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After a weekend of glorious Florida sunshine it’s a wet and humid day here in Orlando as the annual Duty Free Show of the Americas swings into action.

I suspect all the talk at the show will revolve around The Shilla Hotel’s acquisition of a 44% stake in DFASS for US$105 million with the option to buy a further 36% stake in five years time. That is some result for Benny Klepach (below), the Miami-based entrepreneur, who has built his company from scratch in 1987 to the world’s leading inflight concessionaire.

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Critically, certainly from Shilla’s perspective, DFASS enjoys a range of key distribution agreements with various high-end brand owners for liquor, cosmetics & perfumes and watches.  With Shilla entering the liquor & tobacco space at Incheon International Airport following its recent tender success, expect that relationship to be pivotal to this deal.

Meantime the show kicks off amid what is arguably the most troubled global climate I have seen in 28 years of commentating on this business. With the Russian business in meltdown worldwide (devalued Rouble, Ukraine crisis); the Brazilian Real in freefall (it hit a 12-year low last Thursday; the Japanese Yen trading -20% down against the Dollar; the Chinese government crackdown on corruption and luxury gift giving and – shall I continue? – the growing instability of much of the Middle East and a worryingly large chunk of Africa and you have what one senior brand executive last night described to me as “the perfect storm”.

It is tough out there. Very, very tough. South Korea is one of the few bright lights and today it reflected that light on Miami.

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[With Colm McLoughlin and Harry Diehl on the Hawk's Landing Golf Course]

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[The closest I got to a birdie all day]

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[Former IAADFS President David Bernstein hosted his traditional Friday evening dinner for close friends. It was wonderful to see his wife Pat looking so healthy after recent major surgery.]

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[Three blooming roses: Loraine Motta, Breeda McLoughlin and Lui Ming Chang] 

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[José Luis Donagaray, Colm McLoughlin, Peter Sant and John Gallagher at the Opening Cocktail]


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Today is St Patrick’s Day, a day when the Irish celebrate (and just keep on celebrating) all over the world.

It’s also the birthday of Colleen (how well named she was) Morgan (ok then with a Welsh twist), The Moodie Report’s Rhodes-based Special Correspondent and a friend for over four decades.

And, not least, it is the day that one of the very best men in the travel retail community goes under the surgeon’s knife for a long operation that will rid his body of the bully that is cancer. His many, many friends in the industry know who I am talking about. He, a man who stood by me during my own battle with this damned disease, he who will walk through this storm. And he who will never walk alone.

So today I shall raise a glass or two of the dark stuff to all the many great Irishmen and women in travel retail, past and present. I shall also raise one to my Dublin-born Ma (rest in peace Mary Madeline Sophia O’Neill), to our own Irish Colleen and, most of all, to the big man himself.


One Response to “Some special toasts for St Patrick’s Day”

  1. Peter S says:

    hear hear Martin, we will be lighting candles and raising our glasses to the big man, from Singapore with love

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I’m back in London for the weekend for a few days before next week’s IAADFS show in Orlando post a great experience at what I considered to be an excellent China’s Century conference in Shanghai.

As any conference organiser will tell you, you can’t please all of the people all of the time (hell, often it’s difficult to please any of the people any of the time), but I felt that TFWA made a pretty decent stab at doing just that.

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There were several outstanding presentations – China Duty Free Group Vice President Zhao Feng (above) arguably the stand-out for a superbly detailed analysis of the Chinese travel retail market.

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But I also liked very much the presentation of Li Can (below), President of China National Service Corp (CSNC), a great pioneer of duty free retailing in China. CSNC runs a chain of 12 downtown stores for Chinese nationals returning from abroad who can purchase within a 180-day period – and it may well run a great deal more in the future.

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Li talked ambitiously and impressively of the company’s planned 3,300sq m downtown store in Shanghai, due to open in late 2015, and other expansion plans. But the real nub of his speech came after he highlighted the tremendous growth in outbound Chinese tourism. “All those outbound Chinese are potential customers of CSNC,” Li said, adding that the level of Chinese spending abroad has become “a very heavy burden for the Chinese government”.

