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Oh, what a beautiful mornin’
Oh, what a beautiful day.
I’ve got a beautiful feelin’
Everything’s goin’ my way.

– Rodgers & Hammerstein

I’m back in a near-freezing London after a full-on week in the Middle East, starting with the annual MEADFA Conference in Jordan, followed by the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup.  The former was a good event as always, attracting 342 delegates – not bad given some widely held concerns about the choice of Jordan as a venue in a troubled year.

Why the opening reference to the famous Rodgers & Hammerstein song from the musical Oklahoma? Because that’s the unique way in which the Mayor of Amman (and a former Jordanian Minister of Tourism) H.E. Akel Biltaji opened his address on day one of the MEADFA Conference. In trying to instil some necessary perspective (and optimism) regarding a troubled region and troubled world, he burst into song and then got the whole audience to do exactly the same. Nice touch.

amman mayor

His was a rarely warm, thoughtful, intelligent speech, combining philosophical and cultural insights with an acute knowledge of global trends. If only such balanced, measured thinking was more widespread we would indeed have many more beautiful mornings in a region too often tainted by hatred and ignorance.

To Dubai and the two-day Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup. I won’t trouble you with details of my golfing performance just as I never troubled the scorers. One day was enough in fact for me to confirm exactly why my odds of winning were roughly the same as Donald Trump’s chances of winning the Nobel Peace Prize. On day two I chose to return to what I do rather better, reporting. To lean on the old Mark Twain adage, just as good a walk but this time not ruined.





[The Moodie Report’s Dermot Davitt with Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman Colm McLoughlin. The Moodie Report sponsored the golf buggies on day 1 with a ‘Straight & True’ tagline]


[And there are none straighter nor more true than Gebr Heinemann’s legendary Harry Diehl]

Once again the Dubai Duty Free organisation and hospitality were simply to be marvelled at. Staff such as Christine Feliciano and Anna Khan (below) and the others below (led by the irrepressible Magdy Al Sheikh, on the right) epitomise the DDF spirit – always smiling, always gracious. Nothing is too much trouble. Thank you to all at Dubai Duty Free for your incredible warmth, efficiency and grace over the past few days.




[From left: Martin Moodie; Colm McLoughlin, Dubai Duty Free; Des Smyth, top Irish golf professional; George Horan, Dubai Duty Free; and Harry Diehl of Gebr Heinemann on day 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup]


[The only birdies I got close to at the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup]


[And the winner is… local businessman Beyer Khan]


Now it’s back to HQ, just a couple of business trips to close out the year remain. An interesting, often testing, ultimately successful year for The Moodie Report. A troubled one for the industry. And a tragic one for the world. I wonder what Rodgers and Hammerstein would have made of it. For there were not too many beautiful mornings in 2015.

Richard Patrick moodie

[Dear or alive? A public float for The Moodie Report? At the MEADFA conference in Jordan, Scorpio Worldwide’s Richard Kennedy reads The Moodie Report on the Dead Sea while being filmed for Moodie Live, while Al Nassma’s Patrick Dorais looks on]


[Colourful couture or sartorial sabotage? (Above and below:) Some of the industry’s best-known characters at the Pinkie Pairs which followed the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup]



[Picasso couldn’t have painted two harlequins any more perfectly: David Spillane and Andrew Webster spotted on the fairway for once]


[Technicolour trio: David Spillane, Sunil Tuli, whose shorts appear to have burst into flame, and tournament winner Rodger Craig]




[A quintessential quintet hits the high notes: Left to right: Jaclyn McGuire, Jessica Howells, Vicki Smyth, Catherine Bonelli and Denise Kennedy]


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It was nice while it lasted but alas The Moodie Report’s Interim Dead Sea Bureau is now closed. What a beautiful setting, not just to run my business from but also for the (excellent) MEADFA Conference 2015.

I’ve now set up shop, as it were, in Dubai. I’m staying at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, owned by Dubai Duty Free, hosts of the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup which tees off later today.

rsz_dead_sea_4 rsz_dead_sea_2

Over 100 players from the global travel retail industry will take part in the two-day, 36-hole event, beginning today at the Al Badia Golf Club and concluding tomorrow at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club.

Reading the small print today I noted that the event is “open to amateur players”. This is a positive development for me as I am the definitive amateur player, my game carefully honed by approximately three rounds a year, in Cannes and Dubai. Mind you, I score so poorly during those three rounds that in terms of actual number of shots played during the year I’m right up there with the best of them.

