MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA. Welcome to this edition of the Official MEADFA Guide, the publication produced by The Moodie Davitt Report in association with the Middle East & Africa Duty Free Association (MEADFA) to coincide with the MEADFA Conference in Dubai (22-23 November).

The recovery of Middle East and Africa travel and tourism post-pandemic looks set to be steady rather than spectacular over the coming year, but the return to growth offers a platform on which the travel retail industry can rebuild after its greatest crisis yet.

A glance at the latest Airports Council International (ACI) figures shows how the big picture for travel is taking shape. Airport passenger numbers in the Middle East last year were just 33.3% of 2019 levels, with Africa at 33.6%. After a slow recovery in 2021, ACI projects that the Middle East’s airports will welcome 232 million passengers in 2022, or 57% of 2019 levels. In Africa, the forecast figure of 167 million will represent 72.9% of 2019 numbers, says ACI.

The message relayed by these numbers – that recovery is on the way but may be unsteady – is echoed by leading regional travel retailers in these pages.

We speak to Dubai Duty Free (host of the MEADFA Conference), Aer Rianta International-Middle East, Bahrain Duty Free, Qatar Duty Free, Dufry, Jordanian Duty Free Shops and IDF Trading & Agencies (led by MEADFA President Sherif Toulan) about their journeys over the past 18 months, and the challenges that lie ahead.

Encouragingly, many of these retailers, alongside airports and brand owners, are investing for the upturn, preparing store infrastructure and services in anticipation of a better 2022, though always with the caveat that the COVID-19 crisis is not yet over.

We take that cautious but positive outlook into MEADFA 2021, as the industry plans for a brighter future ahead.

Please enjoy this edition of the Official MEADFA Guide and we look forward to meeting many of you in person in Dubai.