The Tax Free World Association (TFWA) said the coronavirus outbreak has had a “serious negative” impact on the travel retail industry but that it was working closely with members to offer support “at a time of great concern”.
Though the TFWA said it remains “hopeful that the situation will soon stabilise and gradually improve”, it acknowledged the “widespread concern” within the duty free and travel retail sector as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
To reassure its members, the TFWA and the Asia Pacific Travel Retail Association (APTRA) released a joint statement to confirm they will be working closely to support retailers, brands, airports food and beverage, and inflight operators while the coronavirus outbreak continues.
Alain Maingreaud, president of TFWA, said: “Our first thoughts must be with the victims of this outbreak, and with the individuals and companies most affected.
“All of us at TFWA stand with our colleagues and partners in China and in Asia Pacific, where the impact of the current situation has been felt most keenly.
“Our friends at APTRA and ourselves are in constant contact to share information on fresh developments and to assess how our industry is being affected.”
The latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO), published yesterday (11 February), showed there have been 43,103 confirmed cases of the coronavirus globally.
Of these, 42,708 cases were confirmed in China, with 7,333 classed as ‘severe’. China had reported 1,017 deaths from the coronavirus so far.
Outside of China, 24 countries have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. However, there had been no new countries with confirmed cases in the past 24 hours.
Travel restrictions are being imposed across China in an attempt to stop the virus spreading, with some railway stations and airports closed until further notice.
Some areas – most notably the Wuhan province, where the virus outbreak stemmed from – have travel bans in place.
‘Painful commercially’ – but short-term
Grant Fleming, president of APTRA, said: “The current measures on travel restrictions and recent store closures in some locations are sensible precautions to help limit the spread of the virus and, although they are painful commercially in the short-term, we wholeheartedly support these mitigation strategies for the long-term benefit of the industry. The health and safety of employees and customers is an absolute priority.
“Asia Pacific is unquestionably resilient and resourceful and there is proven analysis of the bounce-back from previous crises, such as SARS or the 2008-2009 global financial crash.
“There are underlying long-term positives, with IATA [International Air Transport Association] reporting an influx of 450 million additional Chinese air passengers over the last 10 years and analysis that China will become the largest aviation market within the next five years, with long-term growth projected to deliver one billion new passengers by 2037, to 1.6bn.
“When Chinese tourists start travelling again at full pace, which they will do, we should expect a return to commercial growth with the same vigour and energy we’ve seen when faced with other headwinds. We are, after all, a region that thrives on fast change.”
The TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition and Conference is currently set to go ahead in Singapore as planned from 10-14 May. It will be held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore.
Fleming added: “We support TFWA’s plans for the Singapore event in May – a crucial rendezvous in the industry calendar. This will be an important opportunity to discuss how we will rebound from what has been, for all our members, an exceptionally challenging start to the year.”