Unlike a certain Dermot ‘Divot’ from the Galway branch of The Moodie Report, who had the temerity to win this very event (pictured below) in 2013 – while, to make it even worse, I was back in London churning out War and Peace-like volumes of copy. And I thought life got easier when you became the boss. We’ve had words since, of course, and the Divot has promised me he won’t let down our hard-won reputation for sporting uselessness ever again.



My chances? Well, given that I have an incurable case of both the putting and chipping ‘yips’ (and the rest of my game is not much better) I’m reminded of that exchange from Dumb & Dumber.

Lloyd Christmas: What do you think the chances are of a guy like you and a girl like me… ending up together?

Mary Swanson: Well, Lloyd, that’s difficult to say. I mean, we don’t really…

Lloyd Christmas: Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight! I came a long way just to see you, Mary. The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances?

Mary Swanson: Not good.

Lloyd Christmas: You mean, not good like one out of a hundred?

Mary Swanson: I’d say more like one out of a million.

Lloyd Christmas: So you’re telling me there’s a chance… YEAH!

So I do have a chance then. Yeah! That glittering Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup trophy is the Mary Swanson to my Lloyd Christmas game. But let’s stretch the odds a little more to be realistic. Shall we say 100 million to one? Most likely though that chance, like many a ball I hit in the next 48 hours, will be dead in the water.

Talking of which, I should have practiced at the Dead Sea. At least there my golf balls, like (readers of a nervous disposition look away now) Richard Kennedy, Patrick Dorais, Joe Harvey and Gordon Ratcliffe below, wouldn’t have sunk.

Patrick Dorais 2 richard gordon and patrick Richard Patrick moodie

[Richard Kennedy, ‘launched’ as the new face of The Moodie Report, peruses the publication on the Dead Sea while Patrick Dorais contemplates a public float]

Patrick and MM

[Moodie Blues and Muddy Waters]

Joe harvey best

[Tourvest’s Joe Harvey, free of duty at last]

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Meet Pauline Cheung (left) and Shereen Lee. They’re part of one of the aviation world’s most incredible success stories, but one whose success has generally been told away from the headlines and simply by getting on with business. Lots and lots of business.

Hong Kong-based Pauline is Group Sales & Marketing Director for Plaza Premium Group, the family-owned, world-leading provider of airport lounge, hotel and other hospitality services. Shereen is Operations Manager for the company’s burgeoning operations at London Heathrow Airport, where we met yesterday.

Plaza Premium Group was founded by Malaysian businessman Song Hoi-see in 1998, with the opening of two airport lounges at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Hong Kong International Airport in rapid succession. Mr Song (pictured below) had left his job as an investment banker to set up his own (unrelated) business. Suddenly forced to travel economy, he found the airport experience unfriendly and often downright unpleasant. Nowhere to charge his laptop; nowhere quiet to work; no place to send a fax (remember them?). He soon found out what millions of economy passengers in the late 90s already knew – if you didn’t travel business or first class the airport ‘experience’ would likely be inconvenient at best and “dreaded” (to use his word) at worst.


A simple but great notion took shape in his mind. What about creating an airport lounge available to all, regardless of airline or class of travel? His thinking coincided with the vision of far-sighted, consumer-centric airport companies at two important new Asian gateways – Hong Kong International and Kuala Lumpur International. The two airport operators wanted to position themselves as traveller-friendly and world-leaders in passenger services.

Plaza Premium Lounge Limited (now simply Plaza Premium Group) was born and for millions of travellers through the two airports ever since, time at the airport has been a much more relaxed part of the journey.

I first met Mr Song a few years back when I was speaking at a Kuala Lumpur International Airport commercial revenues conference. As all who know him will attest, he has that almost indefinable quality of presence. I recall to this day the very real warmth of his smile; his infectious ebullience; the feeling that you were in the company of someone who simply makes things happen.

17 years on from the company’s founding, by goodness have things happened. Today Plaza Premium Lounge Management operates over 130 lounges, hotels and other guest facilities at airports around the world. By 2018 it plans, amazingly, to raise that number to 300. The portfolio now embraces airport lounges; transit hotels; meet and greet services; airport spas; and airport dining, with more, much more, to come.



I met Pauline and Shereen in the new Plaza Premium Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 2 Arrivals (below). I was deeply impressed. In an aviation world synonymous with noise and crowds here was quiet and peace. It’s such an oasis of calm, soothing music playing, candles glowing, natural wood floors and walls combining with understated tiling. It feels like a fusion of Asian elegance and Scandinavian naturalness. It is also deceptively large, with the spa, bedrooms and shower rooms cleverly tucked off in a separate area. With no natural light, the company has opted for a low-lit, boutique-hotel like ambiance. It’s lovely and how often do you say that about an airport facility?


