China takes new approach to Covid-19

20 December, 2022

While Hainan continues to dominate much of the focus of the travel retail spirits business, there are encouraging signs that other Asian travel hotspots are getting some much-needed attention. A case in point is Singapore Changi airport, a key Asian hub prepandemic, which last month saw the opening of a Johnnie Walker Blue Label gifting studio in Terminal 3 (T3). The interactive pop-up featured rare expressions such as Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Dundas, a limited edition which celebrates Glasgow’s Port Dundas grain distillery, which closed in 2010.

Last month Singapore Changi T3 was also the airport chosen by Pernod Ricard Global Travel Retail (GTR) to stage the showcasing of a new limited-edition release from Royal Salute whisky. Royal Salute Forces of Nature by Kate MccGwire is a S$135,000 53-year-old whisky presented in a handblown decanter engraved by British sculptor MccGwire with intricate feathers and gilded in 24-carat gold leaf. Each decanter comes with a sculpture called Paragon, featuring hand-picked pheasant feathers, making it a true collector’s item.

The new whisky, limited to only 21 decanters, was displayed in a 55sq m pop-up space which was designed to transport travellers into an immersive experience in the nature-inspired world of Kate MccGwire courtesy of digital screens featuring exclusive content. There was also an art book in-store to browse, which included more information about the collaboration between MccGwire and Royal Salute.

These high-profile activations are welcome signs of a more balanced, region-wide recovery for travel retail in 2023.

Buoyed by the easing of entry requirements in Hong Kong SAR, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, Changi is confident it will finish 2022 with passenger traffic at 80% of prepandemic. Whisper it quietly, but Asia Pacific’s long-awaited Covid recovery has finally arrived.

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