“Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivée!” So say the French when the new vintage of Beaujolais wine arrives each year, before drawing the cork on the young, Gamay-based fruity quaffer.
I plan an alternative cry on this, the last day of 2020, an annus horribilis (Latin for ‘horrible year’, or in Antipodean ‘a bloody awful one’) if ever there was one. “La nouvelle année est arrivée!” I might well add “And about bloody time!” for good measure.
I won’t be reaching for a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau tonight as the clock in Hong Kong ticks toward midnight but something rather bubblier (perhaps French, potentially New Zealand, maybe Spanish, quite possibly a Trinity, in tune with our industry, of all three).
This is a year most of us would like to forget but will never be able to. But like many of you, I will raise a glass to putting it behind me.
December 31 also marks my 365th consecutive day of working in 2020. When the ship is being tossed around in fearsomely rough seas, the captain has to remain at the helm and I just hope that 2021 represents the safe harbour that I, like so many business owners, have been seeking. Tonight though I shall take a break.
My last Blog of the year is also the final one in association with Victorinox, which has so generously sponsored The Moodie Blog for the past three years. I thank Head of Global Channels Thomas Bodenmann and the fine Victorinox team for that support, which will now take an alternative form as the collaboration between our companies, I am delighted to say, continues into 2021.
Now the baton passes to Bowmore, the great Islay single malt Scotch whisky owned by Beam Suntory. The brand’s sponsorship of this Blog is part of a wonderfully exciting collaboration in 2021 which I’ll be telling you all about throughout a landmark year for the brand.
As reported, Bowmore has struck a partnership with British luxury car producer Aston Martin to create a range of exclusive products and experiences. That alliance found its first expression last August in an ultra-limited-edition Islay single malt called Black Bowmore DB5 1964, which retails for £50,000 (US$65,600) a bottle.
In December the collaboration turned into a creation of the four-wheeled variety as the Aston Martin DBX Bowmore Edition (pictured below), an SUV with an exclusive ‘Q by Aston Martin’ specification, was rolled out. Only 18 of the special edition Aston Martin DBX Bowmore Editions will be built, each to be delivered to VIP customers at a private lifestyle experience in Scotland.
I can promise – but not yet reveal – some further exciting innovations through the coming year. And I will be on the spot to tell them. Watch this space.
Being on the spot, in fact, has been something I have prided myself on during The Moodie Davitt Report’s 18-year history, my travel schedule a tale of constant wanderings, fleeting sojourns, and interim bureaux.
In 2019 I took around 40 return international trips, this year I have embarked on precisely three (Dubai, Los Angeles and Paris) and a one-way journey (London-Doha-Hong Kong). While loving every moment in Hong Kong (now my home for the coming years, having just created Moodie Davitt Asia Ltd this week), that grounding has made me as restless as a caged Karearea (the New Zealand falcon) but as flightless as our native Kiwi.
2021 will bring many good things I hope but I already know which is the best of them – COVID-19 vaccines. I will be getting my jab (either the Sinopharm or Pfizer/BioNTech version here in Hong Kong or the Oxford-AstraZeneca option in London) just as soon as I can and I urge every member of the aviation, tourism and travel retail communities to do likewise. Too many people have been lost to this cursed disease and let’s make damned sure that none of us are added to the toll.
All over the world, the New Year’s Eve celebrations will be muted this year. There has been too much hardship and too much loss to countenance any kind of revelry. For me, the night will be more about reflection, about thinking of those I love and miss, and of the many people to whom I am thankful.
I pine to hold my beautiful young granddaughter Carys, whom I last saw in late July when she was just days old, and to catch up with my four kids in the UK. I long to see my many travel retail industry friends again and enjoy face to face rather than Zoom meetings with them. I long to travel far and near and discover people and places and provenance.
I vowed at the onset of this crisis that my company would shine throughout it, no matter how great the workload or financial pressure. I must give thanks therefore to my team who have worked so hard to keep us relevant and respected, ‘fast, factual and free’ throughout the year and to ensure that we lived up to our adage of being ‘the website that never sleeps’.
Dermot Davitt must have some Trojan lineage in that Irish blood of his, so hard does he work. Irene Revilla, who tragically lost her Dad to COVID-19, has never missed a beat throughout the year. Matt Willey has been our technology and innovation guru supreme; Richard Jell constantly plays devil advocate to my whims and (just about) keeps me on the straight and narrow); and Hannah Tan-Gillies has brought a previously unseen dimension to travel retail B2B reporting with her social media skills, presentational brilliance, and zeal for the beauty and fashion beat.