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Make no mistake, this was an important, and considered, speech. The Chinese government is determined not to repeat the errors made by the Japanese during the great travel boom of the late 60s, 70s and early 80s when the world (but not Japan) got rich from booming Japanese travel-related spending. Expect the authorities to work very hard to encourage domestic consumption – and CSNC’s until now relatively under-developed post-arrivals model may well be a very useful means to achieve that end.

CSNC, part of one of China’s biggest state enterprises, feels like an organisation on the verge of something very big indeed.

There were many other high points. TFWA likes to get marketing gurus on its conference programmes, with mixed success down the years. However, their frontline choice here, China Market Research Group Managing Director Shaun Rein (below), was right on the money (in every sense).


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In a telling juxtaposition of slides he showed an image of frenzied Chinese shoppers outside an overseas Louis Vuitton downtown store a couple of years back and then a more recent one (above) of Chinese tourists trekking in the mountains (and, most of all, the clean air).

Does the clear and sustained move away from shopping holidays to experiential vacations spell danger for pure travel retailers, he asked rightly? On the contrary, Rein said, travellers are increasingly going to concentrate their shopping into a single day and a single place – perfect for airport retailers, in particular.

As someone who has been chased out of more duty free stores for taking photos than anyone on this planet (once, famously, being warned, laughably, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for taking a 30-second, highly complimentary, video of World Duty Free Group’s then-new Heathrow T5 store), I particularly liked Rein’s anecdote about being in a Hermès store in Paris and trying to take photos on his phone of an item to send to his wife so she could choose from the two colours offered.

What happened? He was shouted at by the sales assistant and told to stop taking photos. His message was clear. Stop loving your consumer and they can pretty quickly stop loving you.

It wasn’t just the Chinese speakers that shone. I doubt I have seen a better double-act of suppliers on stage than Furla Global Travel Retail Director Gerry Munday and Edrington Group Asia Travel Retail Managing Director Ryan Hill.  Much as I’d like to write ‘I don’t like Munday’s… presentation’ for the value of a poor Bob Geldof-related joke, I have to say I DID like it. Rightly she questioned whether the industry was becoming over-reliant on the Chinese shopper. Nice problem to have though…

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Gerry’s three decades of experience in the business (she entered it when she was at primary school) shone through just as it did at The Trinity Forum in Taipei last year. The lesson?  If a brand executive stands up on stage at an industry conference she or he actually gains more kudos by addressing the issues and not talking about their own company endlessly.

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The wonderfully droll Ryan Hill (above) pointed out that Chinese shoppers are not just attracted by luxury; they also crave cutting-edge Japanese or Korean toilets (a worryingly painful-sounding prospect and a surprisingly recurrent theme of the conference) and state-of-the-art rice cookers, he said during an insightful and, again, refreshingly non-partisan presentation.

He also had the conference’s best line. Introduced by John Rimmer, he asked, “Am I turned on?”

“Yes,” replied John, worryingly confident in his answer.

“Sorry let me correct that,” Ryan added quickly, “I meant, is my microphone turned on?”


I’ve heard King Power Group (HK) Travel Retail & Duty Free Managing Director Sunil Tuli (above) speak on numerous occasions down the years and, like the Indian cricket team, he can be hit and miss, his tendency to flippancy sometimes getting the better of him. Here he was in M.S. Dhoni (Indian cricket captain) form, talking the opportunities and weaknesses of the Trinity concept as candidly and insightfully as just about anyone in the industry could. Run your industry retail model via an “auction process” and nobody wins, he contended. Tuli, not madly but deeply, back in the form that made his Trinity Forum debate with the admirable Randy Emch a few years ago on the subject of concessionaire-run retail vs the in-house model such compelling stuff. Excellent stuff.

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APTRA President Jaya Singh, of Mondelez International (I swear Morgan Freeman copied his voice), pictured above, was top value and I also liked the ebullience, and substance, of LS travel retail General Manager China Eudes Fabre (below), who announced the company has secured a luxury master concession at Kunming Airport, similar to that it has at Shenzhen Airport.

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Throw in an insightful presentation (above) from m1nd-set’s Peter Mohn (the best I have seen him in that he didn’t just present numbers but drew very human, very real, conclusions from them); an excellent (DFS-sponsored) Gala Dinner; a strong line-up of Chinese airport executive speakers; and excellence in the often under-rated art of moderation (John Rimmer, below, as mature and comfortable in his skin as I have seen him, blending nicely with the splendidly engaging local media man Trevor Lai); and you have the recipe for an event that, to me, worked on every level.

