By: Peter Marshall
By this time you will already have read a number of the reviews of this year’s Travel Retail & Global Summit as well as TFWA’s own numbers.
As you would expect from trunblocked, I am not going to duplicate what has already been said, but rather give you a personal account of some of my own experiences and observations.
First, in spite of all the difficult circumstances that presented themselves this year, the TFWA team did an admirable job in delivering a ‘lighter’ exhibition. True, some of the major brands were not there, while other brands were located elsewhere along the Croisette, but there was still a very healthy representation of brands within the Palais.  There were a number of others present that I can safely say I have neither seen nor heard of. Whether they were there to help fill up the numbers or ever have a presence in travel retail is open to question. But it was good to see a good sprinkling of them nonetheless. They showed faith and should be rewarded next year when demand for stands will doubtless match that of 2019.
What was abundantly clear was witnessing the raw emotion of people meeting again. It was great to see and to be part of.
A special mention to the representatives from Ever Rich DFS Corporation who had to undergo quarantine before they arrived in Cannes and are now in quarantine again on their return to Taiwan. That shows real commitment to their partners and is to be applauded.
Interestingly, because of the fewer number of visitors, Cannes actually felt more like Singapore. It was far less frenetic, people were on time for meetings and the meetings themselves definitely lasted longer and were of a higher quality as a result. Certainly those that had pre-planned meetings all said they were delighted with the outcome. Those who didn’t pre-plan had a far different experience.
Walking around, some places were busy, others felt like a ghost town. Arguably it could have been better preplanned by TFWA , but with the many last minute decisions to participate – literally in the previous week – this was an almost impossible task. TFWA ticked most boxes well.
I am still not convinced that, with a truncated 4 day event, there was a need for the conference on Monday morning. But it was good to have it streamed, although I did experience some technical break up. There may have been some benefit for others not able to attend for reasons known to us all. Certainly TFWA’s 365 digital platform will have been helpful.
One other benefit of a ‘lighter’, less frenetic event is that you could walk into almost every restaurant and eat. Prices over the last two years have certainly escalated and there are quite a number of new ones to explore. All were generally welcoming. Of note was the established La Brouette de Grand Mère, just off Rue D’Antibes and Annex Beach, opposite the Carlton. There, it was very amusing to see the waiters walk around in their uniforms – head to toe in designer wear that looked like a moving carpet. Apologies for not having taken a picture!
One bad experience was at La Cave, again off Rue D’Antibes. I actually had food poisoning from one of the courses.
I went back the following day to alert them and their response was this, and I quote: ”Our food is perfect. No one has ever been ill from this course which we have prepared for over 25 years. It’s not us, it is you – you must have an allergy!” It’s not often that words fail me and pigs do fly if no restaurant has ever plated one bad meal.  But I just wanted to advise that, unlike the other restaurants I visited, this one is both overrated and seriously overpriced.
We all know that COVID has created immense financial and logistical difficulties at airports. Terminal 1 at Nice Cote D’Azur is closed, meaning that everyone is travelling through Terminal 2. You would think, wouldn’t you, that with clear knowledge of the scheduling times for departures to London, Barcelona and Istanbul on an early Thursday evening during Cannes week, that the airport and airlines would collaborate to ensure a longer check-in than two hours?
Well, take a look at this video.
This is shameful. The wait on the business class line was almost as long as the economy line, where I was parked for over an hour and a half. Everyone was stressed and becoming anxious – certainly those with connections at Istanbul. I spoke to one of the managers and he said it was the airlines’ responsibility. Surely there must be some room for greater coordination and collaboration here? As for social distancing, the video shows that was farcical.
Far worse is the likely impact on the excellent duty free and f & b offerings when you finally reach departures. Nul points to both the airport and airlines for preventing us all from spending money when we wanted to. In our case and for many others, this was not even remotely possible and indeed many just made it to the plane with 5 minutes or less to spare.
Guys, get your act together! This should not happen at all nowadays and it certainly created the wrong impression to end an otherwise excellent week.
On that, I just wanted to thank everyone for their responses to the blog. I felt very humbled with many of you coming up to me directly as well as in some meetings, saying how much you appreciate the differentiation from other trade media, the topics we cover, the straight speaking. Someone said it was ‘responsibly controversial’. Yes, it’s that but I hope a lot more, too – offering fresh ideas and new guiding principles to help change the pace, the mindset and the culture of the industry as it begins to reimagine itself going forward.
There is much more to come. First, a series of three films on digitalisation and innovation, entitledAviation: The New Digital Age. These are being aired on the blog this month, coupled with many brand interviews from Cannes. The New Year brings with it a brand new look to the blog, too.  A lot to look forward to!
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Peter Marshall

Founder: Arts
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