The remainder of the team have made up with passion and capability what we now lack in numbers. I thank them all and apologise to all those I could not keep onboard the ship.
There have been many people in the industry too who have inspired me. I cite in particular the indomitable and inspirational attitude of Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker; the pride, passion and professionalism of Qatar Duty Free Vice President Operations Thabet Musleh, a true hero of 2020, who took collaboration with us and many others to a whole new level at a time when it would have been easier to simply cut back. May your beloved Liverpool win the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League for the next ten years on the trot Thabet (sorry Susan Whelan…).
Heidi van Roon and her magnificent band of airport brand ambassadors at the Spark Group of Companies in North America who always kept smiling behind their masks. Association leaders such as APTRA’s Sunil Tuli (look out for his great first day of the year interview with me tomorrow), who stood up strongly (and voluntarily) for our industry and to his counterparts around the world.
The remarkable, tireless Ruslan Tulenov, Global Media Officer & Supervisor at Hainan Provincial Bureau of International Economic Development (Hainan IEDB), who seems to work even longer hours than me in championing the Hainan Free Trade Port concept. And from the cruise sector, which suffered so many tribulations during the year, James Prescott of Harding Retail, a selfless leader extraordinaire; and Adrian Pittaway of MSC Cruises, a constant voice of measured optimism and straight-out hope.
A special thanks to Severino Pušić and Roger Jackson at The SEVA Group for their unstinting belief in what we did, coming onboard as landmark partners with our Virtual Travel Retail Expo when it was little more than a hopeful concept.
I won’t forget in fact all those who supported our Virtual Travel Retail Expo, especially in its early days (Ed Stening at Beam Suntory, your blood is worth bottling as my old ma used to say), or those that continue to fund our free-to-air publication, led by The Estée Lauder Companies, our pioneering supporter of Moodie Davitt Report.com and still unswerving in that commitment. Nor Alex Cook at FILTR, our partner at the Virtual Travel Retail Expo, who worked around the clock to make the impossible happen and like me did not allow himself to be deterred by the naysayers.
I applaud Chris Pok ‘Chief Shopkeeper’ and CEO at KrisShop, who showed us all the way in turning crisis into opportunity; Dubai Duty Free boss Colm McLoughlin who showed he as great a leader in times of duress as amid the more traditional Dubai formula of uninterrupted success. And the Paradies Lagardère team in North America, who have shown an amazingly optimistic, inclusive, caring attitude throughout the year and inspired me and many others in their social media posts.
I say thanks to Charles Chen and his magnificent band of men and women at China Duty Free Group who shone a beacon of light in Hainan when the rest of the travel retail world was bathed in darkness.
Most of all perhaps, I acknowledge our industry’s heroes and heroines, those frontliners who stood up as a global pandemic raged and ensured that airport, travel retail store and restaurant environments were safe and hygienic, that shelves were stocked and that customers – though few in number – could still enjoy a reassuring shopping, dining or general airport experience.
To the entrepreneurs in our business who all had it particularly hard this year, I say hang in there. People such as Barry Geoghegan, that indefatigable Irish spirit, who would see the emptiest of glasses not as half-full but as overflowing, and who just keeps on believing in a better tomorrow.
In fact there are too many people to include here so I hope you will instead accept this blanket thank you to all our readers, and to all those individuals who regularly took time out during the year to write and acknowledge the value of our work.
In a few hours’ time (a very few in my native New Zealand) glasses will be raised and a beautifully familiar refrain will ring out around the world. It is of course Auld Lang Syne, the bitter-sweet words of Scottish poet Robert Burns put so poignantly to music. You all know the first verse and chorus I suspect, but I’m going to close with one of the later, more obscure sections.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
That’s essentially Burns-speak for “Surely you’ll buy a pint and I’ll buy a pint and we’ll drink to the good old days”. It’s a lovely evocation of nostalgia, of pining to meet again, of hankering for better times. Whatever your tipple (or ‘cup of kindness’) tonight, the words I suspect will seem singularly appropriate.
Thank you to all my auld (and new) acquaintances and readers for being with me and us throughout this year of all years. Tonight we all turn a page and a better, brighter future awaits. Altogether now… “La nouvelle année est arrivée!”