Fresh AIR

The Monthly Newsletter from the Association of International Retail
27th April 2021

Dear Supporter,

Welcome to our monthly update of AIR’s activities and plans.

In the past twelve months, working with you, we have established AIR as a voice in tourism, retail and growth policy and as an authority on the international retail sector.

Now, 2021 is the year that we start our sector’s recovery and planning for the large-scale return of international customers in 2022. Our aim is to grow the value of international retail sales in a sustainable way as the COVID-19 threat recedes, and planning has started on ensuring the strongest and fastest possible recovery of sales to international customers.

To continue making AIR as effective as possible, we would like your thoughts on our priorities and your suggestions for any other areas on which we should focus. Leading AIR supporters will be meeting in May to agree a programme of work (see below for details).  I want to hear your views and would be grateful if you could complete our short survey here to help set AIR’s direction and focus for the year ahead.

Your support to date has been invaluable.  Thank you for investing your time and resources in our new Association.  I look forward to working with you all over the coming years to rebuild international retail and make Britain, once again, a world leading shopping destination.

Best wishes,

Jace Tyrrell

AIR’s Five Key programmes

1. Tax-Free Shopping

We are still awaiting the result of the Judicial Review undertaken by Heathrow, Global Blue and World Duty Free.  This challenged the Government’s decision-making process which led to the ending of the VAT RES and airside duty free (ESC). We are expecting the court to make its ruling public at the end of April or beginning of May.

We are working with a number of major companies and organisations on a next-steps campaign once the result of the JR is known.  This is likely to include two key elements.  First, a system for collecting and analysing data from the UK and across Europe to demonstrate the impact of ending tax-free shopping.  Secondly, a dedicated campaign to restore the tax-free shopping scheme over time.

2. Attracting International Visitors

We are focussing on two core areas.  First, we are working to encourage the Government to open-up as quickly as possible, within COVID-19 limits, air routes from our key markets, particularly the Middle East and Far East.

The Government has announced that countries will be classed as green, amber or red. Visitors will have to undergo different levels of testing and quarantine as they enter the UK depending on what group their country of origin is placed in.  We await, on May 17th, details of which countries will initially be in each category.

Secondly, we are working on a number of practical issues to ensure the quick return of international visitors. AIR recently joined London First, UK Hospitality, New West End Company and other trade bodies in writing to the Prime Minister seeking the removal of VAT from travellers’ COVID-19 tests to cut their cost.  You can see a copy of the letter here and of media coverage here.

AIR is also supporting Heathrow Airport in calls for measures and additional resources to reduce the length of queues for entry to the UK which have been up to six hours long.

3. Visas

A major campaign for AIR in 2021 is working with the Home Office and Border Force to streamline the visitor visa application process, as a way to lower barriers to entry, particularly for high-net-worth visitors.  This will build on the previous successes of the UK China Visa Alliance, which is incorporated into AIR.

4. Sunday trading reform

AIR is supporting the campaign by New West End Company and the Brompton Road Partnership to remove Sunday trading regulations in Britain’s two officially designated International Centres (London’s West End and Knightsbridge). This will allow stores to compete better with other world shopping destinations.  You can see the letter to the Business Secretary here.

If successful, this could be a model for other shopping districts in England that have a large number of international customers.

5. Sustainable travel

The Government’s announcement that it will cut carbon emissions by 78% (compared with 1990 levels) by 2035 includes, for the first time, emissions from international aviation.  This provides challenges for businesses that rely on international travel. AIR will represent the views and interests of our sector during this debate and process.

Board Workshop


During our first year, with the COVID-19 pandemic dominating, AIR has been run by a small management group.  Its role was to establish our presence and to respond to the economic and political consequences as well as reacting to the Government’s surprise decision to end tax-free shopping.

As we prepare for the re-opening of international travel, we will establish a Board comprising of paying supporters.  This will set AIR’s strategic direction and monitor progress as well as representing the Association in our dealings with policy makers and others.

We also aim to create an Advisory Group of other supporters to provide insight and experience on our key issues.

Our paying and founding members will be invited to an initial workshop in May, where we hope to have the Retail Minister to discuss with us the challenges and opportunities that together we can work to address.  Invitations will be sent soon.

We need your views

To help inform that workshop we would like your thoughts on what our key priorities should be.  Click here to complete our short survey so that we understand more about how you think AIR should progress.

AIR in the News

In the last six weeks, AIR has discussed our policy priorities in both national and international media. Check out some of the most recent articles below. To see more of AIR in the News, please visit our website.

Crowds surge back to London’s West End as lockdown curbs are lifted
Evening Standard, 19/04/21

Talking Shop
DRD Partnership, 12/04/21

Tax-Free Sales, The Traveller Experience, And the Airport Financial Model
Forbes, 09/03/21

Thank You

If you would like to know more about how AIR’s work and how you can support AIR for the benefit of your own company and the sector as a whole, please check our website, our social media pages or contact Paul Barnes, our Chief Executive, at

AIR is an independent, national sector support body open to all those who wish to support the growth of international retail in the UK. Founding supporters include: