Move over Dubai International. Welcome DXB

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.
Martin Moodie

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My Moodie Davitt Report Interim Dubai Bureau is open for business at its usual home of the Dubai Duty Free-owned Jumeirah Creekside Hotel.

From my fifth-floor room, I look out towards the lovely Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club. Lovely to look at, I would point out, less lovely to play on, at least in my case. I have put so many golf balls into that creek down the years that if the local authorities ever need landfill they won’t have to go far to find it.

I do hope to put a few more in there tomorrow, when I am playing with former Dubai Duty Free deputy boss George Horan, who is a highly talented golfer, and Al Nassma’s Patrick Dorais who… isn’t. Poor George. It will be like Lindsey Vonn skiing with Eddie the Eagle reincarnated as twins.

Before that I plan to open my second Interim Dubai Bureau, this time at the Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah.

I have to move out of the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel on Friday as they’re full up due to the Dubai Tennis Championships, which starts with the women’s tournament on Sunday. The event has attracted nine of the world’s top ten players and 15 of the top 20. I tried to extend my room stay for a few more days but apparently some Japanese woman called Osaka has reserved it. She must be here to watch the tennis.

For now though the first of my Interim Bureaux is at full stretch as I report on Dubai Airports’ spectacular DXB brand identity launch held yesterday.

The launch, held in the impressive Dubai Design District, was a glittering affair held outdoors against the backdrop of the spectacular Dubai skyline.

It was graced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai; His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Airports; Paul Griffiths, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Airports, as well as several VVIPs of Dubai’s aviation industry.

It’s important to us to attend such events. Dubai Airports are thought leaders in the aviation sector and I learn much every time I come here.

Royal approval: The launch of DXB was graced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

(Above and below) The role of airports reimagined. “We are proud to launch the DXB brand to reflect the fresh direction and transform DXB into the airport of the future, one that is led by a more customer-centric approach,” said Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths .

After the formalities were over yesterday, I spoke to Paul Griffiths and to Dubai Airports Executive Vice President Commercial Eugene Barry (who, incidentally, is in full training for his first marathon). As always, I found their view of what airports should and can be both illuminating and refreshing from both an intellectual and operational perspective.

“We’re not in the infrastructure or operations or even the travel retail business. We are actually in the hospitality business.” – Paul Griffiths

Paul’s speech, delivered without notes in front of the Dubai ruler, other royalty and a host of VVIPs, was pitch-perfect. But perhaps one should not be surprised at his nervelessness. After all, this is the man who earlier this month played the organ in front of a live audience of over 135,000 people in Abu Dhabi there to meet the Pope, with millions more watching on television. Rather wonderfully, he told local media The National, “I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren I’ve played to a bigger stadium crowd than U2 or The Beatles.”

“A bigger stadium crowd than U2 or The Beatles.” Airport CEO turned concert organist Paul Griffiths plays in front of the Pope. [Source: Gulf News]
[Note: Paul, who was accompanied by eight brass players and a 120-member choir at the Papal Mass played the Sonata Pian’ e Forte by Giovanni Gabrieli and a Bach chorale prelude. After the service, he performed the Toccata from Symphony No 5 by Charles-Marie Widor and then the organ and brass played the March of the Priests by Felix Mendelssohn.]

Here’s what Paul Griffiths told me yesterday about the launch of DXB: “I subscribe to the fact that the airport experience should not be a collection of loosely compatible processes – which are actually mostly incompatible – but that we have to look at this as a holistic experience that takes care of our customers one by one on an individual basis.

“So we’re not in the infrastructure or operations or even the travel retail business. We are actually in the hospitality business, and we have to take a leaf out of the books of a lot of other organisations that have really put customer service at the top. If you do concentrate on taking customer service experience to a new level, then there’s so much that falls in behind that.

“It means we’ve got a fantastic opportunity to invest in new technology, new processes, and to disaggregate and rebuild the entire airport experience. So this is about science, technology, and a new regard for hospitality being incredibly important, as well as all the traditional things like the airside and terminal operations being important.

“You’ll start to see this evidence come through. We are going to have new concepts in terms of our food and bar offers. We’re going to embrace new opportunities with restaurant provisions that will be quite unusual, and obviously the retail offer will evolve. We’re going to be looking at those that do this best not in the aviation sector, but across the entire industries operating on a global scale.”

Eugene Barry built on those points. “Five years ago, when we became the biggest airport in the world for international traffic… we realised very quickly that nobody’s going to give you any prizes for being big,” he told me. “We also need to be good at what we do.

“We’ve realised that our role here is not as managers of infrastructure or just managers of a business; we’re managers of the city’s reputation for millions of people every month.” – Eugene Barry

“What we’ve done tonight is re-brand the airport as a destination brand, a lifestyle brand, an experience brand, and everything’s going to fall under that. Everything we do publicly for Dubai International Airport is going to fall under that banner of DXB. It’s a very bold promise… a promise to deliver a certain standard of experience, a certain collection of products or services to a level that is consistent with our brand. It’s a big direction for us now.

“So, with everything we do, whether it’s on the aviation side of our business, on the concession side of our business, on the consumer side of our business – commercial or non-commercial – we’re all moving in one direction now as a company. And the partners we have internally – stakeholders, tenants, concessionaires and airlines – are all part of the story.

“We’ve realised that our role here is not as managers of infrastructure or just managers of a business; we’re managers of the city’s reputation for millions of people every month.”

Beautifully put. A vision articulated. And a vision that will most surely be well-executed. Move over Dubai International. Welcome DXB.

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