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Somehow we made it to the end of the year. The toughest, yet most exhilirating 12 months in our short five-year history.
So many flights, so many places, so many stories. Who the heck came up with the original idea of a weekly e-newsletter and a daily website, I ask myself? Was he mad? I put the thought out of my mind, for I know the answer…
But would we have it any other way? Not a chance.
The inherent internationalism of this industry and of the people who inhabit it, is surely unrivalled in any other walk of life. It’s a fantastic, humbling thought to realise that through being involved with travel retail. one knows so many very good and talented people around the globe. It’s an equally fantastic privilege to lead the quality of team I do at The Moodie Report.
In the traditional A-Z year-end edition of The Moodie Report PLUS, we looked at the industry’s highlights of the year. But on a more personal level, I suspect nothing will ever again rival the polarised emotions of two madcap days in early October – days that will forever sum up 2007 for the author.
The first represented the greatest high I have ever felt in 20 years of commentating on this business. It was the ‘Turning Tears into Smiles’ fund-raising dinner in Hong Kong on behalf of children’s cleft charity The Smile Train – organised by The Moodie Report and Hugo Boss.
At the time that evening seemed the culmination of a journey. Nearly three months on, it is starting to seem like the beginning of one.
The dinner itself saw many, many people in this industry (some there in force, others in spirit) at their very best. The outpouring of sheer generosity towards this most moving of causes was remarkable, both at an individual and corporate level.
The proposition was simple enough – it costs just US$250 to fund the 45-minute surgery that transforms a child’s face, their smile and their life. And yet throughout much of the world US$250 is simply beyond the reach of those who need it most.
As I write, it looks as though we have collectively raised around US$350,000 – enough to fund around 1,400 life-changing cleft operations for little children around the world. Along with Rakhita Jayawardena and Paul Topping’s inspirational post-tsunami campaign in Sri Lanka in 2004/05, Turning Tears into Smiles has become one of the great external fund-raising campaigns in travel retail’s 60-year history.
What power we have as an industry to change lives, if we choose to harness it.
The big donors were rightly singled out on the evening itself, and in all the publicity that followed. But there were many other gestures of great generosity.
What about David Spillane (above), that self-confessed showman of travel retail and head of Irish confectionery and gifts distributor GTR? Not only did he do a great (voluntary) job on the evening as auctioneer – who else could have coaxed a US$23,000 winning bid for a Chuck Feeney’s biography, out of DFS no less? – but unbeknowns to everyone on the evening he flew out the members of the Billy Norman Band (pictured below) at his own expense (including accomodation) to entertain guests after dinner.
What about all those guests – too many to mention by name – who disrupted their schedules to travel to Hong Kong just for the dinner? Or who donated personal as well as corporate money to the cause? Simply because they cared and because they were moved by The Smile Train’s objectives.
And what of Wang Li (below)? The first Chinese patient to have her cleft operation funded by The Smile Train, this tiny slip of a teenager from a small Chinese village was so nervous about reading her speech, worrying that her accent could be understood, during that she went back to her room after rehearsals and ripped up the text.
Instead, at the age of 16 and in front of a near 300-strong black-tie audience of business people, she spoke from the heart, somehow giving words to the anguish she had felt for so long (she revealed that she had cried herself to sleep for years due to despair over her condition, below).
She told a spell-bound gathering how she would never forget The Smile Train and that she would always devote herself to helping it to help others.
The many photos of Wang Li taken on the evening tell their own sub-story. There is delight on her face as she watches the amazing mask-changing act (above); channelled emotion as she tries to get through her speech (pictured below with The Smile Train’s Shell Xue); renewed pain as she watches on the giant screen the video of her as a child before she had her operation.
Searing, poigant memories all. We – and this includes our great friend Nadine Heubel at Hugo Boss who did so much in co-organising the event – feel it is not right to walk away now from The Smile Train. As I said earlier, the journey has just begun.
