Making A Lasting Impression

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman of DDF together with Sheikh Hasher Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, President - UAE Tennis Federation and Naser Yousef, Secretary General – UAE Tennis Federation presented the trophies along with DDF officials, Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman & CEO, Salah Tahlak, Executive Vice President – Corporate Services and Tournament Director, Sinead El Sibai, SVP – Marketing to Andrey Rublev (winner) and Jiri Vesely (runner-up) of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 2022
Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman of DDF together with Sheikh Hasher Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, President - UAE Tennis Federation and Naser Yousef, Secretary General – UAE Tennis Federation presented the trophies along with DDF officials, Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman & CEO, Salah Tahlak, Executive Vice President – Corporate Services and Tournament Director, Sinead El Sibai, SVP – Marketing to Andrey Rublev (winner) and Jiri Vesely (runner-up) of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 2022

Published: Thu 17 Mar 2022, 9:00 AM

Dubai Duty Free (DDF) is ready for the new year with a plethora of innovations that are focused towards increasing customer engagement. Colm McLoughlin Executive Vice Chairman and CEO shares his thoughts on how DDF is geared for the year ahead.



L-R): Simona Halep; Elina Svitolina; Salah Tahlak, Tournament Director; Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman & CEO, DDF; Naser Yousef, Secretary General, UAE Tennis Federation; Donna Kelso, WTA Supervisor; Ramesh Cidambi, COO, DDF; Sinead El Sibai, SVP - Marketing, DDF all in attendance at the WTA Draw Ceremony of the 2022 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
L-R): Simona Halep; Elina Svitolina; Salah Tahlak, Tournament Director; Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman & CEO, DDF; Naser Yousef, Secretary General, UAE Tennis Federation; Donna Kelso, WTA Supervisor; Ramesh Cidambi, COO, DDF; Sinead El Sibai, SVP - Marketing, DDF all in attendance at the WTA Draw Ceremony of the 2022 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Excerpts from an interview:

Prediction for the year ahead and new business models being introducing in 2022

We are very optimistic from the larger business perspective. Our forecast for our annual sales this year sees an increase of 40per cent to Dh5.1 billion and we have plans to recall more of our staff as passenger traffic at Dubai international Airport begins to rebound. Regarding store development, we never took our foot off the accelerator during the pandemic and continued our work on several projects. We launched a Home Delivery service in June 2020, which offers UAE resident the chance to shop online from Dubai Duty Free. We have seen the number of travelers use our ‘Click & Collect’ service double. Similarly, our suppliers are increasingly keen for us to host their digital boutiques on our website and to host live demonstrations on social media platforms, which are becoming popular. Last year total online sales accounted for 5 per cent of our sales and this is an indicator of how important the digital side of our business is.

Colm McLoughlin, Aidan Cronin, Irish Ambassador to the UAE, Colm Brophy, Minister of State and Patrick Hennessy, Commissioner General of the Ireland Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai are seen here with one of the photographs being showcased at an exhibition in the Ireland Pavilion
Colm McLoughlin, Aidan Cronin, Irish Ambassador to the UAE, Colm Brophy, Minister of State and Patrick Hennessy, Commissioner General of the Ireland Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai are seen here with one of the photographs being showcased at an exhibition in the Ireland Pavilion

Opening up of travel sector and return to normalcy

Despite slower than expected recovery, the easing of travel restrictions in key markets brings renewed optimism and momentum amid the addition of new geopolitical tensions. Looking ahead, despite the risks that exist, the industry remains confident that the potential for a recovery to 2019 levels within two or three years is likely.

Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO,Dubai Duty Free
Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO,Dubai Duty Free

Response to Expo 2020 Dubai and some highlights

The Expo 2020 Dubai is absolutely fantastic. For Dubai Duty Free, the additional visitors mean that we have an opportunity to increase the spend per head of those travellers and to convert flyers into buyers. Some of the highlights as an airport retail partner, we have opened a dedicated Expo 2020 Dubai shop in Concourse B of Dubai international Airport in September 2021 while as early as January 2020, we started selling Expo merchandise across almost all the major locations to promote and show our support towards this event. To date, sales has reached close to Dh5 million which is equivalent to over 167,000 Expo merchandise sold. The best-selling and highly sought after souvenir was the Expo passport, where we sold over 61,000 pieces. In addition, we also had a great sale of exclusively designed Expo food products from Bateel and Patchi.

