One of the many great things about working in travel retail is the friendships you develop all around the world. By dint of its inherent internationalism, our industry is a great equaliser and I am just one of many who feels that I am blessed by the comradeship and cultural empathy that the business fosters.
Certainly that’s the case here in Delhi at the wonderful Taj Palace hotel, where a large travel retail contingent has converged from all around the globe for the wedding of Karan Tuli, son of King Power Group Hong Kong’s Sunil Tuli, to Jesreen (pictured above).
Far below my hotel room finishing touches are being made to the venue for tonight’s wedding and Pheras (the tradition of taking pheras i.e. rounds around the sacred fire).
For once some of the famous duty free faces really are free of duty and it’s great to relax with people such as Colm and Breeda McLoughlin, Peter Sant, Art Miller, Jonathan Holland and many other industry friends of the Tuli family.
The travel retail contingent even put on its own star turn during an evening of sangeet music and dance last night (below). Led by a typically understated David Spillane (to the forefront, as if you needed telling), the troupe aren’t likely to put any of the local professionals out of business but for energy, effort and enthusiasm they scored straight As.
The evening before we were treated to an outdoor performance of Mehernama, the story of legendary Empress Nur Jehan and the Emperor Jehangir. This epic tale of love, betrayal, power and family, performed in the grounds of Delhi’s Defence Colony, was simply unforgettable – not surprisingly so given that it was produced and directed by leading Indian theatre personalities Aamir Raza Husain and Virat Husain.
[Sunil Tuli, third from right and revealed on the night as a former actor himself, is welcomed on stage after the magnificent performance]
Besides the joy, colour and emotion of tonight’s ceremony, it’s likely that the occasion will see certain travel retail executives as you’ve seen them before. Most of the women are wearing saris bought for the occasion while the men will don turbans – travel retail exclusives of course. Watch this space.
To get to Delhi I flew out of Heathrow T3 with Emirates via Dubai, as always making a few observations along the way.
I don’t think I have ever seen such an ‘in your face’ price promotion as ‘The Big Price Drop’ (above) from either World Duty Free Group and, more specifically Diageo (I was late for my plane so had no time to check out whether other brands were involved). Certainly you couldn’t miss it (a fellow traveller, pictured below, stopped just to take a picture of the display). How all this sits with words such as ‘premiumisation’ I don’t know but obviously this reflects a deliberately overt approach to growing penetration.
Call me travel retail’s equivalent of a train-spotter if you like but I do have a fascination with airport advertising. To me, when done well, it has tremendous drama, let alone impact. Heathrow, through JCDecaux, does it better than most and it’s noticeable how certain brands, led by The Estée Lauder Companies, have totally embraced the opportunity. The Tag Heuer example pictured above at T3, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, is simple, classy and very visible in a high footfall area.
More to follow from Heathrow, Dubai and Delhi airports. But first I have a big Indian wedding to attend. My turban fitting awaits.