There’s something that’s goin’ round, that’s shutting our borders down
It’s a bad time for our sick and our old
CNN’s nightly lullaby, tells of hundreds more that’ve died
I shut off the TV and think all alone, how long can this go on? – Jeff Orson, Pray

Today’s episode of In Crisis – Travel Retail Voices, our podcast series in which we speak to industry executives around the world to see how they and their businesses are coping with the COVID-19 crisis,  features Kevin Chiang, President of Taipei-based Ever Rich Duty Free. It is one of the most compelling yet.

[Click on the icon to hear Kevin Chiang talk to Martin Moodie]

Kevin Chiang: Ever Rich reacted promptly to the pandemic, drawing heavily on its long-term, deeply committed corporate culture. There have been no layoffs, no pay cuts, and no suspension of shops.

Ever Rich Duty Free is one of our industry’s most successful and influential independent travel retailers. Kevin, son of family founder and Chairman, the remarkable Simon Chiang, has a unique story to tell in this Podcast. He relates how well Taiwan has handled the COVID-19 outbreak due to a combination of government and civic responsibility.

More remarkably he discusses how, despite a complete collapse in passenger numbers, Ever Rich has neither laid off staff nor cut pay but instead focused on staff welfare and carrying out its company activities with an emphasis on responsibility and innovation. To accompany the interview, Kevin wrote the following commentary on how Ever Rich Duty Free has handled the crisis.

Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus from January 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an economic downturn and caused heavy damage to the worldwide tourism industry, writes Kevin Chiang.

Kevin Chiang is optimistic that the recovery of the global travel retail industry will be led by North Asia and Taiwan

More than 160 countries in the world have closed schools and have been put on lockdown. Taiwan, only 81 miles off the coast of the original epicentre of Mainland China, was expected to be among those most seriously affected by the epidemic. However, Taiwan didn’t close schools nor lockdown cities; life goes on as usual, and has won widespread recognition for its successful management of epidemic control.

However, due to the pandemic, the number of passengers has been declining dramatically in Taiwan. Before the number of visitor arrivals stopped its decline during the past two weeks, the total number of arrival and departure passengers at Taoyuan International Airport was at one point down to 700 a day.

As a duty free operator, Ever Rich provides service as usual – even if there is just one passenger – and stays proactive while facing this drastic drop in customer numbers and sales. We started an online shopping website with a domestic home-delivery service in a very short time. Moreover, we hosted several special sales events landside at our international airports to generate income, and to facilitate better stock control.

Ever Rich Chairman Simon Chiang (second from left) with Martin Moodie and Ever Rich President Kevin Chiang and two members of the Ever Rich Duty Free crew during happier days in November 2019 when Ever Rich Duty Free and Taoyuan International Airport inaugurated the new-look central duty free shopping zone and fourth floor food & beverage area in Terminal 2.

Ever Rich Duty Free all set for Moodie Davitt Virtual Travel Retail Expo

Ever Rich Duty Free President Kevin Chiang says that he and his management and buying teams will be out in force at the Moodie Davitt Virtual Travel Retail Expo this September and October.

“I think it’s a great idea,” he says. “Every exhibitor will kind of be like Elon Musk… able to showcase their products in a fun way and in a scheduled manner. And honestly, you can be better linked with who comes in to see your exhibition – they are better targeted and there’s better follow-up by themselves, so I think it is a wonderful idea.”

Facing the COVID-19 pandemic, Ever Rich has put staff first and is striving to minimise the impact that the pandemic has caused to our employees.

From the very beginning of the breakout, a series of measures were implemented, such as body temperature checks; the sanitisation of shops and other public areas; the wearing of masks; social distancing; online meetings and training sessions.

As a very early precautionary measure, all staff were divided into shifts to avoid virus transmissions.

Ever Rich has also requested employees to submit their daily itineraries, travel and contact history so that we can monitor and trace back cases in case there are any positive tests.

Simon Chiang, Ever Rich Duty Free Founder & Chairman, a man on whose principles of social justice the company acts every day

Discovering Penghu, the Pearl of the Taiwan Strait

I’ve tracked the Ever Rich Duty Free story for many years – in 2015 I wrote the company’s 18-year history – and I never fail to be impressed by the group’s commitment to quality, to culture, to sense of place and to society.

