How to make the most of your GTR purchasing

let’s begin

GTR – Global Travel Retail – is a big market place for brands to make their name and entice fans. There are ways you take advantage of global travel retail and make it work for you.

What is GTR?

Essentially, GTR is duty free. Formerly a loss-leading branding exercise but now it is expensive but highly lucrative for brands and immensely immersive for consumers. 

The industry is worth around $67.3 billion across the globe, with that figure expected to rise significantly in coming years – well, this year aside, for obvious reasons.

What is unique about Global Travel Retail is that brands do not have to pay tax on the goods sold there. This means they can offer them at a discounted rate to customers and entice more people into buying their goods. It is also a great place to introduce new products.

One watchout, however, is that typically duty-free contract states that they must have the product that is listed at the lowest price available globally, that is why you often see unique sizing of bottles such as 1 litre bottles, 50 CL bottles, or 20 CL bottles.

Oftentimes this is a place where products can be introduced to an international market. Think about the implications of having your product in an airport; not only do you have access to residents of that country, but every person passing through. Whisky brands are the masters of GTR releases; you happen to bring a bottle back to your country, enjoy it and share it with your friends, then that brand has a whole new audience.

It is becoming even more lucrative as the world becomes more globalised. More people from places like India and China, where whisky markets are growing, can now afford international travel. This means Global Travel Retail has even more of an impact on how brands sell in those countries.

Buying whisky in Duty Free

As a consumer, how can you use the advantages of duty free to curate a great whisky collection? Many whisky producers choose to release exclusive bottlings on the global travel retail market. This means you can have the perfect opportunity to build a whisky cabinet full of interesting drams that no one else has. It also means that you can pick up new releases from your favourite brands and expand your collection.

The relaxed tax in duty free also means that you can pick up old favourites for a comparatively cheaper price. This is also a great place to discover new brands that you might not have enjoyed before. The opportunities in Global Travel Retail are endless.

We suggest that the best time to buy is when you’re flying out of a country, and on the way back. However, some countries don’t have duty free areas or might have smaller airports, so make sure you check before you go. Also, if you’re picking a whisky up on the way to another place, make sure you have a bag booked into the hold to sure that you can bring it back home with you. Travelling to a new destination because of their duty free whisky is also an excellent chance to get out and explore more of the world! I actually know one man who does exactly that – incredible – literally flies to an airport to get a certain bottle then gets the next flight back.

What is on offer

What exactly should you be looking out for? Many whisky companies will release bottlings first into the Global Travel Retail market so this is your chance to get that bottling before anyone else.

There are also a number of limited edition bottles, with various packaging designs or themes that mean you can curate a whisky collection full of hard to get bottles. This is an opportunity to grow your own collection and perhaps auction some off in the future. A great example of this is the Diageo Game of Thrones themed collection that has been initially released exclusive in World Duty Free.


For this to really work, we suggest you do a bit of research beforehand. When whisky companies release new products they usually do some advertising around it. This most likely includes a press release, sent to media companies, blogs or on their own website. The press release will typically tell you where you can purchase that new release. If a whisky is released on the global travel retail market, they will state this and sometimes even which airport the bottles are in. This is the perfect chance for you to know where you need to go to get that bottling.

There is also the chance to reserve and collect at World Duty Free shops around the world. Take a visit to their website and you can order to whisky and pick it up at your destination airport. The website is also a really useful guide to the kinds of things you can expect to find at an airport whisky shop. It will show you what exclusives are there, so you know what to ask for or look out for. You might also be able to do this on some airport websites as well, such as the Manchester one.

Airports – what you can get and where

A number of airports will have exclusives that you can only get there. The World Duty Free website is a great place to check for this information, as are press releases, as mentioned above.

Edinburgh Airport is a hot spot for this kind of thing, as are the main London Airports like Standsted, Gatwick and Heathrow. These are mostly big, international airports with heavy footfall and a wide range of people. That means brands have the best chance of reaching lots of different people with their releases. Edinburgh, being the capital of Scotland and considering the huge amount of tourism brought in by Scotch, makes it the perfect place to go to find travel retail exclusives. Edinburgh Airport saw the exclusive release of a Tamdhu malt in March 2019. This was the first travel retail exclusive from Tamdhu.

International airports in Asian countries such as China, India and Taiwan are also excellent places to look for travel retail exclusive releases. The Asian whisky market is burgeoning these days, so it makes sense that whisky producers will look to release more malts in Asian airports. There are also some that have standalone whisky shops, such as The Macallan whisky shop in The Taoyuan Taiwan Airport.

These are changing all the time so it is well worth keeping a close eye on what new releases are coming out and where they will be stocked. It is also common for brands to divide collections between markets, so half of a collection will be available in China and the other half in the United States.

Global Travel Retail is an excellent opportunity for you to find rare and exclusive malts and bring them home. You can create a highly sought after whisky cabinet, either for your own enjoyment or to auction off later, using good research and a couple of international flights.

Tags: Duty FreeGTRGTR purchasing


My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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