From an Interim Bureau on the French Riviera to a worldwide HQ in Ystradgynlais

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Well that’s another TFWA World Exhibition over and the familiar combined feeling of exhaustion, elation and excitement that tends to wash over me post the event has returned this year.

{As this Instagram post shows, I am always on the move in Cannes}

The view from our Interim Cannes Bureau

Exhaustion from seven consecutive days and nights of working and socialising (yes, I know, a first-world problem), elation at the reaction to what we are doing and how we are doing it. The business I created 21 years ago is currently in the best shape of its life and the exciting thing is that I feel we have barely scratched the surface of what we can achieve.

Those who know me are aware of my obsession with being the best we can be by improving – as an individual and as a company – each and every day. The publishing and event workload we’ve managed over recent weeks – and we still have The Trinity Forum later this month to come – has often seemed insurmountable but we somehow found a way while always but always focusing on the quality more than the volume.

Our special TFWA World Exhibition & Trinity Forum print/digital edition, a blockbuster 328-page issue produced from go to whoa in under a fortnight. Click here to open it.

My Interim Bureau over the next few days is a very different place from the dazzle of Cannes but on a personal level offers incalculable riches that a swanky city on the French Riviera can never match. I’m in Ystradgynlais (pop. 8,270), a small town in the Swansea Valley in South Wales, home to my daughter Sinead, her husband Adrian and their two adorable kids Carys and Iwan.

I spend all my professional life telling stories but these ones to a high-quality audience of two are the best and most important of all

Sinead also serves as our Chief Administrative Officer so Ystradgynlais {pronounced, preferably before too many Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs, as US-TRAD-GUN-LISE} is officially our global HQ.

I’ve got three days amid the associated serenity here, followed by a staff meeting in London tomorrow and then it’s back home to Hong Kong and the build-up to The Trinity Forum on 25-26 October.

Before that, of course, is another event of monumental importance. Yes, you know the one. The Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Paris between Ireland, the hottest team on the planet, and the All Blacks from my New Zealand homeland. For once the Kiwi team goes into the match as a serious underdog. But as they (almost) say, every underdog has its day.

Could that be the case next weekend? All Blacks rigny legend Sonny Bill Williams (pictured below), the most gracious of Qatar Duty Free’s guests at the Frontier Awards in Cannes, thinks so, but only on the proviso his former team can keep the ball in play constantly against the supremely organised men in green.

Sonny Bill Williams and triple Frontier Award-winner Thabet Musleh of Qatar Duty Free

Sonny Bill brought luck to Qatar Duty Free (Airport Retailer of the Year) on Wednesday night in Cannes and maybe, just maybe, he’ll bring the same to me in a hoped for quarter-final ‘blackwash’. Bring it on. In the meantime, here are some of my favourite images from the greatest travel retail show on earth.

What a night it was for Thabet Musleh as he also won a richly deserved Outstanding Contribution award
Last week’s TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes was the final such event for Mohit Lal, Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard Global Travel Retail and among the most intelligent, insightful and influential executives you could ever hope to meet. Over the past eight years he’s been a persistent and passionate promoter of premiumisation, digitalisation and Trinity principles of partnership and transparency. I caught up with him for a final (and memorable) conversation. Look out for it this week.

Ukrainian vodka producer Nemiroff unveiled a suitably titled ‘Freedom to Be’ approach with its latest expression, LEX by Nemiroff during a spectacular rooftop event at the JW Marriott Cannes. I had the privilege to interview Nemiroff CEO Yuriy Sorochynski about the launch and what it meant for his company and country.

There is always the chance to sample some great wines in Cannes, especially since the formation of the Travel Retail Fine Wine Alliance – a six-member informal group comprising Famille Perrin (France), Albert Bichot (France), Cono Sur (Chile), González Byass (Spain), Masi Agricola (Italy) and Symington Family Estates (Portugal). This brilliant example of industry collaboration showcased some outstanding wines on the Tuesday evening.