Not everyone I spoke to agreed. But then, as I said, you can’t please all the people all of the time. If you did, perversely, you’re probably doing something wrong.

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[TFWA President Erik Juul-Mortensen introduces Andrew Ford, Vice President Global Business Development at DFS Group, host of the excellent Gala Dinner. Further pictures below.]

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[Above: With Sunil Tuli and one of our gracious hostesses at the DFS dinner; Below: At the Sunil Tuli-hosted table]

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[Cécile Lamotte of TFWA and Jennifer Cords of Imperial Tobacco]

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[Above: At the Sunil Tuli, King Power Group HK-hosted table]

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[Enjoying the gala dinner with good friends Luke Chang, China Duty Free Group; Jonathan Holland, Jonathan Holland & Associates; and Morgan Freeman... sorry Jaya Singh, APTRA and Mondelez World Travel Retail]

[Below: Catching up with the team at Hainan Duty Free, led here by Deputy General Manager Sun Yong (above and second from left in lower picture), who are doing a great job at Haikou Meilan Airport (together with their strategic partner DFS Group) with sales rising +47% last year to RMB930 million (US$151 million). This year, Mr Yong told me, the company is budgeting RMB1.3 billion (US$211 million) but after a great Chinese New Year it is confident of hitting RMB1.5 billion (US$244 million). Look out for my interview soon.] 

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Footnote: My Moodie Report Interim Shanghai Bureau – a 56th floor room at the Jing An Shangri-La Hotel (night view below) – drew a few visitors during the week. Most, of course, announced their visits via a knock on my door. Not the one below…


Tap, tap… no, not on my door, on my window. Was it Sunil Tuli, worried about my review of his speech? Doug Newhouse, adroitly checking out a competitor’s story? No, it was man whose career has risen to great heights, a window cleaner, whose job no doubt is always, but always, a pane.

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56 floors up, this is the view from The Moodie Report’s Interim Shanghai Bureau.

I’m at the Jing An Shangri-La along with a few hundred colleagues from the travel retail community, here to attend the ‘China’s Century Conference’, organised by TFWA.

It’s always a pleasure to be back in this throbbing, sprawling city that (like The Moodie Report) never sleeps. I’ve just flown in from Hong Kong and just about have time to post this Blog before heading to the Opening Cocktail at Unico, Three on the Bund.

Just a few hours at Hong Kong International Airport today reminded me of why it is such a great airport. There’s always something new to see but actually it’s the old favourites that never fail to please.

It’s got some of the airport world’s greatest panoramas and if these don’t remind you all over again about the excitement of travel, nothing will.


[This sweeping image takes in the airport's two great duplex stores, Chanel (left) and Rolex (right)]



There’s also of course the wonderful replica of a Farman biplane (below), suspended from the ceiling at T1 departures airside. The wood and fabric, French-made Farman was the first aircraft to fly in Hong Kong, where it was flown in Sha Tin on 18 March 1911 by pioneer Belgian aviator Charles Van den Born.

I flew in something rather more modern, a Dragon Air A321 to Shanghai, but I know which one I’d rather have taken. But for now, it’s time to leap onboard something more prosaic, a TFWA bus. It’s party time.




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Bob farewell 1 new


Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring
- Oh Captain, Walt Whitman

Last week The Moodie Report bade farewell to a wonderful individual, an ever-present, pivotal influence in our success since he joined the company shortly after its creation in 2002.

I’m talking about Bob Wilby, Chief Operating Officer, friend and quirky, eccentric, lovable man. He is known variously as ‘Captain Bob’, reflecting his military background and manner, and (by me at least) ‘Bob backwards’ as I always say he hates having his name spelled the wrong way around…

Every business leader needs foils to his own personality, strengths and weaknesses. Bob and I were foils just as we used to be when we met on the wintry rugby fields of England nearly a quarter of a century ago. We played for an outfit called ‘The Twickenham Bulldogs’ but we called ourselves the Bald Dogs.