We’re delighted to announce ‘Travel Retail’s 5,000 Smiles*’ – the first phase of an ongoing programme in which we plan to restore the smiles to 5,000 children’s faces. It’s an ambitious target and yet just a preliminary one. Down the years we want to take it much, much higher.
It will happen in many ways. Essentially we’re trying to ‘seed’ the idea among the travel retail community, asking individuals and companies, big and small, to participate in activities that fund some ‘Travel Retail Smiles’. And in 2009 we will return with a major fund-raising dinner again.
Already the idea has taken hold. Our own joint venture conference, the ACI Airport Business & Trinity Forum in Shanghai, is making a significant donation to The Smile Train China. The annual Airline Retail Conference in the UK in July is doing likewise. Ray and Christine Martin’s training company TRT has made The Smile Train its nominated business charity and is organising an innovative fund-raiser at the ISPY Awards in late January.
The Moodie Report has named The Smile Train its official charity and will make a significant annual donation as well as helping to co-ordinating ‘Travel Retail’s 5,000 Smiles’.
And in early January we plan to announce a highly significant initiative by a major brand company that will lend tremendous profile to The Smile Train’s work – as well as a major injection of funding. Watch this space.
Yes October 5 will never be forgotten. But how, as The Moodie Blogster closes out one year and begins another, would I love to forget October 6. That was of course the night that all turned black – and bleu – for my beloved All Blacks as they came crashing down to earth in the Rugby World Cup against an inspired French team.
24 hours earlier (pictured above), at the Turning Tears into Smiles dinner, I had bid US$7,000 for a framed rugby jumped signed by the entire All Blacks squad, donated by Auckland Airport and adidas New Zealand. At the time, given the All Blacks’ hot favourite status, it was probably among the most valuable rugby jerseys in the world. A day later it was practically worthless.
Except it wasn’t… that rugby jumper has now funded 28 cleft and lip palate operations for children in developing countries. There are 28 very happy faces somewhere in the world and that’s enough to restore the smile to any Kiwi’s.
It’s hard to explain to outsiders how badly a New Zealander feels when the All Blacks lose (as indeed they usually do) in a World Cup. For weeks afterwards I would wake in the night, replaying the final minutes of the game. Every time it had a different result.
Things got worse, not better. At breakfast I would imagine French wildman Sebastien Chabel laughing at me from my cornflakes in the morning, taunting our loss. To this day the New Zealand flag still hangs at half mast in the original Worldwide Headquarters of The Moodie Report (also known as ‘The Shed’).
But whenever things got really grim, for me and all others in the land of the long black cloud (we had it repainted after the World Cup), I would think instead of those 28 smiles. And my own smile would be restored.
And so, dear readers, from those highlights and lowlights another year begins. On an industry front it promises to be the most action-packed in the 60-year history of the business, with opening after opening packed into the first half.
From Singapore to Shanghai, Beijing to Bangalore, Heathrow to Hyderabad, 2008 will bring exciting airport commercial developments. We plan to be at all of them.
We hope you’ll join us on that journey and also our greater journey down that long track on which The Smile Train runs.
The New Year is always a time to reflect. As I look back on this remarkable year and wonder how I will find the energy to do it all over again, I think of the words of the great American songwriter Pete Seeger in his whimsical ‘Get up and go’.
How do I know my youth is all spent?
My get up and go has got up and went
But in spite of it all I’m able to grin
And think of the places my get up has been
I’ll drink to that. My get up and go went to some great places in 2007. And it met some great people. The youth may be spent but the get up and go is still good, I hope, for another year.
So, on that positive thought, I’ll close this final BLOG of 2007 by tweaking Mr Seeger’s final words ever so slightly…
I get up each morning and dust off my wits
Open the paper and read the Obits
If I’m not there I will do as I ought
And start once again on The Moodie Report…
[*Footnote: If you would like to participate in Travel Retail’s 5,000 Smiles please contact the writer at Martin@TheMoodieReport.com]