In researching this piece, I came across a Blog from a regular business traveller who wrote: “Whilst I feel a bit strange writing this, it feels almost romantic – which is not something you often say about airport lounges.

“This is an impressive, calm and relaxing lounge to pass an hour or so.  It is NOT a good place to come with a group of friends if you want to make some noise and see how much you can drink before your flight goes.  United Club is the place to go for that. If you are with your partner and want to spend a couple of hours taking it easy in a quiet, classy and relaxing atmosphere, I would recommend it.”

Indeed it is not. And indeed so would I. Take it from someone who spends more time in airports than most (I’m heading to Heathrow in about two hours en route to Jordan). Amid all the high-profile corporate success stories in the airport and travel retail worlds, it’s good to see one based on simple (yet simultaneously profound) family values and a desire to put the consumer first. The fruition of the vision of a Song but not a dance man.




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About as good a spend of £15 in an airport as I can remember…

The item in question is a called ‘A Journey in Style’, written by Elizabeth Walker (with an introduction by Yasmin Le Bon). It’s a lovely pictorial book that celebrates some of the most stylish travellers, outfits and luggage to grace Heathrow’s concourses down the years plus some great on location shots from around the world.

There’s a stunning array of archive photography, some from the airport’s resident photographer Dennis Stone and some from Getty Images. Not surprisingly, they include several of the most iconic style influencers (and Heathrow passengers) of all time, including Marilyn Monroe Marlene Dietrich; Mick Jagger, The Beatles and even Queen Elizabeth II.

All proceeds from A Journey in Style go to Oxfam, Heathrow’s official charity partner.



Having seen the digital screen advertising for the book, I popped into the landside T5 Gallery (above) to procure a copy. I have mentioned several times in this Blog that this is one of my favourite places, let alone stores, in any airport.


Today, as luck would have it, both Director Ann Aldridge and Gallery Manager Alex Prior were on site and it was nice to catch up, have a chat about the Elizabeth Walker project and to view the stunning range of art and sculpture currently on display. It was also nice to hear that T5 Gallery, a rare perhaps solitary  example of a commercial art store/gallery in an airport, is prospering.


[Alex and Ann in front of the wonderful ‘Before the Performance – The Royal Opera House’ by Will Rochfort at T5 Gallery]


In recent months I’ve had a number of stimulating conversations with various airport executives (Paul Griffiths and Eugene Barry at Dubai Airports; Cissy Chan at Hong Kong International; Cheryl Nashir at San Francisco International; Glyn Williams at Sydney; Jonathan Coen at Heathrow and others) about what airports can be. Not just facilitators of a journey but an intrinsically experiential part of the journey.

All of the airports I cite are doing their best to achieve exactly that. We recently began a special series in each edition of The Moodie e-Zine (in association with The Design Solution) that offers a pictorial focus on how the great (but often misused) concept of Sense of Place is finding expression in airports. More, much more, next year as we start to examine what airports can achieve in serving the unique, ever-changing cross-roads of humanity that pass through them each and every day of the year.

In the meantime thank you Heathrow Airport and T5 Gallery for truly starting my latest journey in style.

From pictures to pencils. Regular readers will know that my other favourite store at Heathrow T5 is Paul Smith, right up there in my all-time list of the world’s best airport shops. Sadly I didn’t have time for my ‘Paul Smith socks fix’ (I have probably got more pairs than I have power adaptors and, given my capacity for forgetting the latter, that is saying a lot) but I was nonetheless stopped in my tracks by the brand.

I’m talking about another landside display, this time called ‘The Secret Life of the Pencil’ and it’s courtesy of Paul Smith. I’ll let the company explain the concept: This unique charity project collects, exhibits and auctions off pencils from famous owners including Stephen Fry, David Bailey and Paul Smith.



“The humble pencil is found where most of mankind’s greatest achievements begin,” explain Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney, the pencil pushers behind this special project.

The photographic study aims to showcase the continued use of the pencil in an increasingly digital world, demonstrating how the simple writing implement still sits proudly on the desk or behind the ear of the world’s leading artists, architects, writers and designers.

Documenting each pencil in pin-sharp detail, the photographs capture individual pencils as unique as fingerprints, each giving clues to the character of their owner.

