People are starting to travel again.

PARIS — Dufry Group, the world’s largest travel-retail operator, noted a gradual improvement in business, as its sales in the first quarter of 2021 declined 68 percent versus the same prior-year period, due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus.

In the three months ended March 31, Dufry’s sales reached 460.3 million Swiss francs, or $511.9 million, down 73.9 percent in organic terms against the first quarter of 2019.

Many companies are giving a comparable with 2019, which was before the coronavirus pandemic and therefore a more stable period.

Dufry’s results are a bellwether of how hard the travel-retail industry’s business has been hit by the COVID-19 crisis, as travel in most regions of the world ground to a complete halt. How quickly the channel resumes operations, and people begin taking trips again, will have a major impact on the business of luxury fragrance and cosmetics, which comprise travel retail’s number-one product category.

Dufry said it’s finding encouraging signs of a resumption of travel and travel-retail demands in areas that are progressing with vaccinations and the implementation of travel protocols — especially in the U.S., Central America and the Caribbean.

“Customer behavior indicates continued demand for travel and travel retail, and we are well-positioned to accelerate sales with further reopenings,” said Julián Díaz, chief executive officer of Dufry Group, in a statement. “The close relationship with our landlords, suppliers, employees and shareholders continues to be a valuable support during the recovery.”

Dufry said its cash consumption in the first quarter was better than expected. It reached 219.3 million francs, therefore allowing Dufry to confirm its guidance for 2021. The company aims to achieve 530 million francs to 670 million francs in cost savings in personnel and other expenses for the full year versus 2019.

On a geographic basis, Dufry sales declined 79.2 percent in the Europe, Middle East and Africa zone; 75.8 percent in the Asia-Pacific region, and 62.6 percent in the Americas.

At the end of April, more than 1,400 Dufry shops were operating, representing about 70 percent in sales capacity compared to full-year 2019.

For more, see:

Travel-Retail Giant Dufry’s Sales Sink 71.1% in 2020

Travel-Retail Giant Dufry’s Q3 Sales Drop 80.5%

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