That living legend of travel retail, Jose Maria ‘Chim’ Esteban from the Philippines, celebrated his birthday in Cannes on the opening Sunday during a memorable evening at La Petit Maison
Some well-known industry figures here, all long-term friends of Chim Esteban. Pictured left to right are Sunil Tuli and Antares Cheng, King Power Group (HK); Travel Food Services Chairman Sunil Kapur; Martin Moodie; Alexandre Callens, Clarins; Bric’s CEO Attilio Briccola; and Guilhem Souche from Coty.

The Cannes show offers the welcome opportunity to catch up with long-time industry contacts, colleagues and friends. Here Dermot Davitt and I are snapped with Camus Wines & Spirits President Cyril Camus.
I kick started my Cannes week with a splendid lunch at Le Caveau in the good company of Foreo Global Travel Retail Director Gary Leong and his lovely wife (and star model) Lilith Yu

Dermot Davitt and I take up residence in our Interim Cannes Bureau
In major breaking news on Monday evening, Dufry Group CEO Xavier Rossinyol unveiled Avolta, a new brand identity representing the Dufry and Autogrill combination. Earlier in the day he spoke exclusively to me about the initiative for a film interview we showed immediately after the stage announcement.

Thumbs up as a new retail to food & beverage brand is born

Changing hue: The Dufry notebook on the right will soon be a collector’s item as the colour purple takes over at the newly named Avolta
It was a matter both of adieu and bienvenu on Monday night at Le Grand Banquet hosted by L’Oréal Travel Retail at the magnificent Château de La Napoule. The event marked the final such occasion for General Manager for Travel Retail Worldwide Vincent Boinay (pictured above right), who has been appointed President of the French beauty group’s North Asia Zone and Chief Executive Officer of L’Oréal China. The appointment, effective from the end of January 2024, will see Boinay move to Shanghai and bring down the curtain on an outstanding eight-year tenure. Emmanuel Goulin (left), a familiar and highly regarded face in the channel, will become President of Travel Retail and join the Group’s Executive Committee at the beginning of 2024. 

Leading retailers from all around the world were present. Time for a selfie with L’Oréal Travel Retail Asia Pacific Managing Director Tao Zhang and Tasa Meng General Manager Gary Chau

I had the pleasure of interviewing new Penfolds Global Travel Director Michael Jackson amid splendid surroundings in the Cannes marina
And that evening I got the chance to try some great Penfolds wines including the legendary Grange and ‘Baby Grange’ (it is a very well-developed baby I can tell you)
With fellow wine aficionados Michael Jackson, Gary Leong and Lilith Yu
You certainly get a good quality busker in Cannes. This is none other than Aaron Lordson, a superly talented musician from Togo with a wonderfully rich and gravelly voice for the ages.
There’s always something particularly poignant about hearing the accordion played on a French street, particularly when it’s this song. Que sera, sera/Whatever will be, will be/The future’s not ours to see/Que sera, sera What will be, will be. Quite.
Heathrow Retail Director Fraser Brown is one of the airport world’s most progressive thinkers, a man who has played a key role in steering the London gateway’s vast and diverse commercial operations pre, during and post the pandemic with great commitment, passion and professionalism. I caught up with him in Cannes to chat about the state of the nation at this great international gateway. Take a listen to my podcast later this week.
One of my favourite shots of the week as two veteran travel retail journalists and long-time friends enjoy a final day drink and chat during a farewell event for departing TFWA Managing Director John Rimmer, a class act who will be extremely hard to follow
Talking about class acts, John is pictured here receiving the news of his beloved England cricket team’s nine-wicket smashing at the hands of an inspired New Zealand side from me and fellow cricket lover, Delhi Duty Free Chief Executive Ashish Chopra
John in action once more, this time presenting a special gift to another fine servant of our industry, ASUTIL Secretary General José Luis Donagaray, who, as reported, is stepping down from the role after serving the association with great distinction for 22 years. 
I closed out the week with a splendid lunch on the beach with two of my favourite people, Lagardère Travel Retail Middle East Chief Executive Officer Munif Mohammed and Commercial Director Jacqui Davies.
Well not quite closed out the week, for who should I find myself sitting next to on the plane to London than Flora Lee, the dynamic Founder of Blue Chip E&M International in Hong Kong?