Latest posts by Martin Moodie (see all)
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- Turning black and blue in the City of Light - September 6, 2023
“It’s hard getting out of China but even more difficult getting into Britain.”
My comment to a fellow passenger on a crowded bus from BA168 to Heathrow Terminal 5 drew a chuckle. “You’re right,” he said with a smile, his nose practically touching mine so packed was the vehicle.
I’m back in blighted Blighty where an increasing number of things simply seem not to work anymore. Fortunately one of them is called Boris Johnson but elsewhere the situation is rather more serious.
Upon landing, it transpired there were no steps for us to disembark from. And when the steps arrived, there were no buses to take us to the terminal. Not what you need after a 13 hour-plus flight from Shanghai on top of an overnighter in an airport hotel post-arrival from Sanya.
Having eventually cleared immigration and baggage claim (both smooth), I discovered the outside elevators weren’t working, a mild frustration for me as I knew alternative ways out to the Uber pick-up point but a rather greater one for others by the look of the long queues.
None of this is Heathrow’s fault of course but the collective experience is indicative of a perturbing feeling of decay in the country.
Mind you, I felt lucky to even be back in Britain. Filling out China’s Health Declaration Form is not for the faint-hearted, roughly ranking up there with the Enigma Code in terms of complexity. I had been through the exercise once – at Heathrow on departure to Shanghai – and had been forced to seek help from a friend in China to eventually get the required QR code.
Alas, no-one was on hand to help on the way out and after multiple failed attempts to fill in the form on the digital form, I was thinking my trip to China may have to be extended indefinitely.
Eventually, with the stress levels soaring to Everest-like heights, I got there. But looking around me at several other perplexed passengers, I am not sure everyone did. You have been warned – study the requirements closely before you reply.
Once I did get airside at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, I found ready evidence that the Chinese outbound travel recovery is still at a nascent stage. The place was very quiet indeed, though at least the Sunrise Duty Free stores seemed to be generating decent sales from the passengers who were present.
Overall, though, this road to recovery is going to be a long one and it’s clear that Hainan offshore duty free will remain the beneficiary for some time to come.
On Saturday morning, with my Maison Margiela Fragrances experience behind me, I walked the cdf Sanya International Duty Free Shopping Complex. And walked. And walked. Despite being in the off-peak season there were still good crowds throughout the complex and many of the beauty brands were generating long queues and resultant strong sales. Just how strong, we will have to wait for the numbers to reveal but for now Hainan’s star remains very much in the ascendency.