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Nordic Travel Retail Seminar attracts 70 delegates

Göran PerssonThe 2011 edition of the Nordic Travel Retail Seminar, organised by trade association Nordic Travel Retail Group (NTRG) just outside of Stockholm, attracted about 70 delegates under the theme Prepared for Everything?

Following a welcome address by NTRG chairman John Baumgartner, who highlighted the growing number of members of the association, keynote speaker and former Swedish prime minister Göran Persson (pictured) addressed the audience, focusing on the challenges the travel-retail industry and Europe in general are facing now and will face in the near future. He said the current economic situation in Greece and Ireland alone is not enough to generate a regional crisis, but that European Union pillars such as France, Spain and Italy could put Europe in deep trouble if they don’t address their finances. He added that population growth and environmental issues were also crucial matters for the EU.

The second session began with a presentation by Hume Brophy partner John Hume on the regulatory challenges and threats to the duty-free industry, particularly the one-bag rule introduced by Ryanair and taken up by other airlines, most recently Aer Lingus. He said the restriction causes declines on retail sales at some airports dependant on low-cost carriers of up to 40% and urged the NTRG to lobby Scandinavian governments to enforce EU passenger rights legislation. He also touched on the World Health Organization challenges to tobacco and alcohol.

Hume was followed by Pernod Ricard Travel Retail Europe Nordic regional director Mark Winslow, who covered the subject of premiumisation in the duty-free channel and its advantages. He said the strategy could reduce pressure on aged stocks of whisky, for example, and increase profitability through higher value rather than volume sales. However, the warned that product quality was crucial for the success of premiumisation across all categories.

The final session of the day started with a presentation by Finest.se editor-in-chief Alexander Erwik on the commercial potential of blogs. He explained that in Sweden blogs are the best way to address younger audiences due to their popularity, adding that famous bloggers have become celebrities in their own right. Erwik also said corporate bloggers were a good alternative for companies as a more personal voice to address customers.

Scandinavian Airlines head of social media Christian Kamhaug closed the day by explaining how the airline uses a range of social networks to communicate with customers, highlighting the importance of honesty and speed of response. He said the volcano ash crisis of 2010 served as a platform to make the company’s social media platforms relevant to customers due to the ability to immediately act on passengers’ needs and requests, adding that it is important to have a coordinated approach to social networks so that companies present a unified voice.