A toast to ASUTIL

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Last September, just after the ASUTIL conference in Puerto Rico, the Latin American duty free association’s President Paco Heredia stopped off in London to participate in the Frontier Awards judging. While he was there he left me an envelope to collect from a local hotel.

At the time I had just been through a few months of chemotherapy treatment and was about to enter hospital for a gastrectomy (full stomach removal) following my stomach cancer diagnosis earlier in the year.

It was a tough period in my life but the contents of that envelope made my spirits soar.

Inside was a ten-page folder (pictured below) full of good wishes from virtually the entire delegate base from the ASUTIL 2011 conference – retailers, suppliers, rival journalists, airport executives. The message of each was one of goodwill, love and hope. As I noted at the time, to be offered the support of Dufry’s entire Brazilian and Bolivian teams – “all 2,000 of us” – was just about the best tonic anyone can get.

So when ASUTIL Secretary-General José Luis Donagaray asked me this month if I would like to link up by skype to offer my message of thanks at this year’s conference in Cancún, Mexico, I jumped at the opportunity. Little did I know the real purpose of the call.

I may have uncovered a few stories in my time but the ASUTIL Board were determined to ensure I wouldn’t find out about this one until the appropriate moment. My colleagues at The Moodie Report, both at the conference in Cancún and our HQ in London were in on the game, and duly kept their silence, ensuring that I was around to take the call.

After I conveyed my message (it’s disconcerting looking out at 300 people through a laptop screen thousands of miles away), Paco and José Luis broke the news that I was receiving ASUTIL’s annual Lifetime Achievement Award.

It was one of those moments in life when whatever you say sounds inadequate and in fact I barely remember what words I did come out with. All I know was that I was both touched and honoured, while feeling more than a little undeserving of such a wonderful accolade.

[The Moodie Report’s Peter Dowling (second from left) and Karen Lindsay receive the award on behalf of Martin Moodie from Paco and Jose Luis]

I have been lucky. I will live to continue telling the great tale of Latin American travel retail. Others, notably my fine peer and colleague Paul Pasternak, have been less so. I thought of Paul immediately as, via my laptop screen, I watched his wife Lois (Editor of Travel Markets Insider) taking pictures of me receiving the award,

I suspect my words were both jumbled and emotional. So I’ll say what I meant to say now instead: Thank you ASUTIL. Gracias ASUTIL, gracias a todo el mundo. Y esta vez brindo por su salud. This time I drink to your health.

[With the AUSTIL award back in my London office]

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  • Dear Martin,
    It was really great seeing you on the screen in Cancun and I second your thoughts about Paul as I was sitting just 2 rows behind Lois. Again congratulations to the well deserved ASUTIL Award and greetings from the ARC Conference in London