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(photo credit: Courtesy)
The duty-free purchase is one of the pleasures of being an international traveler, and the fact that one can buy expensive goods for considerably less than at the local mall, makes buying almost imperative.
Some of those purchases, such as liquor and perfumes, may no longer be so easy, however, after the US and UK last weekend, placed severe restrictions on hand luggage, banning liquids and gels from being included in cabin bags, following the foiled terror plot.
While an inconvenience for travelers, the impact on duty-free shopping will be much more severe, even if the ban is just a brief, temporary measure.
If it becomes accepted procedure for all or most airlines, "it will affect duty-free shopping around the world," Garry Stock, the shareholders' representative for the James Richardson duty-free stores at Ben-Gurion Airport told The Jerusalem Post.
Israelis traveling abroad will not be affected at all by the ban, providing they make all their purchases in Israel said Stock, since there is a service that enables them to leave their purchases in Israel and pick them up on their return home. This could limit the impact on the local stores, although non-Israeli tourists who can't carry the banned items home may end up spending less at the shops.
Some countries like Australia, noted Stock, have duty-free arrival shops, so there is still an opportunity to shop before exiting the airport at home.
If the ban continues and becomes a general rule, he said duty-free operators would have to come up with creative ideas to salvage the business of duty-free stores, whose total annual sales are in the billions of dollars.
Asked if there could be some kind of global cooperative between duty-free stores along the lines of Interflora, where items can be ordered and delivered anywhere in the world, Stock was not sure whether such an arrangement could be implemented. He did, however, foresee the possibility of a third type of baggage in addition to what is contained in the hold and what is permitted in the cabin.
Just as baby strollers are permitted on board in the last minute, Stock envisaged a system whereby duty-free purchases that had u undergone a security check-in at some special location, could be placed in a special compartment on the plane.
Another alternative was to have parcels delivered directly from the duty-free store to the plane and placed in a special compartment, saving passengers the hassle of running from one security checkpoint to another.