Normal service resumes in Dubai

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

In the distance from my Interim Bureau I can make out the magnificent Dubai Creek Golf Club clubhouse, its roof shaped like gleaming white wind-filled sails

I’ve just opened my Interim Moodie Davitt Report Dubai Bureau at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, owned by Dubai Duty Free.

In fact this superbly run hotel has been the site of many an Interim Bureau down the years and there’s something reassuring about the site of the traffic rushing by outside my window and the view beyond to the Creek that bisects this part of Dubai.

Dubai is home to so many travel retail executives, some operating businesses based in the emirate, some in regional roles. It’s been my privilege – and a whole lot of fun – to catch up with several of them this week.

That began on Monday night with a dinner at the fabulous Roka in Business Bay hosted by Bacardi Global Travel Retail (GTR) Managing Director Vinay Golikeri (second from left in the picture below) and the company’s Regional President AMEA & GTR Vijay Subramaniam (third from left) along with senior members of the travel retail team.

It was a fine evening and hugely encouraging to hear how the Bacardi GTR business is roaring back in this region – a message that I have heard echoed repeatedly during the week. An excellent night of great food, wine and company, plus the chance to sip on a dram of one of my all-time favourite single malt whiskies, Craigellachie.

The following evening it was time to head over to the Palm, to catch up with the elder statesman of our industry and my friend of more than 30 years, Colm McLoughlin, together with his wife Breeda, son Niall and daughter-in-law Shirley. Colm and I had a Vitamin H and a Vitamin SB (in-joke, sorry) at his home before we headed to a local restaurant overlooking the waters and take pleasure in the simple joy of easy companionship.

The next morning (with a surprisingly clear head), I arrived at Dubai Duty Free headquarters to interview Chief Operating Officer Ramesh Cidambi and to briefly chat with Colm.

The two had just arrived back from Dubai International Airport (DXB) where they had drawn the latest Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire and Finest Surprise draws, transforming several lives in the process.

Ramesh joined Dubai Duty Free (after an initial consultancy) on 15 October 1988, which means he is coming up for the 34th anniversary of a stellar career.

Despite meeting him on many occasions over the years, I had never really known Ramesh until I hosted him on our TRI-POD video podcast series (in association with The SEVA Group) earlier this year. What a life this man has led and what a journey his career has been.

Take a look at the TRI-POD edition below, one of the very best of the whole series. And also look out for my interview with him in coming weeks around the Cannes show. In it, Ramesh talks with much insight, candour and far-sightedness about the commercial and human trauma of the past two and a half years, the emergence from darkness, the lessons from it and (provided those lessons are learned) the bright prospects for the years ahead.

A trip down memory lane at Dubai Duty Free headquarters
Neither Colm nor I have changed a bit, other than for the better. Or at least that’s my story and as I run this Blog I’m sticking to it.
The original industry Trinity: George Horan, Colm McLoughlin and John Sutcliffe, pictured in the late 1980s after Dubai Duty Free won the first of what would turn out to be scores of Frontier Awards

This chart tells a remarkable growth story while also underlining the dreadful impact of the pandemic. The 2022 numbers will see an encouraging return to form with 2023 set to race past pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

I dined with Ramesh and his wife Alpana on Wednesday at Rockfish, a contemporary beachfood seafront restaurant at Jumeirah Al Naseem in Dubai headed by chef Marco Garfagnini. Oh my goodness this is a place to seek out next time you are in Dubai, partly for the superb cuisine but also for the understated rather than in your face refinement and the superb view overlooking the Burj al Arab.

It is amazing what you learn about people when you meet face to face rather than on Zoom as has been our unavoidable channel over recent times.

Over a good glass of Chablis, I learned that Alpana and Ramesh practice and teach Iyengar yoga, a form of yoga that focuses on three critical aspects: alignment, sequencing and timing.

As the founder (and Chief Insomnia Officer) of ‘the website that never sleeps’, I have developed a pronounced though perhaps inevitable slouched posture from crouching over my keyboard while crunching hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of words over many years. Alpana patiently explained how it’s all down to muscle laziness rather than anything more serious, and how yoga can help. As a result, I may, just may, about to become the face of ‘the website that never slumps’.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Tyrone Reid (right), the new Group CEO of MMI & Emirates Leisure Retail, one of the world’s best airport food & beverage providers and in the superb form of Le Clos, arguably (maybe not even arguably) the airport world’s best fine wines & spirits boutique retailer.

The combined entity has a vast footprint across Dubai International (DXB) – including Costa Coffee where we met – and an increasing one in international locations, including Singapore Changi and numerous Australasian airports.

It’s a quality-focused footprint and in coming weeks we will tell you the story of what I think will be a game-changing master concessionaire offer for smaller airports. Watch this space.

Later, still at Costa, I caught up with Eugene Barry, Executive Vice President Commercial at Dubai Airports, to my mind among the most innovative, challenging and customer-centric executives in the airport world.

We were joined to my surprise and great pleasure by Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths. During an impromptu but typically articulate and insightful interview, Paul emphasised time and again his near-obsession with constantly reinvigorating businesses and never accepting status quo. Little wonder then that DXB is among the vanguard of airports that are reshaping the travel experience rather than being shaped by it.

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