Kofi Annan speaks at TFWA Cannes

19 September, 2011

The Tax Free World Association’s World Exhibition in the famous French resort of Cannes opened today (Monday September 5). Christian Davis reports from Cannes. 

TFWA president Erik Juul-Mortensen, in his address at the opening conference titled ‘Brand New World’, expressed optimism with projections that the global travel retail sector is going to grow by 10.4% to US$64 billion by 2015.

He said the sector achieved US$39bn in 2010 and is expected to reach $44bn this year.

He foresees that growth as coming predominately from the Asia-Pacific and Americas regions with “significant contributions” from Europe and Africa.

Juul-Mortensen reported that along with the TFWA growth estimates, the Airports Council International (ACI) estimates that passenger numbers will increase by 4.7% - one billion new air passengers, by 2015.

He told a packed auditorium that threats to that projected growth and industry optimism included the efforts by the World Health Organisation to stop sales of tobacco and liquor in travel retail and low cost airlines’ ‘one bag on board’ rule. The latter either restricted or stopped people buying in the departure lounge shops.

He said the association has undertaken a strategic review to ensure that it can respond on a wider scale to threats to its members.

Juul-Mortensen then went on to extol the importance of in-store media to capitalise on the increasing use of social networking such as Facebook and Twitter. He said there are now 640 million people using the former and 200m using the latter with 95m tweets every day.

The guest speaker for 2011 was Kofi Annan. After Juul-Mortensen’s optimism, the former secretary general of the United Nations sounded a note of caution. He said with the world population growing to nine, possibly 10m - nutrition, climate change and security were key issues that need addressing.

With more grain being diverted to biofuel, the cost of food was rising and he estimated a further 105m people were being added to the poverty list.

Referring to the recent Arab Spring‚ uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, Annan said that unemployment and food prices as well as poverty were central to the protest. Also referring to problems such as riots in London, Greece, Spain and India, he said: “The world is a messy place” and although there are to be elections in Tunisia and Egypt, “it wasn’t over yet”.

Annan said there is a collective responsibility. He added: “The private sector is often a place to find solutions.”

From poverty to haute couture, the next speaker was Michelle Norsa, CEO of luxury brand Salvatore Ferragamo. He said 50% of the company’s revenues were now coming from China. On the one hand, he spoke of airports as “shopping cathedrals” where everyone is equal - rich mingle with ordinary people, passengers “feel like VIPs” and there was the ritual of gifting.

On the other hand, Norsa complained about the state of US airports, cheap food, souvenirs (as in souvenir shops) and people sleeping in the departure lounges.

“Lines of people sleeping and the smell of food. I would buy it for my dog. I do not want it sold next to a $15,000 bag’” he quipped.

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