Putting on a show like no other in Dubai

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

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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.

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[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.

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

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[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.

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[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)]

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

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[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.

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[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).

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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