The enshrinement of the Espace Voyageur concept in French domestic law was an important step in the process of securing recognition from all relevant authorities that travel retail and duty-free sales do constitute a separate and distinct market from domestic retailing.
Following the abolition of intra-EU duty and tax-free sales in July 1999, our colleagues in France developed the concept of Espace Voyageur to provide a recognised framework differentiating travel retail and duty-free sales from the domestic market. Espace Voyageur is a geographically delineated area at airports, beyond security and immigration controls, which is accessible only to travellers with a valid travel document such as a ticket or boarding card. The concept applies equally to aircraft and ferries that are undertaking an international or intra-EU flight or voyage.
Within Espace Voyageur, there are no special tax regimes or other exemptions from EU rules and regulations. The Espace Voyageur criteria specifically provide that the operating regulations may not contravene EU law; likewise EU legislation does not permit any differential tax or duty arrangements from those applicable in the normal domestic market.
Recognition of the Espace Voyageur concept was finally achieved on 22 December 2005 when the French Parliament passed an amendment to a transport bill which provides a legal basis for Espace Voyageur. As worded, the amendment strictly applies only to airports and discussions are continuing with the French authorities regarding its extension to also include ships and aircraft. However, although the EU Commission has accepted the principle of a market specific to travellers and has indicated that it considers the concept to be consistent with existing European legislation, no progress has been made in securing formal recognition in the rest of the EU.
In areas such as food labelling the potential for a plethora of individual national requirements in Member States is causing increasing difficulties for the manufacturers and suppliers of products which are supplied uniquely to the travel retail business across Europe and so recognition of Espace Voyageur could facilitate a separate, simpler regime for businesses involved in travel retail.
The UKTRF works with the ETRC to promote a greater awareness of the uniqueness of our industry and the need to enshrine the concept of Espace Voyageur at a European level.