I was a fly-half, used to controlling the game, to having my own way, always running at the opposition, haring off (and hair off) in all directions, my teammates having no way of understanding where I was going as I had no idea myself.
Bob was the straight man. In posture (he must have gone to modelling school), in playing style. He tidied up; he was the finisher. He played right wing (like his politics). He was the flying winger, I was the whinging flyer.

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In business, nothing was different. I would come up with scatter-brained notions by the day, usually informing him after they had already been implemented. Some (notably, of course, The Moodie Report) succeeded; others were scattered to the four winds of entrepreneurial madness. While I would leap up and down with excitement at my latest great notion, the real Captain of the ship would quietly consider the impossibility of it all, go and puff on one of his many daily cigarettes, sometimes chuckle, sometimes seethe and then begin sorting out the mess. When he went really silent, I knew I had messed up. I was never quite sure who was boss of who.

Without Bob, The Moodie Report would have been left in the starting gates of start-up zeal. Somehow he would always pick up the pieces, always ensure everything was just so. He was our interface with advertisers, suppliers, service providers and, of course, staff. No-one had a bad word to say about him.

In a moment of semantic improbability I once called him on video ‘the glue in The Moodie Report sandwich’. Please do not try such culinary temptations at home. But you know what I mean.

Bob’s a modest fellow, not one for grand ceremony, so even convincing him to attend his own farewell party was a struggle. But attend he did. There his friends from The Moodie Report down the years gathered to toast him, to present him with some great wines and Armagnac from his ‘Moodie birth year’ of 2002 and a picture we knew he would like (below). Bob cast as Captain. Our Captain. Our one and only Captain Bob.

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7 Responses to “Oh Captain, my Captain”

  1. michael payne says:

    It was always clear who really steered the ship!
    Best to you Bob and many thanks for all your help along the way.

  2. Martyn Westbury says:

    Congratulations Captain Bob

    Congratulations on your retirement, your years of steadying Martin and the business and the huge number of achievements along the way. We never had a lot of contact, but all that we did was memorable and handled with the utmost courtesy and a good dose of humour. Will very much miss you this year in Cannes but will tonight drink a toast to you!

    Cheers Captain Bob

    Best wishes, Martyn

  3. Alan Hairabedian says:

    Wonderful tribute to a wonderful business partner! May Bob enjoy a well-deserved long and happy retirement!

  4. Liz Woodland-Griggs says:

    I wish Bob all the best in whatever he is going to do in the future. I know that he will be much missed – I will certainly miss him.

    Good Luck Captain Bob xx

  5. Richard Ferne says:

    Good luck Bob, wherever you are going.
    Always a Gentleman & always genuinely grateful if there was a spare bottle of something for him, after MANY long hours, at the trade shows.

  6. Jane Grant says:

    Hold the front page…did somebody else do his head in on expenses?

    Bob, Bob, you are a very patient kind and organised man and hopefully, we’ll still see you from time to time. (I haven’t got any better at those darned expense forms btw, no matter where conscripted) Enjoy a very well deserved time dismissed & “at ease”   Hugest hugs and thankyou, keep in touch, NI is wayy better now to visitors! Jxxxx

  7. DS says:

    Having shared a tent with Captain Bob, I can also testify to the amazing organisational capabilities of the man. Precision of a military nature meant all was well whilst he was around.
    Best wishes to the mighty man in any future endeavours!

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I have survived my second tour of duty at London Fashion Week (LFW) unscathed (unless you count a case of serious, possibly incurable, shoe envy). You may remember that my debut visit to the event, last September, proved somewhat draining – I just about managed to recover in time for Cannes. Nonetheless I jumped at the opportunity to return for the A/W15 season, courtesy of Toni & Guy. But this time I went prepared.

The Welsh Chapel proved the ideal place to worship Sophia Webster shoes

Last November I hired a personal trainer who could teach E.L. James’s Mr Grey a thing or two about inflicting pain. Thanks to his tutelage I can now knock out a respectable number of sprint drills, execute five pull-ups (seriously hard!) and sumo squat 65kg (considerably more than my body weight). And if you think that none of those are useful skills at LFW, then clearly you’ve never been. Though in hindsight, agility training and some form of martial arts instruction would have been helpful too, in order to fight my way through the heaving crowds clogging up Chinatown that weekend in order to celebrate Chinese New Year.

