June 4 2024  |  Retailers

Avolta's Enrique Urioste talks innovation and expansion in the Americas

By Hibah Noor

Enrique Urioste, Avolta’s President and CEO LATAM

In this exclusive interview with Global Travel Retail Magazine (GTR Magazine), Enrique Urioste, Avolta’s President and CEO LATAM, considers the company’s standing in the Americas, with a focus on expansion, innovation and sustainability, and the need to maintain a flexible, multi-channel approach. Highlighting regional markets, he underlines Brazil’s key role in Avolta’s growth in the LATAM region and the integration of retail and dining experiences. By leveraging the company’s expertise across both sectors, he believes Avolta will be able to create unique, memorable moments for its customers.

Global Travel Retail (GTR) Magazine: How is Avolta’s business performing in the Americas overall? How is your border business in LATAM doing?

Enrique Urioste (Urioste): Avolta has experienced strong performance across the Americas as presented in our Q1 2024 investor call, with significant growth driven by increased international traffic, leisure travel demand and an incredibly strong execution that has allowed us to grow spend per head in every single country we operate in LATAM, with the exception of Argentina’s extraordinary 2023, driven by an FX factor. Our border business in LATAM, particularly in Brazil and Uruguay, is doing very well. We've seen notable success with the recent award of a duty free contract at the Fray Bentos international bridge between Uruguay and Argentina, and ongoing operations at the Uruguaiana store.

Artistic renderings of Avolta's store that will be operational at the Fray Bentos international bridge at the border crossing between Uruguay and Argentina, also available to travelers coming or going to Chile and Paraguay

GTR Magazine: Avolta is continuously expanding its operations across different regions. Can you discuss how the company’s multi-channel strategy is being implemented in these diverse markets to cater to varying consumer needs?

Urioste: Avolta's multi-channel strategy is centered on flexibility and responsiveness to local market demands, delivering on our FLEX model of flexible, local, entertainment and digital. In LATAM, this involves integrating duty free, duty-paid and travel convenience, and exploring the expanded offering of F&B, all tailored to each location. For example, in Brazil, we are expanding our duty-paid operations at airports like Recife and Maceió, while also enhancing digital engagement through innovative technologies to cater to the evolving preferences of travelers.

LATAM is the region with the strongest delivery of digital engagement and services like duty free Locker and Reserve & Collect, with the possibility of processing the payment online in several countries, as well as Home Delivery amongst others.

GTR Magazine: Can you share insights into some of the most successful innovations Avolta has rolled out/is rolling out this year in the Americas?

Urioste: Innovation is at the heart of Avolta's strategy. In the Americas, we've introduced AI-powered ‘try-on’ features in our duty free stores and expanded our frictionless Hudson Nonstop stores powered by Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology. Additionally, we've enhanced our digital experiences with self-checkout, QR code payments, and mobile order and pay options, making the travel experience more convenient and engaging for our customers.

GTR Magazine: With a strong emphasis on sustainability, how is Avolta integrating eco-friendly practices into its operations, and what impact have these initiatives had on the company’s performance and consumer perception?

Urioste: Sustainability is integral to Avolta's operations. In LATAM, we are implementing eco-friendly practices such as reducing single-use plastics, promoting locally sourced products to boost local artisans in the communities around our airports and operations while delivering a strong sense of place, as well as incorporating sustainable materials in store designs. These initiatives have positively impacted consumer perception, as travelers increasingly value brands that prioritize environmental responsibility, thereby enhancing our overall performance and customer loyalty.

GTR Magazine: How is Avolta leveraging technology to enhance the customer experience across its travel retail and F&B operations? Are there specific technologies that have proved more impactful than others?

Urioste: Avolta leverages cutting-edge technology to enhance the customer experience across travel retail and F&B operations. In LATAM, we've seen significant impact from digital solutions such as mobile ordering systems and AI-driven personalization tools. These technologies streamline the shopping process, reduce wait times and provide tailored recommendations, leading to higher customer satisfaction and increased sales.

GTR Magazine: Avolta’s recent financial performance indicates strong growth potential in emerging markets. What are Avolta’s strategic plans in these markets, particularly with regard to consumer trends and economic factors influencing your operations?

Urioste: Avolta's strategic plans in emerging markets focus on understanding and adapting to local consumer trends and economic conditions. In LATAM, we are capitalizing on the strong demand for leisure travel and the growth of low-cost carriers by expanding our duty free and duty-paid operations. We are exploring the integration of F&B into our offering and creating new and exciting styles of partnerships. Additionally, we are enhancing our digital and loyalty programs to meet the evolving expectations of travelers, particularly the tech-savvy Gen Z demographic.

GTR Magazine: Avolta has recently extended its partnership with Aena at Recife and is opening new stores in Maceió and São Paulo Congonhas Airport. Can you discuss the strategic significance of these expansions within Avolta’s overall growth strategy in Brazil?

Urioste: Aena is a great global partner of ours, and we are working closely together to deliver on the exciting Spanish contracts we secured last year. The expansions in Recife, Maceió, and São Paulo Congonhas are crucial to Avolta’s growth strategy in Brazil. These new stores enhance our presence in key travel hubs and allow us to better serve the increasing number of domestic and international travelers. Regarding border stores, we are continuously exploring opportunities to expand our footprint, leveraging strategic locations like the Uruguaiana store and the new contract at the Fray Bentos international bridge.

Avolta’s Uruguaina store is highlighted as a strategic location

GTR Magazine: Avolta in 2023 reported a 32.5% growth in turnover compared to the pro forma figures for the combined Dufry/Autogrill in 2022. Brazil’s role is pivotal. How is Avolta capitalizing on Brazil’s a) domestic and b) rebounding international traffic to drive this impressive growth?

Urioste: Brazil's pivotal role in our growth is driven by a two-pronged approach: capitalizing on the robust domestic travel market and the rebound in international traffic. Domestically, we are expanding our duty-paid stores in major airports, offering a diverse range of products and immersive shopping experiences. Internationally, we are enhancing our duty free operations, leveraging Brazil’s status as a key travel destination to attract and engage travelers from around the world.

GTR Magazine: Following the merger with Autogrill, Avolta has emphasized integrating retail and dining experiences. Have you begun this integration in Avolta’s operations in Brazil?

Urioste: Yes, we have begun working on integrating retail and dining experiences in Brazil, aligning with Avolta’s global strategy. As we speak, we are in the midst of negotiating a new large F&B operation. By leveraging our expertise across both sectors, we will be able to create unique, memorable moments for our customers.

GTR Magazine: The Destination 2027 strategy involves a focus on flexible stores, local products, and digital innovations. How are these elements being specifically adapted to meet the needs of the Brazilian market?

Urioste: In Brazil, we are adapting the Destination 2027 strategy by incorporating flexible store designs that can quickly respond to changing consumer preferences. We prioritize local products that resonate with Brazilian culture and travelers' desires for authentic experiences. Additionally, we are enhancing digital innovations, such as mobile payments and personalized marketing, to engage tech-savvy consumers and streamline their shopping journey.

GTR Magazine: Sustainability and local engagement are increasingly important in global business. How is Avolta integrating these aspects into its expansion and operational strategies in Brazil?

Urioste: Sustainability and local engagement are key pillars of our strategy in Brazil. We are incorporating eco-friendly practices in store operations, such as reducing waste and promoting recyclable materials. Local engagement is fostered through partnerships with local artisans and suppliers, offering products that reflect Brazil’s rich cultural heritage. These efforts not only support the local economy but also resonate with travelers who value responsible and sustainable practices.

REGION Americas
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