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  • Writer's pictureMark Edwards

3 Change Drivers in Travel Retail

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

Covid -19

Covid has driven change in the way we travel, clean and shop. For the months during lock-down, while supermarkets remained open, retailers were forced to close. This included those retailers and restaurants stationed within airports and in-flight or onboard service providers. These businesses have had to quickly revise their profit expectations and adjust. While recruitment is pretty much static in the industry, when it begins to recover, we might be looking at very different roles coming to the market than we’d expect.

While some retailers will have been able to continue selling their products online, the travel retailers who rely on bricks and mortar sales have been busy looking at online sale options. Furthermore, as the world opens up again, airports have had to look at additional cleaning measures. This brings us to the next change driver…


Perhaps unsurprisingly, tech has been the saving grace for us all during the pandemic. It looks like it could also give the travel industry a hand too. One such example is Heathrow Airport’s installation of Ultraviolet cleaning devices on its escalators. These should kill viruses and bacteria while the escalators are in use. Another example is the remote ordering apps launched recently. Customers can now order their duty-free goods remotely.

When the industry has recovered enough to recruit, we might be seeing more engineering and developer roles as well as a demand for stronger tech skills in other areas such as digital project management and digital product management.


With Covid occupying the media space formally occupied by Brexit, we’ve not heard much about it recently. But the trade negotiations will come to an end on 31st of December 2020. In the meantime, the government have opened a post-Brexit Duty- and Tax-Free Consultation. This has been welcomed by the travel retail network.

While it is difficult to predict what Brexit will do to travel retail, early analysis from the consultation indicates that a full return of duty- and tax-free sales could contribute as much as £1.1billion to the economy. Furthermore, it could generate 10,300 direct and indirect jobs. However, we were unable to find the original ‘independent economic analysis’ cited by TR Business. Our theory is that it is most likely analysis carried out by UKTRF (UK Travel Retail Forum). If you are a member of UKTRF and are able to confirm if this is their analysis, we’d love to hear from you.


While the figure mentioned for the number of new jobs is not terribly high (particularly when we consider how many will have been lost due to Covid), it does give us an indication of where jobs might arise and what skills employers will be looking for. The need for digital skills, whether due to Covid, the rise in tech and automation or Brexit, are a big feature when it comes to skills gaps. You can check your skills against the Governments Essential Digital skills guide.

McKinsey and Company also offer a detailed look at the future of skills and how to tackle a looming skills shortage from 2019.

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