Travel Retail / Duty-Free

Travel Retail is the new fancy way of saying Duty-Free. Not sure when or why the change took place, but the idea is the same: Stores in specified international zones in various ports of travel, primarily airports, are exempt from applying local and national taxes and duties. This then enables travelers to purchase what is often luxury items for good prices. Fine you say, but why would a whisky blogger take the time to write a post on this topic? Well my friends, for those of you who don’t know, travel retail is often a damn good place to find some damn good whiskies, at damn good prices… and they’re often 1 litre! There is also a trend amongst distilleries to produce expressions exclusively for travel retail stores, and you may find a core expression or two that is not distributed in your country of residence. So if you keep a keen eye open, you may well find something that will make you the envy of all your whisky friends – may they be real or digital.

With this in mind, when I travel I will do my best to note which whiskies are being offered in which airports, so that if you are ever flying a similar route, you can be prepared for what lies ahead. I also ask, that as a reader, you let the rest of us know what whiskies you’ve seen recently at a particular airport. (This can be done in various forms; add a comment to this post or email me and I’ll add it as a new post and give you the credit.)

There is danger in this, I am aware, as whiskies may be sold out, or just no longer stocked at the airport in question by the time you get there, but I still think there is more to gain in this endeavour than there is to loose. It’s good to be prepared, some airports have a great selection, some may have less whisky than your local nunnery.

Just some history for the buffs: The world’s first duty-free store was found at Shannon Airport, Ireland, by Dr Brendan O’Regan in 1947 and is still in service to this day. It was established to provide a service for trans-Atlantic airline passengers travelling between Europe and North America.

Safe journey!

Posted on October 7, 2010, in Profiles, Travel Retail. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. The expression “Travel Retail” was invented for The European Community sales in airports etc after the abolition of real duty-free sales some years ago. In effect the airports wanted to keep selling goods but were not allowed to sell to intra-EU travellers at duty-free prices. So, the name Travel Retail became a general term for Companies and Brands working in the travel environment. In the US many people still regard “travel retailers” as travel agents, so there can be some confusion. As goods sold in travel points within the EU community are no longer “tax or duty-free” they can be sold on arrival or departure in airports. You can check all the various arrivals stores at

    • Thank you for the explanation, makes good sense now. So Travel Retail and Duty-Free are actually different, but it seems they have become synonymous? Do individuals travelling into the EU still get the tax benefit at the Travel Retail stores?

  2. This link explains all for your readers. The important thing to remember is the price and not whether it is duty-free or travel retail. This depends on what you are used to paying in your home country. But, within the EU for travellers arriving (inbound) from anywhere or intra-EU travel, goods are not duty or tax free. Europe is now like the US Domestic market, tax paid. But prices may still be good. Also, watch the bottle sizes, Travel Retail can be 75cl against litres in Duty Free.

  3. Take note that when flying to either of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland from South Africa that you cannot buy duty free items inside the Airport’s duty free shopping area. Apparently South Africa belongs to the South African customs union

    It is quite disappointing to learn about this en-route to where ever you are going.

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