Sebastian Clausen, Secretary to APTRA and Sales Director, Global Duty Free, Imperial Tobacco
Secretary to the Association and Sales Director Global Duty Free for Imperial Tobacco Ltd, Sebastian has been a key driver in recent campaign initiatives to protect not only the tobacco category but also the international status of Duty Free. Here he outlines his career, his take on the industry and the challenges it faces, and he provides some insight to what inspires him in his personal as well as his professional life.
How has your career developed and what led you to become involved in the duty free industry??
I started working in the tobacco industry more than 15 years ago. Most of the time I have been in domestic market businesses in various Sales, Trade and Brand Marketing roles in Germany and Eastern Europe. Then in 2009 I used an internal opportunity to enter the Duty Free world by moving to Singapore as Regional Director Duty Free for Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific. Within that role I relocated the office and Duty Free team to Hong Kong where I lived with my family until March 2013. I am now back in Germany, where the majority of the Imperial Tobacco Global Duty Free team is based. As Sales Director I am responsible for the Duty Free sales worldwide.
What do you consider to be your finest achievements in a professional capacity?
Different roles present different challenges. There have been achievements in all the various roles I have had. I am happy with what my teams and I have delivered over the years and I am looking forward to what the future brings. It has never been boring so far!
What in your view is the primary objective of APTRA?
APTRA represents the Travel Retail / Duty Free industry in the APAC region. As an association with members from Airports, Retailers and Suppliers it stands for the common interests of the industry in the region and supports the future development of the business. .
What does your role in APTRA entail?
As Secretary and a Board member I try personally to support APTRA in becoming bigger, more influential and better connected for the wellbeing of its members. Working for Imperial Tobacco of course I represent the category on the APTRA Board. As the tobacco category is under threat it is my role to create a better understanding of the issues, to exchange ideas and bring in best practice in order to safeguard the category and at the same time the industry.
How would you like to see the Association develop in the coming years?
We have taken major steps forward in APTRA during the past couple of years. The association has not only grown in terms of the number of members it represents in the region but also the scope of activities has been widened considerably. APTRA works hand in hand with other regional associations, for example ETRC and MEADFA, but also with national Travel Retail associations within the region. Our Consumer Research programme delivers added value to our members and projects like the Responsible Retail Training Programme, Code of Conduct are major steps in safeguarding the industry’s interests. I am confident that we will build on these successes in the coming years. We will further grow the membership size and APTRA’s influence in the region, run more projects of common interest and benefit, and build the base for a growing Travel Retail business in Asia Pacific.
The duty free & travel retail industry, particularly the tobacco category, faces challenges on several fronts. On which should attention be focused most closely at this point?
The biggest challenge is that Duty Free is often misunderstood. It is a special and international retail environment that needs to be treated differently from the domestic markets. Therefore APTRA and the other Duty Free & Travel Retail associations need to create an open dialogue with regulators and authorities to ensure the characteristics of Duty Free are understood and recognised.
Are you optimistic about the industry’s future?
Yes, tourism will grow and so the industry will. But challenges need to be taken seriously by all parts of the industry and we need to work together.
Could you allow us some insight to your personal life, your leisure activities and your family?
I moved to Asia with my wife and we returned to Germany as a family with three children. My daughter was born in Singapore and my twin sons were born in Hong Kong. It’s crazy at home these days with our three young and very active family members and when I am not travelling I try to spend as much time as possible with them. I really enjoy it.
Playing golf is clearly reduced to the tournaments at the various Duty Free trade shows and also other hobbies like snowboarding, photography and cooking are waiting for less busy times….
Where is home?
I consider home to be where my family is. I really enjoyed my time in Singapore and Hong Kong. Being back in Hamburg makes me equally happy. It is the place where I was born and a city I consider to be one of the best places to live.
What or who inspires you most?
I get my inspiration from many people around me, my wife, my kids, my family, friends, colleagues and others I have the chance to meet and speak to while I am travelling around the world.