“We can make a real difference in the next 12 months” TFWA President live at the travel-retail Global Summit

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

Award-winning journalist Bob Woodward spoke about current geopolitical issues
Award-winning journalist Bob Woodward spoke about current geopolitical issues

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The global summit for the travel-retail industry kicked off in Cannes today, with some key messages and insights for those working in beauty travel-retail...

This morning, CosmeticsDesign-Europe​ joined beauty brands from across the world for the official opening of the world’s travel-retail summit, TFWA Global Summit in Cannes, France.

The opening conference was moderated by BBC journalist Stephen Sackur and featured a range of expert speakers, including TFWA President Erik Juul Mortensen, author of bestselling business book The Culture Map​ Erin Meyer, former US government advisor, businesswoman and author Dr Pippa Malgren and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward – who worked on the ‘Watergate Scandal’ investigations into Richard Nixon’s Presidency. 

Juul Mortensen was optimistic about the future of travel-retail, but had some words of wisdom for the industry.

He revealed that floorspace at this year’s event was at higher levels than pre-Covid and it had a new exhibition area, Majestic Beach Village. He also shared the ‘Revenue passenger kilometre growth’ was up this year compared to last, but not quite at pre-Covid levels yet. And that in countries within the Asian region, footfall was still at three-quarters of levels in 2019.

He referenced insights from the Kearney report for the travel industry and said this revealed that: “We must work together to build a true value proposition for customers. We need to think beyond the ‘trinity’ of retailers, brands and airports and include airlines and media and digital companies”. ​He also stated that the industry can “lack stakeholder co-operation and is not customer-centric.”

Jull Mortensen summed up that to move forward and improve, the industry must also:  

  • Better address sustainability
  • Build stronger foundations as it depends on government actions. He referenced the tourism tax introduced by the UK government two years ago and stated that: “no one else is going to protect our industry”.
  • Reinforce its credibility and commit to values customers want to see, as outlined in the Duty Free Facts​ campaign. For example, to help tackle counterfeit goods.  

Navigating global cultures

As travel-retail spans global borders, many working in the industry will understand the frustrations faced when trying to work with many different cultures. And if they don’t, then it’s important to pay more attention to these intricacies, said the next speaker, Erin Meyer, the author of bestselling book The Culture Map​.

Meyer talked about how to understand the cultural differences you may encounter when doing business with people from different countries and explained how to work better together and understand their needs.

She revealed that in low-context cultures, communication is explicit, simple and clear. The ‘Anglo Saxon’ are all low context and her researched showed that the US is the lowest context culture in the world.

Meanwhile, people from high-context cultures prefer communication that’s implicit, layered and nuanced.

She said that Latin cultures like France, Spain and Italy tended to be somewhere in the middle, while the Asian countries tend to be more high context.

She shared that most misunderstandings happen between two high context cultures, because they often ‘read the air’ rather than say something directly, but have very different ‘air to read’.

Japan is the country with the highest context communication, while the USA has the lowest.

Meyer’s advice to leaders working with a variety of different cultures was:   

  • Multicultural teams need low context communications
  • With low context cultures be as explicit as possible. Put everything in writing and repeat the most important points.
  • With high context cultures ask clarifying questions. Repeat yourself less. And work on your ability to ‘read the air’.

She also discussed another area that she has heavily researched: the ability to give direct negative feedback.

She explained that people in countries such as Holland and Germany were encouraged to give direct negative feedback, and Latin countries such as Italy and France were also more direct in giving negative feedback. Meanwhile, Asian countries were less forthcoming with this and preferred to take a more indirect negative feedback style.

Somewhat confusingly, the Anglo-Saxon cultures, such as the US and UK were somewhere in the middle. Although these are low context cultures, they are not comfortable giving direct negative feedback and will often give layered feedback, which expresses the good and bad points and is in danger of being misinterpreted.

The third area Meyer had researched was a high or low level of comfort with silence. She explained that the Asian countries were more comfortable with silence in conversations, but the UK, many European countries and the USA were not so comfortable with it and saw it as a sign that there was a problem.

Meyer explained this difference can be most problematic for global teams with team members from Asian countries, who won’t speak until they are invited to do so.

"Once in a species moment" right now

Dr Pippa Malgren took to the stage next and explained that we are in a “once in a species moment”​ right now – where we are travelling to the moon to harness unlimited clean and green energy from space, which she said will transform the world economy. She also mentioned the recent progress within Nuclear fusion, Asteroid mining and Sycamore, the most intelligent computer in the world.

Her view was that the world has changed a lot in recent years and was now a world of problem-solving. And that the key to solving these problems would be creativity.

Malgren discussed AI and its potential to unleash creativity, but also its drawbacks “AI is like a sheepdog – there is no deviation from the norm,”​ she said. She believed that progress would not be possible without deviating from the norm.

According to Malgren, the world was “shifting into higher-grade storytelling​” and the metaverse was a brilliant way to tell stories.

She concluded that “Love propels the world forward” and that Joy, Love, Beauty are what is needed now to propel the world forward now.

Her advice for the industry, and for humanity in general, was to:

  • Talk to people who have different expertise and viewpoints to your own.
  • Stop being siloed

And last but certainly not least, the audience enjoyed watching a fireside chat-style session with Bob Woodward, the associate editor of Washington Post​ who was responsible for revealing the wrongdoings of the Nixon administration in 1972.

Woodward talked to host Stephen Sackur about the highlights of his working life as a journalist for the Washington Post,​ the Watergate, his more recent interviews with Donald Trump and the criminal allegations against the former President, as well as changes in journalism standards due to a lack of time.

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