Spirits brands are spending heavily on retail activations in the airport and downtown travel retail channels to beef up their sales and market shares. This has resulted in an array of spectacular post-Covid marketing outposts and pop-ups designed to lure in travelers, whose year-over-year numbers are continuing to rise.
By November 2022, global air traffic was at 75% of November 2019 levels according to the airline association IATA, though some countries like Greece and Mexico are doing much better than others.
The scale of promos has increased. Among them have been the Taiwanese introduction of single malt Glenfiddich’s Perpetual Collection which is exclusive to travel retail stores; the first ever Fine Spirits Emporium from Bacardi and single malt The Macallan’s largest boutique in global travel retail, both at China Duty Free Group’s (CDFG) enormous duty-free shopping complex in Haikou, Hainan; and Diageo’s novel ‘gifting studio’ at Singapore’s Changi Airport for its bestselling whisky Johnnie Walker.
Glenfiddich owner William Grant & Sons is currently partnering with travel retailers Ever Rich and Tasa Meng to introduce the Perpetual Collection to Taiwanese travel retail. The launch includes an immersive installation in Terminal 2 at Taiwan’s Taoyuan Airport that will run until the end of February.
According to Quentin Job, William Grant’s regional director for travel retail across Asia Pacific and the Middle East, Taiwan is known for sophisticated connoisseurs. “They understand the significance of craft, and have long enjoyed premium whisky offerings,” he said. Ever Rich Duty Free vice president Patricia Wang commented: “The Taiwanese are one of the top consumers of single malts in the world, and are happy to pay a premium for high quality, exclusive products.”
William Grant—whose Scotch brands include The Balvenie and Grant’s plus Hendrick’s Gin and Sailor Jerry Rum—maintains that single malts are “enduringly popular” and now account for around 70% of total whisky sales in Taiwan. The brand, therefore, sees opportunities for the Perpetual Collection which is Glenfiddich’s biggest launch in global travel retail in a decade.
“It is perfectly timed to capitalize on the opening up of Asia, and the Taiwanese travel retail recovery,” said Job. “The significant investment we have made to launch the collection across both Taoyuan Airport’s terminals is a testament to our confidence in this market.”
Gary Chau, general manager of Tasa Meng Duty Free added: “The initial sales results have been extremely promising. Now that the Taiwan borders are open, international travelers are excited to see this pop-up shop which has proved hugely effective at engaging travelers.”
The Perpetual Collection features four single malt whiskies, each matured in vats that have never been emptied, adding continuous layers of flavors using the house’s Solera Vat maturation process, The range began its global travel retail roll-out last year with launches via Lotte Duty Free at Singapore Changi Airport in September, followed by Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and Miami International in Florida.
Consumers entering the pop-up have their movements captured by motion sensors and projected in waves of color onto a digital screen, creating a piece of evolving generative art designed to reference the Solera Vat process. Visitors are then invited to sample the four Perpetual Collection expressions. A personalization service allowing shoppers to customize their chosen bottle with a written or recorded message via QR code has also proved popular for Christmas and Chinese New Year gifting.
In Hainan, where the Chinese have been going in large numbers to shop duty-free while they were deprived of international trips, Edrington-owned The Macallan opened its largest boutique in the global travel retail market and its first in China in partnership with CDFG at the new Haikou International Duty Free Shopping Complex.
The 100-square-meter boutique welcomed shoppers towards the end of last year making it the fifth in the travel channel, joining those at Dubai International, London Heathrow, New York JFK, and Taipei Taoyuan airports. The design concept is inspired by the architecture and aesthetics of the brand’s Speyside home in Scotland and conveys The Macallan’s history and craftsmanship. It showcases collections ranging from the travel-exclusive core ranges: Quest, Home, and Folio; through to prestige bottlings including the Red range, and the iconic Fine & Rare collection.
A bespoke bar area offers guided tastings, and a heritage wall features artworks—the first of which was ‘Spring Green Persian’ a nature-inspired piece by renowned American glass artist Dale Chihuly. A private consultation room is also available for more tailored and exclusive experiences.
Edrington Global Travel Retail’s regional managing director, Jeremy Speirs, commented: “The opening in Hainan marks a major milestone in our long-term strategy for the Chinese market. Hainan has become a global beacon for travel retail and a ‘must-visit’ for Chinese luxury shoppers, making this a key location for consumer engagement and recruitment.”
According to Charles Soong, managing director of Edrington China, The Macallan has been pivotal in growing the luxury spirits market in China through education and engagement. He said: “The Hainan opening dovetails our efforts, creating a more consistent experience across both domestic and travel retail channels, positioning us to engage with Chinese consumers wherever they shop.”
Bermuda-based Bacardi’s first-ever Fine Spirits Emporium, also at CDFG’s Haikou duty-free complex, was a pop-up that ran until the end of December. Its focus was on the growing popularity of home cocktail-making in China and designed as a one-stop shop for consumers to discover Bacardi's portfolio of premium spirits which they might want to add to their home bars.
The 20 square-meter pop-up had dedicated discovery wall bays for Bacardi Rum, Grey Goose Vodka, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Patrón Tequila, and other white spirits. Shoppers could use QR codes to find information about each brand on a WeChat mini program, with a scrolling library of easy-to-make cocktail recipes and masterclasses, plus the chance to browse the in-store gifting services.
Also running until the end of December was Diageo Global Travel’s gifting studio in Terminal 3 of Singapore Changi Airport aimed at travelers looking for luxury gifts over the festive season. Brand immersion here was primarily for the top-end Johnnie Walker Blue Label, in particular the Ghost and Rare Port Dundas limited edition (priced £275 for 70cl on Masters of Malt).
Port Dundas is the fifth release in the Ghost and Rare series, named after the Glasgow distillery built in 1811 on the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal. Also present in the studio was the new Elusive Expressions Special Releases Scotch Whisky Collection along with gift offerings from Baileys and Tanqueray that included enticements like chocolate truffles and Tanqueray jellies.
Such large-scale promotions are likely to increase in the coming months as more high-spending Chinese travelers take to the air now that the state’s zero-Covid policy has come to an end. However, with low vaccination rates in the PRC, quarantine rules for Chinese planning to go to certain countries are in force and will impact which destinations these important shoppers decide to visit.