The Toni & Guy team prep the Webster wigs

My first event was a backstage rotation at shoe designer Sophia Webster. The location? The Welsh Chapel on Shaftesbury Avenue. Reader, I couldn’t have felt more at home if they’d planted rows of daffodils and sung me ‘Calon Lân’. Fabulous footwear, showcased in a building seemingly transported from the Land of My Fathers. It was as if St David’s Day had come a whole week early.

Working the wig on the Webster ‘catwalk’
A darker take on Toni & Guy’s angular bob
Highlights of the A/W15 shoe collection
Bending over backwards to showcase the shoes

Last season the Sophia Webster models rocked a “cyber-punk meets jungle” vibe, complete with bright cobalt dreadlocks. This year Toni & Guy’s Global Hair Ambassador Mark Hampton and his team worked with wigs to create strong, angular bobs – a look inspired variously by Karen Elson, The Fifth Element and the Triadic Ballet – quite a trinity.

Ready to join the fash pack at the Criterion

I returned several hours later for Webster’s front-of-house ‘Freak Like Me’ show, which was more performance art than fashion parade. I am still drooling over the shoes (and already saving up for when a certain rainbow butterfly pair hit the shelves next season).

A full house jockeys for position at Matthew Williamson
Glam boho waves complement the designer’s zodiac collection

In between the backstage and front-of-house sessions at Sophia Webster I was lucky enough to watch the Matthew Williamson show at the Criterion in Piccadilly, a rather more conventional affair, but no less compelling. Here the hair was all about glam boho waves, accented with high volume and undone curls. And the clothes! Rich jewel tones inspired by the 12 signs of the zodiac, embellished with glorious prints and patterns. Devon Windsor’s hand-beaded horoscope gown that closed the show left me light-headed with frock lust. Dizzy with dress desire (or possibly hunger – ironically only the models seem to eat at LFW) I threw a handful of Haribo down my throat and hot-footed it to Kensington.

Access all areas at Vivienne Westwood Red Label

My final session was a backstage rotation at Vivienne Westwood Red Label, at the Science Museum, where the Mane Man himself was demonstrating the various looks to his team, resplendent in a Westwood suit.

The Mane Man Mark Hampton hard at work

For this show, Hampton and his team delivered a variety of different looks, all inspired by the designer’s youth. The general vibe was described, in fluent fashion-speak, as “real, rough-around-the-edges punk.”

Watching Hampton work is a proper privilege – and no matter how fast and frantic the backstage area becomes, he is unfailingly courteous and considerate, always finding time to graciously greet the media, explain show themes and hair methods, and motivate the models. He’s everything an Ambassador should be, and a very astute appointment by Toni & Guy.

The actual Vivienne Westwood catwalk

The highlight of the day however, came right at the end, when I was ushered towards the exit via a second backstage area, which housed all the Westwood Red Label clothes, shoes and accessories. The final way out was via the actual show catwalk (albeit covered in plastic at that stage) which we were Actually Allowed To Walk On. I don’t think Cara Delevingne has too much to be worried about, but I thoroughly enjoyed strutting my stuff and posing à la Zoolander (Blue Steel! Ferrari! Le Tigre!). I shall probably stick to the day job, but that romp down the runway was a model end to a wonderful day. Many thanks to Toni & Guy for the opportunity and experience.

One Response to “Toni & Guy: A cut above at London Fashion Week”

  1. Liz Woodland-Griggs says:

    What a super experience Rebecca. I was green with envy just reading about your visit.

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Great to see Ken Tse back in the business.

This morning’s announcement by LS travel retail Pacific that they’ve secured Ken’s services as Head of Operations – Duty Free & Luxury represents a masterstroke by General Manager Ivo Favotto.

Ivo knows Ken well from their shared time at The Nuance Group and will have been delighted at the timing of the latter’s return to Melbourne to be with his family. But could the stars align? First, LS needed a big contract win to be able to lure and afford the former Nuance-Watson Singapore Managing Director. Via the Auckland Airport duty free contract, announced last Friday, they got it.

As I noted in my original story, Ken is both popular and respected. His relationship with an always demanding Changi Airport Group was consistently excellent over 13 years; brands knew he could be tough but was always fair; peer retailers found they could discuss common issues in a non-parochial way with him.