Read more about Martin Moodie’s visit to the island of Penghu from The Moodie Blog.

As I write, Taiwan has had zero new confirmed cases for six consecutive days and we are into our 18th consecutive day free of new local cases. Ever Rich also continues to actively communicate with the government. We have complied with various government measures and are offering non-profit masks to arriving passengers at the airports.

We also appreciate various government relief plans designed to support travel retailers, such as concessionaire loans; a salary subsidy scheme; and preferential concession fees and airport rents.

Ever Rich reacted promptly to this pandemic, drawing heavily on our consolidated corporate culture. There have been no layoffs, no pay cuts, and no suspension of shops. Collectively this represents the accumulation of a long-term devotion to, and professionalism within, the travel retail industry.

The world has seen how quickly North Asia has reacted to this global pandemic. Taiwan especially is an example of how a society can respond rapidly to a crisis and protect the interests of its citizens.

Since North Asian countries share relatively similar demographic characteristics, it can therefore be expected that short trips – from domestic travel to offshore island trips, to intra-Asia regional travel – will be revived soon.

Taiwan has successfully blunted the impact of the disease and is considered to be one of the quickest countries in Asia to start recovering. Ever Rich is optimistic that the recovery of the global travel retail industry will be led by North Asia and Taiwan.

(Above and below) The splendour of Ever Rich Duty Free’s and Taoyuan International Airport’s new-look central duty free shopping zone and fourth floor food & beverage area in Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 2, inaugurated last November. The elegant commercial zone represents the NT$1 billion (US$33 million) first-phase investment in an ultimate NT$3 billion (US$99 million) terminal reconstruction.

Images (above and below) from November 2019 as Martin Moodie visits one of the world’s greatest travel retail experiences – the whisk(e)y museum, Whiskey 101, at Ever Rich Duty Free’s Discovery Hotel and Profond Pier No. 3 Duty Free Complex. This superb visitor attraction offers a wonderfully engaging experience of the spirit’s history and production methods, from malting to mashing to fermentation, distillation and maturation.

Previously on In Crisis – Travel Retail Voices

May 2: Robbie GillThe Design Solution

May 2: Michael Ripfl, Umdasch, The Store Makers

April 29: Heidi van Roon, Spark Business Services Group

April 25: Rüdiger Behn, Waldemar Behn

April 23: James Prescott, Harding Retail

April 22: Eugene Barry, Dubai Airports

April 21: Lal Arakulath, Kreol Group

April 21: Scott Collier, Toronto Pearson International Airport

April 20: Lisa Bauer, Starboard Cruise Services

April 17: Dan Cappell, Ontario International Airport

April 13: Gautom Menon, Wild Tiger Beverages

April 13: Sarah Branquinho, Duty Free World Council

April 10: Sinead el Sibai, Dubai Duty Free

April 7: Jonathan Holland of Jonathan Holland & Associates, Singapore.

April 7: Rob Wigington, Executive Director at the Airport Restaurant & Retail Association, US.

April 7: José Luis Donagaray and Inés Sisto Patron, ASUTIL

April 5:  Stewart Dryburgh, Nestlé International Travel Retail,

April 4: Pier Giuseppe Torresani, Masi; and Steve Corrigan, long-time duty free drinks executive

April 2: Founder of Duty Free Global, Barry Geoghegan

April 1: Vice President of Miami-based Essence Corp, Patricia Bona.

29 March: William Grant & Sons President Asia Pacific Doug Bagley

29 March: PMA Canada National Director – Duty Free Jeff Orson

27 March: Paul & Shark Global Travel Retail Director Catherine Bonelli

26 March: King Power Traveler President Rakhita Jayawardena

25 March: Public health expert Dr. David Heymann

24 March: King Power Group (Hong Kong) Group Chief Executive Officer Sunil Tuli

22 March: The Moodie Davitt Report Founder & Chairman Martin Moodie

21 March: China Duty Free Group President Charles Chen

20 March: Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman & CEO Colm McLoughlin