Nice idea. Rendered even nicer by the fact that travellers can make their own contribution to Children in Crisis by purchasing limited-edition posters and original prints at the Paul Smith shop airside (or online at PaulSmith.co.uk/secretpencils)

block pencil 5 crop a bit off top

[A golfing tip from Irish sporting ace Rory McIlroy]


[A writing tip from the great author William Boyd]


And finally…

On the 12th day of Christmas
my true love bought for me:

12 Swatches ticking
11 Torys Burching
10 Viktors Rolfing
9 Johnnies Walking
8 Heid-a-siecking
7 Handbags Kipling
6 Grey Goose laying
5 Cartier rings
4 Burberry Brits
3 French Hennessy
2 chocolate Doves
and all them bought duty free!

– The 12 Days of (Duty Free) Christmas – Traditional (almost)

Yes, once again I’m running my ‘Great Airport Christmas Trees’ competition. Already they’re starting to pop up all over the globe and I’ll be assessing the best, the most creative and the quirkiest. Here are some from Heathrow T5. I must say, I do like Viktor & Rolf’s. Talk about pretty in pink. Send us in your snaps please. It promises to be a cracker of a competition. A real Christmas cracker [Christmas tree rating = 9].






[World Duty Free has gone for a standard look across departments. Elegant but not exciting.  Christmas tree rating = 6]



[A more natural look from Watches of Switzerland but I think it just looks a mite sad and isolated. Christmas tree rating = 5]

5 x


[Ah, now we’re talking. This is Heathrow Airport’s landside effort at T5. Big, bold, bright, beautiful.  Christmas tree rating = 9]



One response to “Pencilling in a journey in style at Heathrow as the great airport Christmas tree competition begins”

  1. Hello Martin:

    Just became aware of your blog, which is splendid, and wanted to make you aware of my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/artsintheairport. It is the only FB page that showcases all types of arts initiatives at airports throughout the world. I have covered holiday programs and displays for several years and will do so again this year. Often I promote what’s happening at Heathrow and have an on-going relationship with the T-5 Gallery. In addition, I have written arts and archives master plans, including one for Dulles and National and hold a Bachelor in Fine Arts, in Painting and Design, from Carnegie Mellon University.

    Regarding being able to buy the art one sees in an airport, take a look at Glasgow Airport where the gallery there sells and even ships/delivers the purchases. At Nantucket Airport (KACK,) all the artwork on display is for sale through the artist whose contact info is next to the pieces.

    If interested in learning more about what the FB page does and about me, please read the “About” section and then perhaps we can chat. Would really like to collaborate on this subject; perhaps you can mention my FB page on your blog and vice-versa as well your considering my being part of your new project. I totally believe that what one sees first in an airport and what one sees last is the memory you have of that airport – and, it should be art of any kind to replace negativity. Therefore, I believe that art inspires that Sense of Place that you talk about, the decision to define an airport through visual experiences that only a few airports really understand.

    I do hope to hear from you and hope that you have a chance to review my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/artsintheairport.

    Betsey Sanpere
    Creative Airport Solutions
    1-508-221-2429 (mobile)

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It’s hard to find the will to write a Blog this weekend in light of the atrocities in Paris. Our thoughts are with the people of Paris and France, especially those who have lost loved ones or seen them injured. So much hatred, so much senseless loss of the innocents.

In the meantime, we all go forward, uncertain people in a troubled world. We cannot let the emotion of hate or the wish for vengeance define or destroy us.

I’m back from a successful trip to Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai, taking in three of the world’s great airports during my visit. I’ve covered the first two in my most recent Blogs; here I want to focus on Dubai International.


[Interviewing Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths at the Dubai Airshow]

I was in the UAE to visit the Dubai Airshow, to take in the Gala Dinner and to hear an apparently famous singer called Katy Perry. I say ‘apparently’ as I am as much in touch with modern pop music as I am with the intricacies of molecular science.

However, Ms Perry certainly knows how to put on a show and she duly wowed an audience of over 3,200 at the Gala Dinner hosted by Dubai Airports, Dubai Duty Free and Emirates at the spectacular Atlantis the Palm venue.


Katy_Perry_Dubai_Airshow_1115_500_2  Katy_Perry_Dubai_Airshow_1115_500_4  Katy_Perry_Dubai_Airshow_1115_500_6 Katy_Perry_Dubai_Airshow_1115_500_9 Katy_Perry_Dubai_Airshow_1115_500_11

[With Dubai Airports Executive Vice President of Commercial & Communications Eugene Barry]


[Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths with Emirates President Tim Clark]

As a result of that exhilarating 90-minute set, I can now boast knowledge of hit songs such as Kissed A Girl, Roar and the hit single Fireworks (a fireworks display helpfully lit up the Dubai sky behind Ms Perry to remind me of the song’s title), which I’d been told to listen out for.

