Emirates and utu Sign Strategic Partnership in Drive to Revolutionize Tax-Free Shopping Experience
New tax-free shopping reward program puts traveler benefits at the heart of the tax refund ecosystem
utu, the travel tech startup, has announced a strategic partnership with Emirates in a bid to shake-up the VAT refund sector. Emirates is the first to join utu’s innovative new service based on deep industry experience that adds customer loyalty and rewards elements to the tax-free shopping experience for cross-border travelers.
Through the “upsize” model, tourists using utu will soon be able to supersize their tax refunds from shopping with rewards, including Frequent Flyer Miles, hotel points, restaurant vouchers, retail loyalty points, and more. This pivot to rewards signals the biggest upheaval in the history of tax-free shopping.
Tax-free shopping is available in 50 countries across the globe, including France, Italy, Germany, Singapore, South Korea, and the UAE. It allows travelers to claim back the Value-Added Tax (VAT) or Goods & Services Tax (GST) for purchases in countries they visit. Although the system was introduced as a way to boost tourism revenue in local economies, it has, over time, fallen out of favor with travelers. By the time a refund is processed by VAT Refund Operators (VROs), shoppers only receive about half of the total value of the VAT refund they are due.
By leveraging the virtual utu Tax Free Card in the utu Tax Free app, Emirates Skywards members will now be able to upsize their VAT refund value by 4167 Skywards Miles for every 100 USD. To celebrate the launch of this industry-first proposition of rewarding VAT refunds, Emirates Skywards and utu are offering 5001 Skywards for every 100 USD of VAT refund starting from 11 Oct 2021 to 31 March 2022. There is no minimum spend requirement or maximum Miles earning limit. More collaborations around customer rewards and loyalty will follow as part of the strategic partnership between Emirates and utu.
Dr Nejib Ben Khedher, Divisional Senior Vice President Emirates Skywards, said: “At Emirates, we pride ourselves on putting customer wellbeing at the heart of everything we do. Not only does this translate into a loyal following of discerning members, it is also the reason why we constantly strive to reinvent and innovate our experience offering. utu is an exciting and fresh new company founded on a bedrock of industry expertise. It is set to disrupt the tax-free shopping sector by introducing a reward element to the process and we are looking forward to working with utu on a number of reward and loyalty initiatives as part of our strategic partnership.”
Asad Jumabhoy, co-founder and CEO of utu said: “We are excited to be working with Emirates to help drive a shift in the VAT refund market that will make the shopper the main beneficiary of the Tax-free shopping scheme. Adding Emirates Skyward Miles to the launch of virtual utu Tax Free Card in the utu Tax Free app is a fantastic first step in our partnership and we are looking forward to extending the ecosystem for the benefit of loyal customers. The tax free shopping scheme was originally introduced for the benefit of travelers, and it is time we revert back to the original aim by driving industry innovation.”