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It has been a crazy couple of weeks at Moodie Davitt Asia and it’s not over yet. That might explain why I’m starting this Blog at precisely 05.18 on a Sunday, some 28 minutes before what is expected to be a blazing sun makes its morning appearance.
I’m heavily involved this weekend covering a trade exhibition. A physical exhibition as opposed to a virtual one. Remember those? The last travel retail event I attended in person was TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes in early October 2019. Since then the traditional suite of industry trade shows has been a tale of COVID-driven cancellations. Orlando (IAADFS & ASUTIL) in both 2020 and 2021; Singapore (TFWA) likewise; and Cannes (TFWA) in 2020, though the organisers are still determined to host this year’s event.
All around the world the tale of the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) sector has been the same. Physical shows, one after the other, scrapped or replaced by virtual events of varying ambition and quality, including our own highly successful Virtual Travel Retail Expo of October 2020.
So when the Hainan Provincial Bureau of International Economic Development (IEDB) announced last October that it planned to host a full-scale physical exhibition in May 2021 covering five wide-ranging sectors (Fashion Life, Jewellery, Food & Supplements, Hospitality & Professional Services, and Comprehensive Services), there were plenty of sceptics who doubted it would happen.
Well, those sceptics’ voices have fallen silent. As day three of the four-day event begins, it is clear that the organisers have a triumph on their hands. 630 overseas companies and over 1,200 brands from 69 countries are represented at the Expo, a stunning result that underlines the growing importance of Hainan to a whole range of industries, including of course travel retail. So successful, in fact, has the show been that the organisers have announced it will now be held annually. Dead MICE? This is the mouse that roared.
Quarantine constraints (three weeks each way), alas, meant that I could not attend the event as planned. But courtesy of The Moodie Davitt Report’s recent tie-up with the Hainan Hinews Media Company – a long-term collaboration that will explore a range of business opportunities – our coverage has been both extensive and immediate. Led by ace reporter and studio anchor Lu Tian Qin (pictured below), the Hainan Hinews team have been everywhere at the show, producing reports and videos with breath-taking speed and professionalism.
Together with our own reporting, we’ve tried to bring the buzz and vibrancy of the event to life – from a spectacular light show featuring 1,111 drones by the Hainan Hinews Media Company (below) to some magnificent exhibition experience spaces from the likes of DFS, Shiseido and L’Oréal.
The organisers have worked super hard to pull this event off and have had great cooperation from local authorities. Strict price controls have been implemented at key hotels and special duty free shopping incentives have been introduced to encourage consumer visitors.
A Hainan cuisine area is just one of a total of eight public food courts set up in order to serve over 20,000 hungry Expo visitors daily. During the Expo, a Haikou Fashion Night, International Beer Festival, and many other exciting events are being held, including Hainan cultural performances at the Haikou Opera House, Haikou Bay Performing Arts Center, and other venues across the city.
Although I’m not there in situ, it feels like I am. I delivered speeches via video at both the opening ceremony (above) on Friday and at a Hainan Hinews Media Company travel retail forum (below) yesterday. Interest in the offshore duty free secotor is intense and for once it has been me answering rather than asking the questions, as I have conducted a relentless series of interviews with local media, Shenzhen TV and the popular ‘Lara’s Expo Talks’ broadcast with Lara Netherlands, a South African media anchor and reporter based in Haikou. Hainan Hinews even has its own duty free channel.
I’ve also co-written a White Paper on Hainan’s offshore duty free sector in partnership with KPMG China, working closely in record-quick time with the company’s Senior Partner, Hainan Region Nicole Zhang.
While all that’s been going on, the day job still has to be done. Again, Hainan has been to the fore. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working closely with the SK-II travel retail team in Asia on covering a brilliant collaboration between the brand and China Duty Free Group (CDFG) in Haitang Bay, and the philosophy and concepts that underpin that partnership.
On 1 May, SK-II opened its first ‘Social Retail’ pop-up store within CDFG’s acclaimed Sanya International Duty Free Shopping Complex and at CDFG’s store in the Mova Mall in the heart of downtown Haikou.
What’s ‘Social Retail’? Essentially, it is a fusion of physical retail with new technology. But here the term ‘social’ takes on a wider dimension. Mixed reality and gamified skincare experiences converge with a deep sense of social purpose inspired by two notable concepts.
One is #ChangeDestiny – SK-II’s long-running brand purpose and empowerment philosophy, which celebrates how destiny is not a matter of chance but a matter of choice. The second is the extraordinarily powerful new ‘VS’ Series from SK-STUDIO (the brand’s first film studio and content hub).
The animated anthology stars six female Olympic athletes; each film tackling different forms of societal pressures that women experience, portraying them through ‘kaiju’, Japanese for ‘strange beast’, that must be defeated in order to pursue destiny.
Look out for our special eZine, publishing in coming days, that explores this enthralling story in depth and showcases each short film, which simply demand watching for their power, beauty and message. To give you a taster, take a look at ‘VS’ Obsession below, featuring both an animation version of champion Chinese swimmer Liu Xiang and the athlete herself. It’s a compelling film that explores how the swimming superstar struggles to overcome being judged for her looks not her talent.
I feel privileged to work with the SK-II team on this story, just as I am honoured to work with my new colleagues in Hainan.
As I write, the sun has now cast its golden light on the waters below my Bureau of Nim Shue Wan, the neighbouring village to Discovery Bay. I suspect the Hainan Hinews Media team are all awake now too, preparing for another hectic day at the Expo. I will be with them from afar, translating their stories and updating our daily coverage. Almost like being there. And next year I will be. By then the mouse that roared will be a lion.