Every time I travel I get annoyed at the duty free shops. Every airport has one and regardless of where you are, they all sell mostly the same items (mainly alcohol, cigarettes, makeup and chocolate). Imagine you were locked in a duty free store – how long would it take you to figure out what country, or even what city you were in? Not only to most duty free stores look the same, but I find this to be the case in a lot of cities I visit too who all have the same coffee shops, the same chain stores and restaurants. Do we really want every place to be the same?

Duty Free stores, perhaps airports as well, are an incredible missed opportunity. You have a captive audience at the airport with nothing else to do but wait or shop. Often many of these travellers are tourists leaving your
country, tourists that you would like to see come back.

Why not turn duty free shops into a place to show off local brands, local products. I don’t mean turning it into a cheap tourist store, but something that showcases what makes your country, your city different and special. Is alcohol and cigarettes really the last message you want to leave visitors with?

I wondered through the duty free store in Montreal last week. It was much better than most, probably about 5-10% of the store was Canada specific. A giant stuffed moose dressed like a Canadian mountie (of course) stands at the door and there are large displays of maple syrup products and Canadian ice wine. It’s a start but I’d love to see countries change the way their departure areas are organized; maybe a 50/50 split international vs national/local products.