The iconic brand continues to live up to the principles of its founder in its pursuit of serving humanity
Excerpts from the interview:
In 2022, Dubai Duty Free recorded $1.74 billion in sales, how have Dubai Duty Free’s sales performed so far this year? And when do you expect sales to return to pre-COVID levels?
Year-to-date (January to 14 March 2023) our sales have reached $445.6 million, an increase of 53.62 per cent over the previous year and 6.43 per cent compared to pre-pandemic (2019) levels. Overall, the recovery is doing well, and based on the indication and forecast for the traffic growth at the airport, we expect a full rebound.
How has technology revolutionised the concept of airport retailing and how has DDF adapted to the change?
The general rise of e-commerce and associated technologies has led to a shift in consumer expectations, with many travellers expecting the same or a higher level of convenience and personalisation from their shopping experiences at the airport. From digital signage to operational apps with near real-time stock visibility that are driven by our largely automated warehouse system, these tools have collectively allowed us to empower our retail staff to create an engaging and immersive shopping experience for our customers. Dubai Duty Free continues to invest heavily in technology, using in-house data analytics to monitor customer behavior and preferences, which helps us tailor our product offerings and create better, more meaningful marketing decisions.
This year, 2023, also marks the 40th anniversary of DDF - what will be the main attractions in support of the 40th anniversary?
We are still reviewing plans for the 40th anniversary of Dubai Duty Free, which will be in December this year. Apart from the usual discount on a wide range of merchandise, as has become an annual tradition during our anniversary, there will be launches of various travel retail offers and products that are exclusive to Dubai Duty Free to coincide with our 40th year, which would make the day truly special. Of course, we will also ensure a party-like atmosphere throughout the retail operation around December 20.
Under the umbrella of DDF, what are the new hospitality ventures or introductions that have been recently introduced?
There are no new hospitality ventures on the cards; so far, we are happy with our existing portfolio under Dubai Duty Free Leisure Group. The Irish Village in Garhoud, which celebrated its 26th anniversary last year, continues to do well, as does the one in Studio One Hotel in Dubai Studio City. Likewise, the Century Village, which features seven licenced restaurants and complements The Irish Village on the other side of the stadium, which is also doing well.Meanwhile, the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel has witnessed an increase in rooms reserved overnight last year, and as the official hotel for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, it has done a fantastic job hosting the players and officials during this year’s tournament.
In addition to being the home of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the Dubai Duty Free Stadium will continue to host several concerts, such as the Scottish band Texas, who will perform on 28th April.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships continues to rank highly on the radar of all the big names in the game. What in your opinion has contributed to the success of the tournament and its lasting legacy?
The tournament is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and an enormous in-house team effort is required to stage the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships every year. We are very lucky to have had so many of the same people involved in the running of the tournament and their collective experience ensures the event runs smoothly. The fact that Dubai is one of the key stops on the world tour is a testament to the hard work of everyone involved. Each and every year, we try to deliver an even better experience for the players and the spectators, and to ensure that the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships maintains its position as one of the most popular events in Dubai and in world tennis. Of course, we cannot do it without the help of our partners from multiple entities including the DTCM, Dubai Police and Civil Defense. In addition to our sponsors, such as J.P. Morgan, Rolex, Emirates, EA7, Khaleej Times etc. it’s a joint effort by all of these entities and management. We have the support of our patron His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. As well as Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman of Dubai Duty Free and Sheikh Hasher Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, President of the UAE Tennis Federation.
Lastly, I think it is quite unusual and very special to have so many members of the original organising committee still involved with the event, such as Ramesh Cidambi,COO who is the Head of the Tournament Organising Committee, Salah Tahlak, JCOO, who celebrated his 20 years as the Tournament Director and ofcourse, Sinead El Sibai and her team, and I think that continuity and dedication is one of the keys to our success. We also have a wonderful team of Dubai Duty Free staff, hundreds of whom fulfill important responsibilities in the organisation and ensure the smooth running of the event each year. Their involvement makes it truly a company affair and this unity is also one of the secrets of our success.
