there is definite improvement. Some that have expanded – I was looking at Pernod Ricard's stand, which has of course incorporated the Absolut brand. So they have got a much bigger space and Brown Forman has expanded theirs a bit and they look good. People have improved their booths, so I am pleased with that.’

Moving on to to topic of the moment which is the planned move back to Orlando next year, we asked Payne what the thinking is behind this.

‘There are several reasons. One of the primary drivers for this decision is the sense from attendees and members that we have lost some of the intimacy that we had, which we knew was a bit of a risk when we made this move in the first place. People have to remember one of the reasons we did this was to consolidate everybody. We couldn't consolidate in Orlando, because there wasn't enough space at that point.

‘They have subsequently built a new 100,000sq ft exhibit hall right next to the building – incorporated into the current arrangement. So we have got a lot of added space that we could use to put people down on the floor.

‘So that was a primary motivator. I think we have to acknowledge that some of the Miami-based firms are starting to pull buyers away because it is more convenient for them to be there and I think we have to address that honestly and put some distance between us and that opportunity. It seems much more equitable to me to have everyone together. We have talked with a number of those companies and we think many of them will come back.

‘We are not going to have suites like we did before. Everyone is going to have to be on a trade show floor, although we are going to look at having some business suites in some of the meeting rooms for people that don't feel like they need big booths, who are looking for more singular meeting arrangements. And we can accommodate that in Orlando, whereas it is very difficult to do it here. It will still be essentially all trade show floor – that is the goal.

As to the dates for next year's event, Payne said the show event will be pulled back again to between February 21 to 24 next year and he said there was little choice considering the magnitude of moving the whole event.

‘If you try to move a 3,000-person show in less a year, you don't have all the first choices. Those were the most convenient dates we could find – they don't conflict with Basle [the watch event-Ed]. In future the dates will get pushed back into March and back to what we consider a normal schedule. But we felt it was more important to go ahead and make the change. We got the space and the rooms we needed, so we went ahead and did it.’

Moving on to the important issue of liquids and gels and security, we asked Payne how he currently feels about the situation between the EU and US/TSA and how this issue is progressing.

He said: ‘Things are progressing slowly, but they are progressing. TSA – who we are in frequent contact with – are working on whatever the guidelines are going to be for US operators to be able to sell to EU-departing passengers. You would think it wouldn't be this complex, but there is a whole process that they have to go through. It affects airport security plans, so they are very careful and thoughtful.

‘Also people probably don't remember that we were going down this road last fall when the EU didn't grant approval and there were some regulations issued, for lack of a better term. And there were comments on them, so they have got to respond to those comments, which is what they are doing now. So lots of airports responded and IATA and ACI and us. The goal is to get this sorted out so we can take advantage of the summer travel season.’

Asked whether he is hopeful that new technology liquids' scanning technology will be online sooner rather than later, he said: ‘It depends on who you talk to. But my sense is that there is a really strong objective to put it together by the end of this year. It is a complicated explanation, but the machinery itself is in about half of the US airports already.

‘The other equipment is being installed on a regular basis. What is not there yet is the logorhythms that they have to put in so the technology can pick up some of the explosive. And that is what is being developed now and I am told they are very close. So it is not just a function of going out and getting all of the machinery because some of it is there now, but we have to get it for all the airports.

‘So yes, I am optimistic, but with the financial situation it is a matter of dollars. But there is money in the stimulus bill for the purchase of some of this, so they are moving forward on that.

‘And that is the ultimate solution for everybody in my view. It takes away all the quantity limits – if you don't have to worry about what it is, you don't have to worry about how much.’

Asked how concerned he is more generally about the economic downturn and the effect it is having on airports in this region and worldwide, Payne said it is already having an impact.

‘We are dependent on travel and travel is down, so we are going to feel that as long as people pull back on travel. I think long term it will fix itself in my view. It is just a question of how quickly does that happen? Some regions are going to feel more pain than others, that's apparent now. The Middle East seems to be doing fairly well, Asia is feeling it more, the US is certainly feeling it.

‘I don't know that it has bottomed. If I knew that I'd be a wealthy man. But I certainly think that it will fix itself and I think that people will travel again. I think the industry is resilient and it will come back – just who knows when. Everybody is down, there is no question everybody is down.’

So what can the trade expect with the move back to Orlando next year, we asked?

‘I think it's going to be a nice change and we are going to try to add some elements to the show that we don't have now. We are looking at some educational opportunities that we traditionally haven't blended into our show, because we haven't had the time to do it or the right location and to try to generate some excitement around that.

‘We are not trying to go back and just reproduce exactly what it was because it is different. We are going to try to construct something that is really focused on business-to-business opportunities for our members and our attendees. There is a lot of work to be done between now and next February, but most people seem very positive when I tell them. Frankly, I have had no one say anything negative about it yet.’

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