Show time… from a distance

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

From a distance the world looks blue and green
And the snow-capped mountains white
From a distance the ocean meets the stream
And the eagle takes to flight
From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes through the land

– From a Distance, Nancy Griffith

It’s a strange experience waking up in the morning to read my colleagues’ coverage of a physical trade show taking place some 14,350km away on another continent. A trade show that until its COVID-related suspension in 2020 I had only missed attending once in the previous 25 years.

In fact, this week’s Summit of the Americas run by the IAADFS in West Palm Beach, Florida marks the third successive trade show that travel constraints in Hong Kong have prevented me from attending. TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes and the Middle East Duty Free Association (MEADFA) in Dubai being the previous two.

Print magazines, an endangered species since COVID struck, make a comeback at the Summit of the Americas
The way we were (and are again): Duty Free Global hosted a packed American whiskey tasting and party on Monday evening. My business partner Dermot Davitt is packing down in the middle of the front row of this industry scrum.
Spot the well-known travel retail veteran. Well, where do you start…

Such is the way of the world at present. The need to hotel quarantine for seven days post-arrival in Hong Kong, albeit much better than the recently scrapped 21-day requirement, makes international travel both complex and expensive. Rather than dart in and out of Hong Kong as I would have previously, I need to plan a multiple-destination work (and personal) journey that hopefully necessitates just one week of hotel quarantine back here. Everyone I know here in the travel retail community is grappling with the same dilemma.

It almost feels like déjà vu looking at my colleagues’ daily update from Florida with the usual show diet of exhibitor photos, workshop speeches and social gatherings. Almost. Some of the exhibitors are wearing masks, something we would have considered weird at the equivalent show in 2019.

To my Asia-influenced perspective, it actually seems weird, perhaps disconcerting is a better word, to see so many people not wearing masks. Different areas of the world are moving at very different paces with regard to the ultimate global state of ‘living with COVID’ that will inevitably play out.

A masked Notaboo Global Travel Retail Manager Jessie Ou pictured showcasing Notaboo’s distinctive whisky, vodka and rum bottlings at the Summit. The brand is available at Changi Airport through Lotte Duty Free and is expanding in Asia Pacific travel retail, with plans to move into the Americas too.

Battle-hardened by the SARS experience of 2002 and 2003, expect many Asian nationalities to be a whole lot more conservative about personal safety than most western counterparts. While the highly infectious Omicron variant seems much milder in its effects than predecessors such as Delta, let’s not forget that COVID still caused 2,129 deaths yesterday (Source: Worldometer) bringing the total to 6,206,027 and that an estimated 45,000 people are fighting for their lives worldwide as I write.

COVID is still something you don’t want to catch. I have a good Korean friend, only in her 40s, who caught it last week in Seoul and is worryingly unwell.

I suspect therefore that as Asian nationalities begin to travel internationally again, including in time the Chinese, a kind of perceived ‘COVID-safety’ status will a key influence of destination choice for many. I will be among them.

Long-time IAADFS President David Bernstein (left), still going strong at nearly 88, alongside association President & CEO Michael Payne

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