SRI LANKA. Paul Topping, President of Alpha Asia, has decided to leave the company after 20 years with the Alpha group.

Topping is one of travel retail’s most experienced and respected executives. Over the past decade he has played a key role in developing Alpha Airports Group’s (acquired by Autogrill in 2007) business in Sri Lanka, India, Maldives and Nepal.

Paul Topping (left) and Rakhita Jayawardena drove travel retail’s first pan-industry humanitarian initiative

But arguably his greatest contribution came with the creation of the Alpha Sri Lanka Tsunami Relief Fund, following the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka on 26 December 2004.

Together with his close friend and industry associate Rakhita Jayawardena (President of Centaur Travel Retail and King Power Traveler), Topping drove an extraordinary industry initiative that created a new, inland village for the inhabitants of Palliyawatta, a small coastal community that had been wiped out by the tsunami.

Alpha (then a UK plc), led by Topping, called on the travel retail industry to support the company and the campaign – a call that was answered with a remarkable and unprecedented flow of generosity from all sectors, culminating in the inauguration of the Travel Retail Village (pictured) on 16 March 2006, less than 15 months after the tragedy.

Four years on, travel retail’s Hand in Hand for Haiti initiative drew on many of the learnings from the Sri Lankan initiative to help generate industry support.

Topping said: “During the last year we have successfully integrated the Asian business into the Aldeasa-Autogrill Group and I am sure the team and the operations will benefit from being part of a larger organisation.

“The scope, passion and excitement of the travel retail industry and especially its people will continue to be my focus but in addition, I also see amazing growth in Sri Lanka, my adopted home, given the post-war era with so much still to be done.”

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Aldeasa International Operations Director Daniel Montero said: “We want to thank Paul for his contribution since 2002 when he first took the leadership of Alpha’s travel retail business in the Asia region, and especially for all his hard work during 2009 integrating the Alpha business into the Aldeasa-Autogrill Group. We wish him every success in his future endeavours.”

Asia Pacific Travel Retail Association (APTRA) President Sunil Tuli said: “Paul has been a friend and an industry colleague for many years. He has made significant contributions to the industry, particularly in the Indian sub-continent. As a founder board member of APTRA, Paul has been invaluable in his support to the association and the industry.”

Pioneers together: Paul Topping, A.S. Lal and Martin Petchey on the then newly constructed Cochin Airport runway

Paul Topping and A.S. Lal with the Frontier Award and by an early Cochin Duty Free car draw promotion

Rakhita Jayawardena commented: “Paul has given yeoman service to Alpha, APTRA and Asia Pacific – particularly the Indian sub-continent which he really developed from a travel retail perspective. He also got Cochin Airport going – a rare example of a duty free success story in India. He’s a long-standing member of the industry and we’ll all miss him in that capacity. I wish him very well.”

His contribution to Cochin Duty Free is invaluable and unforgettable
A.S. Lal
Chief Executive
Kreol Travel Retail

A.S. Lal, Alpha’s partner in Alpha-Kreol in Cochin, India, paid rich tribute to Topping, noting: “When I was conceptualizing the idea of Cochin Airport Duty Free, I had contacted major operators for a joint venture in India. None of them was serious except Mr Paul Topping. When I called him, he was in Hong Kong but promised to send someone from Alpha for discussions. Sure enough, Martin Petchey arrived in Dubai the very next day. That was the beginning of the Alpha-Kreol relationship.

“During the past 10 years of our association, I had plenty of opportunities to interact with him. Paul Topping is a popular figure in the travel retail world. He has an extremely good relationship with all the suppliers. And the suppliers have always given him their unstinting support.

“I remember being woken up in the middle of the night by his call from Cannes to inform me that Alpha-Kreol had won the Frontier Award. I could sense his joy and happiness and he was very proud to receive that recognition. Unfortunately I could not go to Cannes that year to share the moment with him.

“He is an excellent team leader and motivator. He always moved beyond cultural barriers. His contribution to Cochin Duty Free is invaluable and unforgettable.

“Alpha-Kreol was the first private company to enter the Indian duty free industry, breaking the monopoly of the state-owned ITDC. I thank him for his contribution to Alpha-Kreol (Cochin Duty Free) and sincerely wish him all the best.”

Paul Topping at the inauguration of the Travel Retail Village (below) with fellow APTRA board member John Kammerman


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