The real point here though is that the choice of lead act underlined once more the profound ambition (and world-leader status) of the Dubai International stakeholders – Dubai Airports, Dubai Duty Free and Emirates, which jointly sponsored the evening.


[Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman Colm McLoughlin and wife Breeda (left) entertain guests including Martin Moodie and tennis stars Ana Ivanovic (right) and Caroline Wozniacki (left)]


[Sinead el Sibai of Dubai Duty Free and husband Jihad]


[With Colm McLoughlin and Bacardi Global Travel Retail Managing Director Mike Birch]

Dubai International is now the world’s leading airport by international passenger numbers (it will hit 78 million this year). Pretty soon it will be number one overall, ahead of current incumbent Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Dubai Duty Free is the world’s leading airport duty free retailer for a single location. Emirates is the world’s biggest international carrier (and the seventh biggest overall). Remember that Dubai Duty Free was only founded in 1983; Emirates in 1985; and Dubai International, while opened as far back as 1960, was an obscure Middle East gateway until the 1980s.


[Colm and Breeda McLoughlin and Carmel and George Horan of Dubai Duty Free]

What an extraordinary transformation has happened since and the sheer wow and scale of the Dubai Airshow underlined the enormous impact that the aviation sector and related channels such as airport retail have on the region’s economy [according to Oxford Economics, the industry will be responsible for 44.7% of Dubai’s GDP by 2020 and 35.1% of employment – remarkable numbers.]

On the way home from Dubai, both at Dubai International and onboard Emirates, I took a close look at some of the things that makes this aviation success story work. Here are my 12 talking points.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Good to see the Dubai Cares and Dubai Duty Free Foundation collection containers so prominently displayed. Every airport and every travel retailer should offer something similar (and, encouragingly, many do).


Dubai dazzle: Dubai International Terminal 3 arrivals is really one of the great experiences of the airport world. I’ve been here many, many times and still it never fails to delight and dazzle.




E is for excellence: And for Emirates. From the super-fast, super-efficient business class check-in to the outstanding lounge experience to an outstanding inflight offer (the ICE inflight information, communication and entertainment offer is particularly good), the Dubai carrier consistently gets it right. I was particularly impressed by the way the airline champions cultural diversity, via a range of languages spoken by its crew and its film festival-like line-up of high-quality international movies as opposed to the usual array of Hollywood blockbusters. And pictured below is how you sell duty free effectively onboard.



rsz_1emirates_df mm

Eternal optimism: I always love reporting on the winners of the Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire and Finest Surprise draws for US$1 million and a luxury car, respectively. How many lives have been transformed by a phone call from Dubai telling people they have won such a prize? So where’s my call? I’ve been waiting for years. My perennial lack of success is not for lack of trying – I am well on my way to racking up a million Dollars in spend, I reckon, in failed attempts to get lucky. Maybe the delightful Rowena’s smile will help me get over the line this time?


I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want: We tend to take for granted these days the huge success Dubai Duty Free has with products such as Nido milk powder or Tang powdered orange juice. Plenty of other travel retailers have followed suit since but it was Dubai Duty Free which thought of doing it first – an early and sustained example of knowing what your customers really, really want.


Le Clos: I know I always extol the virtues of this specialist upscale wines & spirits store but it simply demands that I wax lyrical. Heck, I’ll even throw in the whole candle. What an outstanding collection of bottles covering every spectrum of the wine-drinking experience; what an amazing selection of great and rare spirits; what beautiful merchandising; and a nice sense of personalisation and modern customer engagement via social media to boot.






Local taste: Dubai International is not an airport with a strong Sense of Place (its main focus is on underlining its status as a buzzing international crossroads) but in Al Nassma camel milk chocolate it literally provides a local flavour. The display is highly popular for photo shots and, hey, the chocolate itself is very good.


Scent of success: Dubai Duty Free’s beauty offer has improved beyond all recognition in recent years with suppliers repeatedly ranking it among travel retail’s top exponents in our annual ‘Dreamstore’ survey.  These pictures help explain why. Elegant and uncluttered, T3 style.



Service with a smile: Is there any other kind at Dubai Duty Free? Meet Janisse from the Philippines who expertly sold me the best (and smallest) reading glasses I ever bought, foldable ones from Foster Grant which snap into a nifty case not much bigger than a cigarette lighter.



Virtuoso display: How’s this for a stunning fixture from Rémy Cointreau at Dubai Duty Free for the Cognac brand’s new travel retail exclusive Cellar Master’s Collection? A show stopper.


Window shopping: I said in a recent Blog that Zara might have the best shop entrances in airport retail. Tell me who has the best shop windows. Then tell me it isn’t Hermès.



