Duty Free Arrivals

For so many reasons arrivals duty-free should be the way forward.

Duty Free Airport Arrivals Shopping - Airport Arrival Duty Free Shopping (3)Firstly, there is the convenience factor. Why would anyone want to lug their carton of cigarettes, bottle of whisky or new digital camera half way across the world, when they could buy it at a great price at their destination airport?

And sadly, it is no longer just about the weight of the bags or the difficulty of stuffing them into tiny, congested overhead lockers. Low-cost airlines are becoming ever pickier about how many carry-on bags they allow passengers to take onboard with them. Earlier this year there was an outcry when Ryanair decided to impose a €30 surcharge on any passenger who couldn’t cram their duty-free purchases into a single carry-on bag.

Duty Free Airport Arrivals Shopping - Airport Arrival Duty Free Shopping (2)Then there is the thorny subject of security. It used to be duty-free industry joke that no terrorist had ever hijacked a plane with a broken bottle of Johnnie Walker or Chanel No.5, but nobody was laughing when a transatlantic bomb plot involving liquid explosives was foiled in August 2006. Global aviation authority quickly unveiled a tough new security measures, which have made travellers’ lives a hell ever since.

The new paranoid rulebook states that duty-free liquids, aerosols and gels now have to be packaged in transparent, sealed plastic bags. Sadly, this hasn’t prevented airport security staff confiscating thousands of bottles each month from bewildered transit passengers, who have failed to understand the complicated rules governing each country’s airport security regime. Purchasing on arrival would avoid all this hassle in one fell swoop.

Then there is the environmental argument. Here at taxfreetravel.com we love to shop on the fly, but even we have to admit that tens of thousands of tons of duty-free goods notching up air miles around the globe each month is hardly doing much to keep CO2 emissions down.

Duty Free Airport Arrivals Shopping - Airport Arrival Duty Free ShoppingThese are powerful arguments that are winning over more converts as each year passes. Over 50 countries worldwide now have arrivals duty-free, which has been extremely popular in places such as Asia, the Middle East and Latin America for decades. Norway introduced it in 2005 at Oslo airport and it has proved extremely popular, and now Switzerland and Canada are debating whether to follow suit.

Frustrated travellers might be wondering why all major international airports don’t get their act together and open such a convenient shopping format, but sadly, it isn’t that easy. The decision to give the green light to duty-free on arrival rests in the hands of an individual country’s fiscal authorities, and many continue to classify duty-free goods as exports and believe duty-free arrivals sales are a threat to national tax revenues. Unsurprisingly, downtown shop owners fearing cut-price airport competition often make the same argument.

The design of most international airports was also never to intended to allow for arrivals duty-free. In most baggage reclaim areas there simply isn’t the space for them. Moreover, many airport authorities remain unconvinced whether they would be profitable enough to plan for them in the future • they prefer to plough their money into developing their departures retail offer.

From a traveller’s perspective, however, arrivals duty-free shopping is an excellent idea whose time has come, especially if they are travelling to a country with high taxes and duties on liquor and tobacco.

As a general rule of thumb, you will find the product offer in arrivals shops is generally much more limited than in departures stores because of the limited space available. The selection will invariably be limited to best-selling lines of liquor, tobacco, fragrances and confectionery targeted at returning locals, but note that the electronics offer can be extensive in the Middle East and parts of the Indian subcontinent.

One glorious exception to this rule is the Philippines, which in the past two decades has developed an ambitious duty-free arrivals shopping concept to target the pockets of returning ex-pat workers. State-owned duty-free shop operator Duty Free Philippines runs a vast shopping mall in downtown Manila, where any inbound international traveller can shop for up to 48 hours after their arrival and spend up US$1,000. Overseas Filipino workers have up to 15 days to do their shopping. See our Tax Free Travel Guide:Manila Airport Duty Free

The range of goods on offer is amazingly diverse, boasting everything from a can of cooked ham and a jar of instant coffee, to Hennessy XO Cognac and Bally shoes. Browse the operator’s well laid-out website, www.dfp.com.ph, for more details.

Australia is another great place for arrivals duty-free. All the country’s major international airports, Brisbane,Melbourne,Perth and Sydney have arrivals shops and prices are competitive with savings of up 40% off wines and spirits, and up to 35% off fragrance and cosmetics compared to domestic prices. See http://www.firstdutyfree.com.au/default.aspx for products, prices and information on allowances, store opening hours and special deals.

As we have been suggesting, arrivals duty-free is a great idea, but if you are planning to spend a large sum of money on a purchase it is worth doing a little homework. Look too see if you can compare prices at your airport of departure, and then compare them with your destination. In this extraordinary time of wildly fluctuating exchange rates, you may be in for some surprises.

Consider, for example, the arrivals shops at London Heathrow and other major BAA airports in the UK. These stores are officially duty-paid, but they still offer excellent savings on wines, spirits, fragrances, confectionery and electronics over High Street prices, especially for overseas travellers given the weak state of the pound

Duty Free Airport Arrivals Shopping - Airport Arrival Duty Free Shopping (1)And while we are being a little cautious, it is definitely worth knowing your personal allowance for duty-free goods at your destination. If you have purchased duty-free items on your departure, or in the air, and then are tempted in the arrivals, it could well be that you have exceeded your personal limit.

Finally, don’t be disheartened if you discover the airport you are flying to doesn’t offer arrivals duty-free. Many airports are now offering convenient pick-up services, which allow you to order your shopping on your outbound trip and then collect it on your return. Copenhagen Kastrup is the latest major international airport to introduce such a service, allowing passengers travelling inside the EU the option to pick up their shopping on the return leg of their journey (www.tax-free.dk).Travellers will find many other airports offer similarly convenient schemes.

Five great airports for arrivals duty-free shopping