As I have discovered many times down the years, Ken’s also got great knowledge and insight relating to travel retail, gleaned from his many years with Nuance-Watson and before that DFS.

LS travel retail Pacific will now benefit from those qualities. So will Auckland Airport. So it’s a case of welcome home Ken but also welcome to Godzone country (New Zealand of course), where I suspect you’ll be spending an awful lot of your time.


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Courtesy of our national carrier British Airways, my Yeti-like carbon footprint has probably earned me enough air miles to fly from Heathrow to Neptune four or five times a year, first class of course.

As a result let’s just say that I’m well versed in terms of the BA product. I could probably recite their entire inflight catalogue (produced by Tourvest and consistently excellent by the way); I know exactly which movies are showing and, heck, I’m even on first-name terms with many of their crew. While the service can have its vagaries I’m generally a happy consumer at the end of most flights.

But my experience onboard BA 38 from Beijing to Heathrow yesterday exceeded any other I have had in nearly three decades of flying with the airline. What an exceptional crew and none more so than one Alan Hughes (below), Cabin Services Director.

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After a tough week in China, including a couple of long domestic flights, I simply wanted to relax all the way back to London. No laptop, just a glass or two of wine, a movie (the desperately disappointing Gone Girl) and some badly needed sleep. Alan, a delightfully effusive and flamboyant chap, and two of his colleagues Denise and Laurent certainly ensured the wine (a marvellously crisp and alluring Vasse Felix Sauvignon Blanc/Semillion from West Australia) kept coming and all was peaceful for once in the mad, mad world of The Moodie Report.

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Picking up an Antipodean trace in his accent, I asked Alan where he was from.

“New Zealand.”

“Ah, me too. I’m from Christchurch. Whereabouts in New Zealand are you from?”

“Promise you won’t laugh?”

“I promise.”


I laughed out loud.  There’s just something in the word ‘Twizel’ (pronounced Twy-Zil) that makes Kiwis laugh. That and I suppose that it has a population of around 1,200 (1,201 before Alan left) and probably four times as many sheep.

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Twizel (pictured above during rush hour) is described lyrically on the town’s website as “an alpine village and a fly fishing paradise” (any place where people fish for flies has gotta be strange, right?).

Mmm, that’s not how I remember it. Twizel was built as recently as 1968 to house workers on the Upper Waitaki Hydroelectricity scheme, at one time reaching a population of around 6,000.  It was full of hard men, in town to earn a living a hard way. Accommodation was highly segregated: in addition to single men’s quarters in the middle of town, there were different houses available – the smallest for workers, staff houses for teachers and professionals, and the largest for engineers and other ‘high-status’ residents.

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[A great place to fish for flies]

It was a tough place, the sort of town you might imagine Olive Kitteridge being filmed in. Maybe Twin Peaks. Come to think of it Hitchcock might have settled on it for Pyscho. Beware the local motels. Somehow I couldn’t picture Alan in Twizel.

“I told you you’d laugh!”

“Sorry Alan. I didn’t mean to. Honest.”

We both laughed some more. The conversation, as it does with Kiwis, turned to wine, food (“I always recommend the lamb when we have it,” said Alan) and travel. I told him about a friend in the business, Barry Geoghegan, Founder & Managing Director of Barry Global Innovation, who represents one of my favourite Kiwi wines Craggy Range and of its Sales Director Warren Adamson, like me a London-based Kiwi. I recommended he seek out the Craggy Range Pinot Noir in particular.

I told Alan that I’d even wrote a spoof song about Barry called ‘I’m a Craggy Ranger and I’m ok’ sung to the tune of Monty Python’s ‘I’m a lumberjack and I’m ok’ (and mostly unprintable in a family Blog such as this). We laughed some more and I went back to my movie and Vasse Felix.

A few minutes went by and Alan returned to my side.

“I remembered that wine you mentioned and then I saw we were serving it in First Class,” Alan beamed. “So this is for you, courtesy of your friends at British Airways.”

It was a bottle of Craggy Range Pinot Noir.