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Hong Kong International remains one of my favourite airports. I love its big panoramas; its airfield views; its diverse food & drinks offer (though not always its service quality); its mix of generic and specialist retail; and its sheer sense of drama – a real feeling of a vast international crossroads. It’s pretty damn efficient too. Every time I go there I also notice change and lots of talking points. Here are my 12 from this visit.

One: Well here’s a first and one that you just have to admire. A democratic ballot to elect the airport’s ‘Most courteous immigration officer’! For those such as I who have suffered from the monotone, mono-syllabic, bored, brusque, rude, insouciant, intimidating manner of certain immigration officers down the years, this is music to my ears. This is surely an airport first – though I suspect Newark Airport (and several other US gateways) may secretly offer an alternative prize for ‘Most intimidating immigration officer’ as many of their officials seem to believe they are auditioning for roles as New York Jets Linebackers with the traveller cast as the opposition quarterback. Hong Kong International’s initiative is a great step in the right direction, making government officials accountable to the people who effectively pay their salaries – passengers.


Two: This is, I think, one of the most iconic images of any airport in the world. It is a replica of a Farman bi-plane, suspended from the ceiling at Hong Kong International Airport T1. The wood and fabric, French-made Farman was the first aircraft to fly in Hong Kong, where it was flown in Sha Tin on 18 March 1911 by pioneer Belgian aviator Charles Van den Born. I never fail to snap a photo of it and every time I am here I count many others doing just the same. What a glorious, nostalgic reminder of the allure and nostalgia of flight. This is truly one of the most memorable examples worldwide of how the concept of Sense of Place can come to life in an airport.


Three: Staying with Sense of Place, I like the regular art and culture displays that Hong Kong International Airport puts on regularly down in the far end of T1 (near gate 62). Right now, over 70 items of memorabilia selected from the Bruce Lee: Kung Fu‧Art‧Life exhibition currently on display at Hong Kong Heritage Museum are presented at the airport to underline the iconic martial arts star’s achievements and contribution to film, Kung Fu and popular culture. It features a chronology, images, audio-visual programmes and a photo corner. I was so engrossed that I only just made my plane.

hkia_bruce_nice hkia_bruce_fig hkia_bruce_close hkia_bruce_4 hkia_bruce_3 hkia_bruce hkia_bruc_2

Four: I note that DFS has converted its former Lan Kwai Fong bar (themed to one of Hong Kong’s most famous leisure areas) to a more generic ‘whisky bar’. Pity, though I think the space available never really lent itself to an ambitious destination execution such as DFS’s Long Bar at Changi Airport. 1

Five: Now this was a surprise. DFS (I presume) selling 2XU flight socks right outside its liquor & tobacco store. A sign of the times perhaps? Not just selling a product tailored (literally) to travellers but also reflective of a necessarily more pragmatic approach to what does and doesn’t sell in a tough economic climate. I would question the location though.


Six: Another wow. This time from Martell in the form of a pop-up environment (I hesitate to call it ‘store’, it’s too nice for that). Celebrating 300 years of Martell Cognac, the pop-up space transports travellers to France and allows them to immerse themselves in the spirit of ‘Art de Vivre’. I love the bespoke historic Cognac bottles and the evocative way that the craftsmanship and history of Martell’s French heritage is conveyed. Travellers can have photographs taken in a space designed to look like a French living room overlooking the vineyards of Cognac. Travellers who make a purchase get a photo as a special gift and all visitors  also get to enjoy foie gras paired with Martell Cognac. Lovely and simple. Simply lovely. 5a 5

Seven: Hong Kong International was the first airport to introduce duplex stores, from Chanel and Rolex respectively. I never see many people in them but boy are they wonderful showcases for two of the world’s greatest brands. I watched fascinated as an old Chinese lady with a stick (you can just make her out in red) headed into the Rolex store, followed by members of her family. I think she knew exactly what she wanted to buy. 7 6

Eight: Now there’s a story behind the two signs below, indicating the way to the SSP Food Court at the far end of T1. In an early 2015 Blog I wrote about the former signs that were in place (bottom picture), noting: “I can’t tell if the man with the chopsticks and rice is eating or throwing up (but I sure as heck know that it doesn’t make me hungry).” The lesson is simple, meals going into mouths is not an attractive sight. Show the food not the eating. Judge the difference for yourself.


[November 2015]


[January 2015]

Nine: I’ve commented on this small chocolate & fine foods boutique before but it’s worth noting again. The Nuance Group has done a fine job with its Taste & Delights store, elevating a category that is so often done poorly in travel retail to a suitably refined level. Do they really think that someone will climb the Macaroon display though?

