Extraordinary challenges require innovative solutions. The Summit of the Americas in April 2021 will deliver exactly that, building on the successful virtual formula adopted at the inaugural Virtual Travel Retail Expo in October 2020. As is the situation globally, the COVID-19 crisis has had a profound impact on the aviation, tourism and travel retail sectors in the Americas – South, Central, North and the Caribbean.
First it was shops and restaurants closing as passenger traffic waned; then whole terminals as airlines reduced or stopped flights and travel restrictions both into and out of many countries were imposed. Although domestic travel has begun an encouraging but stuttering recovery, the surging virus numbers across much of the Americas have seriously dulled travel demand and will continue to do so for months to come. From the beginning of March to early December 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in huge losses of US$ 18 billion in revenue in LAC due to COVID-19 to the travel, tourism and travel retail sectors. Faced by this scenario and the muted recovery prospects for international travel (leisure and business) and domestic travel in the near term, ASUTIL and the International Association of Airport and Duty Free Stores have collectively made the decision that the only realistic platform for their 2021 Summit is a virtual one.
As a result the two associations have decided to partner with the Moodie Davitt Report to create a trade show that reflects the austerity of our times and the need to maximise returns on necessarily restricted investment. Those key assumptions underpin the Summit of the Americas – a Virtual Experience. It is an event for its times. No exhibitor, retailer, buyer or airport will spend anything getting there. No travel, no hotels, no entertainment, no taxis, no stress, and no lost time from the office. Retailers and landlords related to all travel retail sectors will enjoy free registration. And the fees for exhibitors are extremely accessible.
So what is a ‘Virtual Experience’? The technology is well-proven and, through each exhibitor having their own individual Account Manager (care of our Singapore-based Virtual Stand & Experience Partner Filtr), the design and merchandising of a stand is straightforward. The simple premise that a buyer from, say, Buenos Aires in Argentina or Boston in the USA can ‘travel’ to the Expo at the click of a mouse is, we think, irresistible. We will do our utmost to ensure those buyers – and their landlords – visit the Summit of the Americas. We already have strong commitments from many of the region’s leading travel retailers that they will bring their entire senior management and buying teams to the event. We hope you will join them. Virtually of course.