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Tax Free World Association

TFWA Asia Pacific cancelled as industry strives to manage impact of SARS

Tax Free World Association has responded to the concerns of the travel retail and duty free industry, which is struggling to recover from the combined effects…

Tax Free World Association has responded to the concerns of the travel retail and duty free industry, which is struggling to recover from the combined effects of war, the outbreak of SARS and the resulting downturn in traffic, by cancelling TFWA Asia Pacific this year.

The exhibition and conference were due to take place from 20-23 May in Singapore.

The Association has been monitoring very closely the impact of these global events on the air transport and travel retail industry. It has also conducted a telephone and email poll of intended participants at TFWA Asia Pacific to obtain their views. Most have stated that they would prefer not to travel to Singapore for the exhibition.

The Association has concluded that, although a number of operators and exhibitors have confirmed their attendance at TFWA Asia Pacific, the fear of the SARS impact has affected the global duty free/travel retail industry to such an extent that it is not viable to maintain the event.

TFWA Asia Pacific was conceived to provide the travel retail industry in Asia and the Pacific region with an opportunity to do business with suppliers of a wide range of prestige products. With the withdrawal of almost 50% of exhibitors and a number of high profile brands from the show, and a further number expressing their intention to withdraw, the attractiveness of the exhibition to buyers is diminished. Certain event participants have been dissuaded from traveling to Asia by their national governments, a concern for many companies particularly with regard to uncertain insurance cover.

TFWA has noted the efficient and effective handling of the outbreak of SARS by the Singapore health and tourism authorities, and has been in constant communication with the relevant authorities since the outbreak. Media speculation about the extent of the outbreak has fuelled concerns that the risk of infection remains a problem throughout the region. Recent disclosures concerning the spread of the disease, not public two weeks ago, have increased the concerns the Association would have during the event for its staff, suppliers and indeed all event participants.

As a result of the aforementioned reasons, the decision to cancel the exhibition was taken by the TFWA Board which was given the authority to monitor and take appropriate action by the Management Committee at its meeting on Friday, April 11, 2003. TFWA will now review the implications of this cancellation at its June 13 Management Committee meeting.

Erik Juul-Mortensen, TFWA President, said, Although at its meeting on April 11 the TFWA Management Committee decided to maintain the event, the developments during the last week or so have clearly shown that this is no longer an option. The decision to cancel TFWA Asia Pacific this year is regretted, but is believed to be in the best interests of our members, our exhibitors and the industry as a whole. Those who we would normally expect to welcome as visitors to the exhibition – the buying groups from airports, airlines and retailers – as well as the brands themselves are facing enormous challenges at the moment, in some cases fighting for their very survival. We understand the position of those companies that do not feel able to attend at this time. Our industry is immensely innovative and resilient, he continued. By conserving its energies and focusing on the problems in hand at this time, I am confident that it will recover and emerge once again as a dynamic and exciting market force. We plan to return to Singapore in May 2004 and before that we will have the chance to meet in October in Cannes at TFWA World Exhibition.

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