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It’s only 6 January but I figure that this photograph will take some beating as the travel retail image of 2008.
The scene is a small village in South Africa’s North West Province. It symbolises the marvellous fruition of an initiative started by World Duty Free to support the ‘One Water’ concept championed by UK entrepreneur and philanthropist Duncan Goose since 2005.
All profits from One Water, a natural spring water from Wales, go to funding PlayPumps in Africa. Put simply a PlayPump is a unique water pumping system that is powered by children playing on a roundabout. That action creates the pumping of fresh, clean water from deep under the surface. It’s fun, educational – and life-saving.
Around a billion people in Africa lack clean water, a crisis that causes an estimated two million deaths each year. Selling water to give water – what a brilliant concept. And it’s one that World Duty Free is fully committed to, retailing One Water in several of its stores and funding 12 PlayPumps to date with the proceeds.
The retailer plans to fund a whole lot more in the future. It’s even following up its work by sending members of the team to Africa to assess progress and report back. That in turn motivates the whole World Duty Free team, from senior management to shop floor, to do even more.
We think such examples of corporate and social responsibility deserve relating to a wider audience. Not because World Duty Free or others who embrace good causes seek the publicity but because it underlines the ability of our industry to make a difference if its collective energy – like that of those small children in South Africa – is harnessed.
We saw it with The Smile Train campaign and before that with the Tsunami relief fund in Sri Lanka that funded the building of a whole village. And of course, we saw it – without knowing it – for years with the incredible philanthropy of DFS Group co-founder Chuck Feeney.
In our article about One Water on our main website, World Duty Free Managing Director Mark Riches rightly contrasts the delight of the children in the South African village after receiving toys (that may have been the only ones they have ever received) with the at times obscene excess and greed shown in travel retail.
Think he’s overstating the case? We don’t. Think about the last day rush for ‘freebies’ at the trade shows, or the delegate gift packs at some conferences – crammed with more items than any one person can possibly want, let alone carry.
Why don’t we lavish some of that generosity instead on causes such as One Water? Perhaps every conference or exhibition could nominate a set cause for products left over on the last day? The world, and the travel retail industry, would be better for it.