9a 9

Ten: Does Zara have the best shop entrances in airport retail? Hard to argue isn’t it?


Eleven: I flew from Hong Kong to Dubai onboard Emirates. The experience was flawless, from this superb Emirates Lounge (despite its desperately drab entrance) with lovely views over the tarmac to the impeccable inflight service on the A380 into the UAE (more of that in my next Blog).

10a 10

Twelve: Something big is taking shape at Hong Kong International Airport. Very big indeed. Could it be this year’s Swarovski Christmas tree?



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One thing we should never stop applauding in this business is ambition. I’m not talking the naked, money-lusting form but ambition in its purest form as in the desire or aspiration to achieve something, to be better.

Over the past two days I have twice witnessed exactly the right sort of ambition in Singapore, firstly with the Masters of Wines and Spirits event, launched by DFS Group at T Galleria by DFS on Friday evening, and secondly with the level (literally) of Changi Airport’s two most high-profile duty free shops.


For an aficionado of fine wines & spirits like me, it was a privilege to attend Friday’s DFS event. As I write, I’m looking at a beautifully produced coffee table book that details each of the items that make up this exquisite one-off collection, and the story behind them.




And what stories they are. Here’s one for starters – a 24-bottle case of Château Cheval Blanc 1939, from the year that war broke out in Europe. Think what has happened down the ensuing years (starting with the invasion of France by Germany a year later) while this extraordinary wine has gathered grace, elegance and complexity in the still and constant temperature of its cellars in Bordeaux.


And what about this one? Chabot Armagnacs from 1878 and 1900, respectively, presented poignantly by the wonderful John Gentzbourger, whose son Marc so sadly passed this month. History in a bottle is an understatement.


Or the Château Lafite Rothschild SG50 Magnum Vertical. This collection features 1965, 1975, 1985, 1995 and 2005 vintages, five decades of wine-making wonder in magnum format. Just imagine the dinner party you could have. How would the finest Michelin-star cuisine even try to keep up?

Hidden gems? Yes, indeed, and in fact that is the name given to a trio of great Martell Cognacs – two individual eaux-de-vie dating from 1875 and 1898 together with the blend issued from both. They are presented in a vintage Baccarat crystal decanter that was presented to Queen Elizabeth II in 1957 and to Emperor Hirohito in 1971 during their official trips to France.

Then there’s Glen Grant Fiodh, bottled from a cask filled in 1972, the last year that the traditionally lighter, fruity Glen Grant used peated malt. In the intervening years, the cask remained undisturbed and forgotten until it was rediscovered earlier this year with less than 20 litres remaining. The bottles are nestled in a hand-crafted casket of wood, cut from the same tree at the front and the back of the casket and fashioned to evoke the shape of the tree. Each of the ten decanters feature a hand-engraved pattern representing the rings of a tree, each one unique to each of the 10 decanters.

Stories, sometimes legends, in a bottle. Each one of DFS’s partners went to extraordinary lengths to find a unique expression of their wine, Champagne or spirit-making art to grace a collection that is not ‘displayed’ but ‘curated’ as DFS Chairman & CEO Philippe Schaus so rightly puts it.

One of the highlights for me on Friday evening was a presentation by The Dalmore Master Distiller & Master Blender Richard Paterson, who spoke about the Scotch whisky house’s Five Decades Collection, created in honour of Singapore’s 50th year of independence. The collection consists of only nine individual bottles; two bottles each of a 10, 20, 30 and 40 year old expression, and only one bottle of an extremely rare 50yo. He mentioned the pricepoint, then asked – rhetorically as it turned out – “Is it worth it? Actually it’s priceless as far as I’m concerned.”



He then conjured up a suitably magical accompaniment for the splendid malts we were sampling (not the Five Decades Collection but two lovely 30yo and 21you drams, respectively) by calling on a trio comprising a harpist, cellist and flautist (flutist) to play two pieces from Bach.

Without forcing the point, Paterson drew an allusion between the lingering notes of the melodies and the long-lasting finish of the malts. Then he highlighted the wood from which the harp (limousin oak) and the cello were made, skilfully segueing to the various woods used in producing The Dalmore. Just so proceedings did not get too serious, he finished on a note of levity: “Love makes the world go round, people say. Total rubbish! Whisky makes the world go round – but twice as fast!”



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Yesterday afternoon, just before I flew out of Changi Airport T2 to fly to Hong Kong and on to Dubai, I took the Skytrain down to T3. I wanted to see DFS’s magnificent duplex wines, spirits and tobacco store (above), of course. But equally I hadn’t had the chance to visit The Shilla Duty Free’s own interpretation of the two-storey formula, opened recently replete with SK-II, Dior, La Prairie and (soon) Chanel beauty boutiques.

