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Emirates and utu Sign Strategic Partnership in Drive to Revolutionize Tax-Free Shopping Experience

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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.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20211012006142/en/

Asad Jumabhoy, co-founder and CEO of utu, and Dr Nejib Ben Khedher, Divisional Senior Vice President Emirates Skywards (Photo: Business Wire)

Asad Jumabhoy, co-founder and CEO of utu, and Dr Nejib Ben Khedher, Divisional Senior Vice President Emirates Skywards (Photo: Business Wire)

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."

About Emirates Skywards

Emirates Skywards, the award-winning loyalty program of Emirates and flydubai, has more than 27 million members. The program offers four tiers of membership: Blue, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, with each tier earning exclusive privileges. Emirates Skywards members earn Skywards Miles with partners ranging from airlines, hotels, and car rentals to financial, leisure, and lifestyle brands. Skywards Miles can be redeemed for an extensive range of rewards, including flight tickets on partner airlines, flight upgrades, hotel stays, tickets, hospitality at sporting and cultural events, tours, and money-can't-buy experiences. For more information, visit www.emirates.com/skywards.

About utu

utu is a travel tech company transforming global travel by empowering tourists with rewards and higher VAT refunds when shopping abroad, so they can get the best value out of their trips. Far more than just digitizing the process, utu re-engineers the broken tax refund industry, putting the customer first. By bridging the worlds of refunds and rewards, utu unlocks new value in the form of rewards from retailers, airlines, hotels, and many more, allowing it to upsize refunds by up to 25%. No one else is able to provide travelers with more value. Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Singapore, utu has offices in France, Italy, Thailand, South Korea and India and is partnered with 12 major airline carriers. For more information, visit utu.global.

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