Apart from tennis championships, any other international sports tournament that DDF is associated with currently or any plans to do so in the near future?
We have been supporters of horseracing for many years and with horseracing playing an important part in Dubai Duty Free’s portfolio of sponsorships, Dubai Duty Free will return to Newbury in April for the start of the flat race season in the UK. The Dubai Duty Free Spring Trials Weekend will take place on 21st – 22nd April, which for the past several years was graced by the attendance of the late Her Majesty The Queen. Also, in the UK, the operation will return to Newbury Racecourse for the Dubai Duty Free International Racing Weekend from 22nd – 23rd September. The operation is also the title sponsor of one of the biggest races in
Europe, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, which will be held at the Curragh Racecourse from 30th June – 2nd July. Since taking over the title sponsorship of this major European race, Dubai Duty Free has created a weekend festival of racing and social activities, which include the Dubai Duty Free Golf Classic, which is held at the K Club in Kildare. Meanwhile, the world’s premier international jockey’s challenge, the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup, is to be held at Ascot on 12th August and will bring together top riders, male and female, from the world’s top racing nations representing Great Britain and Ireland, Rest of the World, Europe and The Ladies team.
Briefly highlight the CSR initiatives undertaken by DDF that enables to create a ‘better tomorrow’.
Some of our CSR highlights include our long-term environmental initiative ‘Plant a Tree, Plant a Legacy’, in 2021, which calls on the organisation to plant 10,000 trees in 10 years. This project is expected to help sequester carbon and help decrease carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Planting more trees effectively will also support the goal of preserving forest, desert, and mountain ecosystems.We kicked off the initiative with the ‘Plant it Forward’ project, which distributed microgreen plants to inspire a green sub-conscious among the staff. This was followed by the adoption of the ‘DDF Forest’ in 2022, a tree-planting project to amplify the organisation’s pledge towards environmental protection. The project has planted a total of 1,000 trees in the Ecuadorian Amazon forest, and as it adopts agroforestry methods, it also supports individuals through green jobs and livelihood opportunities, particularly farmers and forest-dependent families.
This year, Dubai Duty Free confirmed its support for the tree planting initiative of Dubai Police in partnership with the Zayed International Foundation for the Environment with a goal of planting 100,000 trees all over the UAE.
We are also aware of the importance of giving back. The Dubai Duty Free Foundation, which was established in 2004, has given away $35 million to 116 locals and overseas, with focus on various causes such as health and medical assistance, education, and poverty alleviation.
Recently, Dubai Duty Free donated Dh2 million to the Emirates Red Crescent’s ‘Bridges of Goodness’ campaign to support the earthquake victims in Türkiye and Syria in February, while in March, it renewed its partnership with Dubai Cares for another three years that will see Dubai Duty Free Foundation continue to support Dubai Cares’ educational programmes that will benefit children and young people in underprivileged communities around the world.
St. Patrick’s Day
The Irish Village in Garhoud is gearing up for a three-day weekend with traditional Irish dancers and Celtic band MAMO flown in from Ireland to perform.
In addition, the Irish Business Network will also host its annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at the Amphitheatre of Madinat Jumeirah with Minister of State, Josepha Madigan TD as guest speaker.
Meanwhile, Alison Milton, the Ambassador of Ireland, and Paolo Magnetti, will host a St. Patrick’s Day reception at the Irish Residence in Abu Dhabi. The reception will be attended by Minister Madigan TD, senior members of the diplomatic community resident in the UAE, business leaders from various sectors, numerous government agency representatives and esteemed members of the Irish Community. The guests will enjoy some fabulous Irish produce, music and dancing, and we look forward to being there.
I am also delighted to say that as part of international ‘Global Greening’ initiative of Tourism Ireland, The Irish Village in Garhoud will ‘turn green’ to commemorate our national holiday.
Finally, I would like to wish the Irish community in the UAE, a very happy St. Patrick’s Day!
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