For I know with the first light of dawn I’ll be leaving
And tonight will be all I have left to recall – Simon and Garfunkel, Wednesday Morning 3a.m.
I’m somewhere west of Irkutsk, south of Oka, and east of Orlik, at 31,998 feet (though that just dipped a bit in a Sauvignon Blanc-churning bout of inflight turbulence), flying over Siberia some 4,089 miles out of London from Beijing.
It’s -41 below outside (not that I have any intention of heading there) and I’m on my way home after a whistle-stop tour to the Chinese capital. Welcome once more to The Moodie Davitt Report Interim British Airways Bureau.
The Wednesday morning 3a.m reference to that lovely old Simon and Garfunkel song was inspired by the worst case of jetlag I have experienced in 32 years of doing this job. One which has meant that I have been up, though barely awake, from the wee small hours until the very late ones for three consecutive days. Oh, the joys of long-haul travel combined with short-term agendas and the relentless erosion of age.
However, the sleep deprivation hasn’t stopped an immensely fulfilling few days. Whenever the jetlag convinces me that I hate this job, the other side of my brain kicks in and tells me I love it. Regular readers of this Blog will know which side always wins.
What a brilliant few days it’s been. There is so much going on here. China Duty Free Group’s (CDFG) extraordinary progress has been the standout story of travel retail in recent years, propelled by the inspiring leadership of President Charles Chen, whose unfailing and passionate commitment to the CDFG cause never ceases to amaze. Charles entered the business in the same year as me, 1987, though he has aged a whole lot better than me. We’ve known each other throughout those years, watched each other’s careers develop and stayed in touch through good times and bad. Like all who know him, I am so happy to see Charles flourishing in his leadership role and taking CDFG into a position of great strength.
CDFG’s sustained expansion since Charles was appointed in December 2016 has culminated in a notable jump in The Moodie Davitt Top 25 Travel Retailers league – the industry’s pre-eminent ranking of players – to fourth place, up an incredible four places year-on-year. Actually, that won’t be the culmination – for CDFG has plenty of other exciting projects in the pipeline, which we will be talking about at length as they happen over the next year.
So it was great to catch up with Charles and colleagues this week, together with Craig Mackie, Director of our Moodie Insights data analytics business. After a long talk at CDFG headquarters, we had the pleasure of their company at the amazing Dadong restaurant in Beijing – home to some of the best roast duck in China. With so much going on in Chinese duty free, I have a feeling I might be returning soon. In both culinary and commercial terms there are plenty of exciting options on the menu.
I’ve also had the privilege of catching up with two of China’s most dynamic young entrepreneurs – Mirko Wang, founder of Chinese price comparison site Jessica’s Secret, and Kan (Arthur) Cong, creator of Globuy, a brilliant Chinese consumer media-to-advertising-to-KOL firm we are working with closely. These are smart young men. Crucially, they also have integrity. Meeting them, combined with the experience and enrichment of the past few days, is worth every exhausting moment of the jetlag. Watch this space: I will be back in Beijing within weeks. First though, I need some sleep. Turbulence or not, it’s time for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.