How about that? Twizel’s most well-travelled son turned flying Craggy Ranger. What a wonderful touch. Thank you Alan. Thank you British Airways. It’s enough to make me burst into song. Altogether now, you know the tune…

I fly around, I serve onboard

I find it rather strange

That anyone drinks anything

Except BA’s Craggy Range

[Chorus] He’s a Craggy Ranger, he’s okay, He flies all night, he flies all day.

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3 Responses to “He’s a Craggy Ranger and he’s ok”

  1. Paul says:

    A fine drop of kiwi wine, and two fine kiwi blokes. All the best Martin!

  2. Gerry Munday says:

    loved the story Martin, doesn’t matter where you come from in NZ it is without doubt gods own country.
    Glad to see BA has not let you down once again

  3. Hi Martin,
    That was a first class blog my friend !!


    Craggy Ranger Barry

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As mentioned in my last Blog, I should have been in Haiti this week but had to postpone at the 11th hour due to political turmoil there which disrupted transport and led to widespread strikes.

I hadn’t been able to tell you why I was due in Haiti. Now I can. It was to witness my friend Olivier Bottrie (above), The Estée Lauder Companies Travel Retail Worldwide President, being appointed to the French National Order of Merit.

The National Order of Merit is France’s second-highest award after the Légion d’honneur. It is not bestowed lightly. Previous recipients include Charles de Gaulle, François Mitterrand, Jacques Cousteau, Gérard Depardieu and other luminaries recognised for outstanding civil or military achievements.

Oliver flag

Olivier was honoured for his philanthropic achievements following the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010. He was the driving force behind the creation of Hand in Hand for Haiti, a travel retail industry-led charity that plotted, opened (pictured below) and runs a non-profit free school, the Lycée Jean-Baptiste Point du Sable in the town of Saint Marc.

Oliver opening

olivier ddf sign[Dubai Duty Free was one of the most generous donors, the lead funder on a world-class sporting complex]

The philosophy was simple. The reconstruction of a country, the reclaiming of hope, had to start with the young. And it had to start with education.

The national statistics prior to the earthquake were dismal (they’re not much better now) – 203rd out of 228 ranking in the world for GDP per capita; 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty; formal education rates and literacy among the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Only 20% of eligible age children reach secondary school. All this a collective and disgraceful tarnish on our world from a country just 700 miles or 90 minutes from Miami.

All of those appalling shortcomings were rendered more acute by the tragedy of 12 January  2010, which wrecked infrastructure, killed or injured hundreds of teachers, and displaced 50% to 90% of students, depending on location. Just look again, if you can, at the horror of the pictures below, and you will see what a journey this has been.

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haiti wreckage school

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I still remember my first contact with Olivier after the earthquake. I e-mailed him to check on his Haitian wife Alexandra and her family and friends. He called me and asked if I thought the travel retail industry would help the people of Haiti in any way. I said I would discuss it with then-DFS Group Chairman & CEO Ed Brennan (who along with Olivier would become the other great leader of this remarkable initiative). Ed’s (and DFS’s) commitment was immediate and total. The rest, as they say, is history.

Haiti 1

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This week’s news brings back powerful and poignant memories. Together with Olivier, Ed and some great local supporters, I visited Haiti in March 2010, a trip I will never forget, documented each day on this Blog in writing I still look back fondly on. That early information gathering and scouting mission led to a location for the school being found, a huge wave of industry support being generated and a lasting monument to the travel retail community’s innate humanity being created.

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[March 2010 and Olivier Bottrie, Ed Brennan and Martin Moodie get a little help from on high during their scouting mission for a school site]

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[Handing out aid and meeting the kids of Port-au-Prince’s infamous shanty town Cité Soleil]

“The Lycée Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable is an extraordinary and successful project,” stated French Ambassador to Haiti Patrick Nicoloso this week. “Olivier Bottrie’s energy and commitment to it are exemplary. He fully deserves the recognition of France and this is why we are proud to reward him with the National order of merit medal.”

Vanessa Matignon, Haiti Ambassador to France, added: “Today, we are more than happy to welcome and thank Olivier for his commitment to our homeland.”

As I said, I know Olivier well. He is a proud, uncompromising man. He is also an emotional one. He will have shed a tear yesterday, not just for the achievement but for the memory of the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who lost their lives on that terrible January day.