Colm and Breeda McLoughlin with Novak Djokovic
Colm and Breeda McLoughlin with Novak Djokovic

Main attractions at DDF this year

Our focus is very much on trying to maximise footfall and business on our current retail footprint which includes the luxury boutiques that we opened in recent months at Dubai International Airport including a Christian Dior boutique in Concourse A and B, a Louis Vuitton retail outlet in Concourse B, a Cartier boutique also in Concourse B and the recently opened Bally shop in Concourse A. We are also finalising some refurbishments and renovations at the moment in Dubai International Airport, while we are looking forward to the re-opening of Al Maktoum International Airport in May.

Official EXPO Dubai 2020 Shop in Concourse B
Official EXPO Dubai 2020 Shop in Concourse B

Three decades of Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

As the tournament owners and organisers, we were very proud to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last month. It’s a great achievement to have reached 30 years and I am pleased that the organisation of the tournament is largely done in-house. Last year’s tournament was played behind closed doors, so it was especially good to see the return of fans at 100 per cent capacity this year. No-one could have predicted that over three decades pretty much every top player in the world including Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic would step onto the courts in pursuit of the title. We added the Ladies week in 2001 and that has also attracted the top names on the WTA tour. The tournament has also enjoyed the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. This year’s final was attended by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman of Dubai Duty Free and Sheikh Hasher bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, President of Tennis Emirates, who is a great tennis fan. The two week tournament results in major TV exposure for Dubai and is calculated independently at around $1.3 billion.

Some other Group and hospitality ventures to watch out for

I am delighted to say that, as part of the Dubai Duty Free Leisure Group, The Irish Village in Garhoud, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, continues to do well as well as the one in Studio One Hotel in Dubai Studio City. Likewise, the Expo 2020 Dubai outlet situated in Jubilee Park close to the Ireland Pavilion was opened in October last year has generated great sales and saw more than 110,000 visitors who enjoyed the culture and hospitality of a traditional Irish pub, which The Irish Village is known for. We are considering few options on where to relocate this outlet after the Expo, but nothing is concrete at the moment. Dubai Duty Free also owns The Century Village which features seven licensed restaurants in one pedestrian-friendly setting and complements The Irish Village on the other side of the stadium. Meanwhile, the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, which is also part of the Leisure Group, has so far witnessed a spike in rooms reserved overnight this year. As the official hotel for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, it has done a fantastic job safely hosting the players and officials during this year’s tournament.

The future of airport retailing and DDF

The future direction of travel retail revolves around engagement – all forms of digital engagement with the traveller before they travel or during their journey. We would be able to notify them of specific products and potentially know what they are looking for in travel retail. That engagement will allow for planned purchases although impulse buying will still be important. Exclusivity is also another key component and we are continuously working with suppliers to have regional first or Dubai Duty Free only products for our customers.

Sustainability is another key point that is increasingly important for travelers, especially younger travelers, and we need to work with suppliers to ensure that we are delivering on this.

St Patrick’s Day Message

“I wish the Irish community in the UAE a very happy St Patrick’s Day this year.There will be many parties all over the UAE, including in The Irish Village, in Garhoud, Studio One Hotel and Expo 2020 Dubai. The Irish Village in Garhoud will hold a three-day celebration from Thursday 17th to Saturday 19th March, featuring live music from Funky Buskers flown in from Ireland especially for the occasion. There will also be traditional Irish music and performances by Irish dancers too. An official celebration will take place at Expo 2020 Dubai on 17th March to be hosted by the Ireland Pavilion and Embassy of Ireland and to be led by Ambassador Aidan Cronin and Expo 2020 Commissioner General Pat Hennessy. You’ll even be able to watch a St Patrick’s Day parade around Expo 2020 Dubai led by the Irish Defence Force Pipers.In addition, the Irish Business Network will also host its annual St Patrick’s Day breakfast at The Irish Village in Expo, with a speech from Ireland’s Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, who will also attend the official ceremony at Al Wasl.

Finally, I am delighted to say that as part of international ‘Global Greening’ initiative of Tourism Ireland, The Irish Village in Garhoud will ‘turn green’ along with Al Wasl Plaza and the Ireland Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai to commemorate our national holiday,” commented Colm McLoughlin.


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