June 9 2017  |  Associations

ASUTIL's last solo conference ends with a recognition of industry leaders, a review of past and present and a look ahead

By Ronnie Lovler

 This year’s award winner, Enrique Urioste CEO of Neutral Duty Free and immediate past president of ASUTIL

Enrique Urioste won the ASUTIL award of the year Thursday at the closing ceremony of the organization’s 21st and last solo conference at Rio de Janeiro’s Hilton Hotel in Barra de Tijuca. ASUTIL Secretary-General José Luis Donagaray said Urioste, CEO of Neutral Duty Free, who ended his term as ASUTIL president in 2016, was recognized for his  “support of the industry” throughout the years.

“I didn’t know anything about this,” a surprised Urioste said.  This is an important moment for ASUTIL. More than 22 years ago men had a vision. In 1994, world was not what it was today.

“To have success, we needed to create an association that unified our interests … and protect the duty free industry and expand our knowledge.”

The award ceremony also paid tribute to ASUTIL pioneers and founders  including Samuel Kauffmann, Jonas Barcellos and Santos de Arejo Fagundes, the father of current ASUTIL president Gustavo Fagundes.

But the awards and the honors followed an afternoon of learning, starting with a closer look at the global economic geography and its regional impact.

Challenges and opportunities

Ernesto Talvi, academic director of the Center for the Study of Economic and Social Reality or CERES, of Uruguay, talked about the impact of global economic pressures on regional and national situations.

Ernesto Talvi, academic director CERES

He noted some disturbing worldwide trends, including what he called anemic global growth and rising unemployment rates, when one takes into account the number of people who have simply stopped looking for work, the fear of financial turbulence in China and the political uncertainties in the United States and Europe, among other things.

He emphasized that Latin America is no different form the rest of the world in feeling the impact of these international developments, including the particular situations confronting regional giants Brazil and Argentina.  

And he reminded his audience, as London Supply’s Francisco Heredia did a day earlier, of the cyclical nature of Latin American political and economic life.  “Maybe in 35 years, we will be able to say that in spite of the difficulties we found today, this was the moment we took on the challenges to become prosperous countries,” Talvi said.

Talvi said he was optimistic about Argentina and Brazil despite the uncertainties. In Argentina, upcoming October elections are seen as key to President Mauricio Macri’s political future and in Brazil, president Michel Temer has only a most tenuous hold on power as a corruption investigation continues.

But for the present, he emphasized there are myriad possibilities for economic rebound. “If the political situations are resolved … the capacity to reboot these economies is huge … but we need the political capacity to do it.”

Reality check

Peter Mohn, owner and CEO of the Switzerland-based company m1nd-set, shared some real industry nuts and bolts based on his company’s studies of the travel retail market and air travel patterns. One interesting piece of information he put forward is views on price perception in the travel retain channel versus the domestic market,

Peter Mohn, owner & CEO, m1nd-set

Mohn also pointed out that today’s travelers are local touch seekers who are made up of three segments: authentic product seekers, browsers and those looking for products they cannot find anywhere else.

“Travelers are looking for memorable and unique experiences.” Mohn said.. “More than 60 percent say sense of place is important part of the airport experience for them. Travelers want to feel more sense of place when they are traveling.”

Rafael Parodi, commercial department, Siñerez Shopping

Other speakers included Rafael Parodi, of the Commercial Department of Siñerez. who talked about his company’s transformation and the evolution of the border duty free stores into an all-in-one shopping experience. Olga San Jacinto, director of Google Latin America, spoke about the digitalization of the region.

Olga San Jacinto, director Google, Latin America

Last but not least

The conference ended on a high note with its recognition of industry leaders past and present.  And then, so that all could take part in the festivities, the day concluded with a gala dinner, sponsored by Dufry.

Gustavo Fagundes, president ASUTIL and COO Dufry Brazil and Bolivia

This was ASUTIL’s last solo conference. Next year, ASUTIL will join forces with IAADFS for a “Summit of the Americas,” scheduled for March 2018 in Orlando.

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