Olivier simply makes things happen. You will have no idea how difficult this project has been. He can rub people up the wrong way with his determination to do things in the way he thinks they should be done. He will not let anything get in his way. But if he has been obsessed by this project then it is a glorious obsession indeed.

You will forgive me if I repeat my words from my original comment following yesterday’s story. They bear repetition and I doubt anyway that I can better them with rephrasing.

From the very beginning Olivier’s commitment to the Lycée Jean Baptiste Point du Sable and to the people of Haiti has been nothing short of epic, his passion for the project inspiring and humbling. He broke down industry scepticism and sometimes downright negativity through an irresistible, almost obsessive desire to make it happen, to win the right hearts and to show that regeneration of a ravaged people begins with the young and with education. 

Olivier would not take no for an answer, he would not be deterred by the naysayers nor the many obstacles that were placed in the project’s way. He did not accept that because the overwhelming majority of Haitians are conditioned to hardship they did not deserve better. He did not stand back (as I wrote in my Blog at the time) and allow this deprivation, accentuated by natural disaster, to be perpetuated. Unlike so many he did not allow his sense of humanity to be compromised by preconceptions and prejudices that aid to Haiti would be wasted aid. Through grit and an unrelenting will, he made this wondrous project happen.

We should all be proud to have a man such as this in our industry.

I am still cursing how circumstances conspired against me being with Olivier this week. Thanks to my illness that struck three months after my visit to Haiti, I never did get to see the school as it was being built nor when it opened. And though I didn’t see it this week either, I will finally visit with Olivier in April, to when I have transferred my ticket.

I cannot wait to see the world-class, free kindergarten-through-secondary educational complex. I cannot wait to see the smiles on the faces of the kids. And, most of all, I cannot wait to personally thank the man who, more than anyone else, made it all happen.

Olivier kids

2 Responses to “Recognising Olivier’s glorious obsession”

  1. Jason Cao says:

    Congratulations to Olivier! To Martin and Ed also. I still remember the difficult time of Olivier searching water for the school…Commitment behind the project is very much respectful, huge energy and effort was invested on the project. Today, I am sure all the people from travel retail industry are proud of the achievement of Olivier, Martin, Ed.

    Cheers for the kids there!
    Jason from Shanghai.

  2. paul topping says:

    Fantastic effort and energy delivered with passion and real care . Congatulations to Olivier and all the team . paul

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leena and me

Bad news and good news. My trip to Haiti this week for a visit to the Hand in Hand for Haiti school, Lycée Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable, has been postponed at the last minute due to some unrest in the Caribbean nation.

I’m disappointed as it would have been my first chance to see the school since it opened in October 2011, and my first visit to Haiti since that initial scouting mission way back in March 2010, just after the January earthquake. I was due in Haiti not just to see the school but for a very important reason that I will tell you about during the week.

The good news is that I’ve got a week to recover from a nasty chest infection that has laid me low on my recent travels before I hit the flightpaths again at the weekend. Road warrior? I feel like road kill. Sometimes you have to listen to your body and I don’t need a stethoscope to hear what mine’s saying.

Feeling grumpy and weak, I flew out of Dubai a couple of days back in the wee small hours of the morning and was cheered up immediately when I saw my friend and colleague Colleen Morgan’s new book Throw me a Smile prominently displayed at Dubai Duty Free.

As mentioned, the book relates the tough but ultimately triumphant battle of Colleen’s daughter Lucy (and her family) against a rare form of cancer that struck when she was seven (she’s now 20 and a healthy young woman).

leena display

You can buy it at Dubai Duty Free or on Amazon. A percentage of proceeds is being donated to Elpida, the Association of Friends of Children with Cancer (www.elpida.org)

I’m grateful to Dubai Duty Free for supporting Colleen so I duly bought a copy. I was served by Leena, a delightful sales assistant from Mumbai. Impressively, Leena knew all about the book that was on display. “It’s a very good book; very sad but very inspirational Sir,” she told me. In short, she’d bothered to find out about what she was selling.

As you can see, Leena has a smile that could light up not only Mumbai but the whole of the United Arab Emirates, nicely appropriate given the title of what she was selling me. Yet another human example of how well Dubai Duty Free trains its people. Yet another example of the power of a smile.

leena 1


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