Now I know all the cynics say this is a white elephant formula; that consumers won’t go upstairs; that it’s a licence to lose money. I’ll leave that to them. Here I just want to salute the ambition of Changi Airport Group in desiring such a grand stage for the beauty category; and for Shilla and the four brands in delivering it.

Next time you’re in Changi, stand back from the shop about 50 paces as I did. Look how the vista of what would be a pretty one-dimensional shop has changed. Look at the drama, elegance and refinement that the duplex treatment has created. Look how this great expression of great brands in a great airport showcases what is special about Changi.


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Ambition. There’s that word again. Forget for a moment if you will the fancy price tags at Masters of Wines & Spirits; forget the economics of duplex stores and whether they’re sustainable commercially. Just admire, as I think we should, the way in which these projects are uplifting the stature and credibility of our business.

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I’ve dropped into Hong Kong en route to Singapore to attend one of the great events on the travel retail calendar, DFS Group’s Masters of Wines & Spirits, which opens tomorrow.

Today I lunched with the dynamic, well make that effervescent, Beatrice Charreire, Global Travel Retail Director for LVMH-owned Benefit Cosmetics, a brand which has enjoyed astounding success globally over the past decade and which is fast becoming a tour de force in travel retail.

Besides being a hugely popular brand, it’s also a fun one. I love its packaging, parlance (“ultra-cute appellations for less than ultra-fancy prices”, as one beauty blogger writes), product display and personalisation. All in another P – pink. It’s the sort of brand that brings a duty free store to life, gives it energy as well as revenue.

Founded by Jean and Jane Ford in 1976, Benefit was acquired by French luxury giant LVMH in 1999. What a tale has been told since. From sales of just US$35 million in 1999, it shot up to US$1 billion in 2014 with plans to ramp that up hugely in coming years. Travel retail will be a prime platform, Beatrice promises, and the potential really is electrifying.

Consider this: that US$35 million company now owns the world’s biggest-selling mascara; it collectively ranks as the world’s 11th-biggest make-up brand (with an impressive number two position in the key South Korean market and number one in the UK). And there’s plenty of fuel left in the growth engine.

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After lunch I popped into the impressive T Galleria by DFS at Haysan Place to view the Benefit Brow Bar – the first in downtown travel retail. It’s chic, trendy and timely for today’s consumer.

In coming weeks we’ll bring you more on this impressive brand development story. And we’ll introduce you to some great characters – Spygal, the Porefessional and others. I promise you it’s a story that you’ll want to pore over, and one that will raise plenty of eyebrows.

benefit brow bar



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Very occasionally, things happen in sport that transcend it. Moments that are about more than skill, teamwork, iron will or ultra-competitiveness. Moments that stand apart from the excitement, the fans’ emotions, and the whole unscripted (and often unscriptable) drama that great sport can offer.

Such a moment happened on Saturday after the Rugby World Cup at Twickenham, UK, won by the All Blacks of New Zealand over Australia by 34 points to 17. Great sport it certainly was, a thrilling match played by two wonderful teams in a worthy culmination to this supreme global celebration of rugby.

But what happened just after the match topped everything for me. Star All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams made headlines around the world when he handed a 14-year-old fan, Charlie Lines, his World Cup winners’ medal after the youngster was brought down roughly by a security guard at Twickenham (in quite possibly the best English tackle of the tournament). The same Sonny Bill Williams who had gently consoled his opposite number, Jesse Kriel, after the Springboks’ painfully narrow 18-20 loss to the All Blacks in the semi-final. The same Sonny Bill Williams who had tweeted before the weekend’s final: “Any agency in London with a Syrian refugee that wants to go to the game tomorrow I have two tickets to give you. Let me know.”

Watch the video below. I challenge you not to be touched by what you see. There is no showboating in Williams’ concern for the boy’s welfare, no grandstanding in the grand gesture of planting the coveted medal around the delighted youngster’s neck. Watch Charlie’s face light up, his smile wider than Twickenham Stadium.


A beautiful moment after a game, so often brutal and unforgiving, had also been rendered beautiful by Sonny Bill and his comrades in black.


[The same Sonny Bill Williams consoling young South African centre Jesse Kriel, after the latter’s team lost by 18 points to 20 in a nail-biting semi-final]

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I hate to say I told you so… but I told you so.

Now imagine if we lose. In the immortal words of Captain Oates (tweaked a little), “I will just go outside and may be some time…”



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