Businessperson or tourist, the concept of buying duty-free goods at airports is extremely satisfying. With security restrictions on carrying liquids and other objects on board these days, travellers are left holding their travellers' cheques and credit cards in their wallets. The duty-free stores in Indian airports have already been hit, with sales reportedly plummeting by half. This has been replicated the world over. But life between checking in luggage and boarding the plane may not become a terminal bore if new strategies are quickly explored.
Canada, for instance, has already announced that duty-free items - which basically boils down to perfumes, beauty products, cigarettes and alcohol for most of us - will be allowed as hand luggage again. But instead of the passenger carrying the plastic bags from the stores to the aircraft, approved staff members of duty-free shops will deliver the procured goodies to the gate as the passengers enter their plane.
Another approach will be for passengers to reorient their duty-free instincts and make their 'last minute' purchases not before departing an airport but after arriving at one. For the desi traveller, this will mean that the duty-free shops in India will have to be spruced up dramatically, offering much more than just Vat 69s and Marlboros and sandalwood soaps. So duty-freewallahs should stop moaning and instead smell the opportunity to turn things around. Although some of us will continue to prefer those carrybags marked 'Heathrow Duty Free' to be used later for our local sabzi shopping.