Swinging from Doha to Dubai in ‘Duty Free Week’


After a memorable MEADFA Conference in Doha over the past two days, ‘Duty Free Week’ in the Middle East swings over to Dubai. We’re here for one of the social highlights of the industry calendar, the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup, which takes place over the next two days, at the Emirates Golf Club and Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.

Along with over 100 other players from Dubai and overseas, I’m hugely looking forward to two days of great company, a few sing-songs, plenty of cries of ‘fore’ from the industry’s very worst golfers – and most of all, Dubai Duty Free’s famed hospitality as well as its superb organisation (pictured above is the DDF team of hosts at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel).

We had a flavour of those values from Executive Vice Chairman Colm McLoughlin earlier in Doha, when I interviewed him on stage (below) to mark not only Dubai Duty Free’s 30th anniversary, but also Colm’s 70th year.

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The joy and passion he takes in running this great company is a thing to behold. He takes huge pleasure in seeing young people join the organisation, he said, as he remembers the many that joined back in 1983, and who have now schooled their own children – with Dubai Duty Free’s imprint on every one of them.

“I have enjoyed very much the fact that our company has grown up so much,” he said. “I love that we’re profitable; I love that we’ve won all these awards; I love that our staff have progressed so much and I’m very much happy that we have 44 of our [100] original people.” The remarkable ovation when he left the stage was a memorable moment – and it was good to see that most of the 510 people who came to MEADFA 2013 stayed on to pay tribute.

World Duty Free Group CEO José María Palencia, who followed Colm as a speaker at MEADFA, noted that he was humbled by not only the Dubai Duty Free story, but also Colm’s description of it.

“I’m proud to speak after Colm but I cannot do better than that, I cannot beat what he has said so eloquently. His words about what we do are so simple and so right. ‘We buy things, we add a little bit on and we sell them.’ It’s a business that is simple.”

José María himself contributed to a fine MEADFA 2013, among whose highlights (which we are covering online and in our e-Zine this week) were a stirring CEO panel discussion on day one and a retailer panel discussion on challenges to the business on day two.

Hosting the event in Doha (it is held outside Dubai every two years) proved an inspired move – the numbers were just eight short of last year’s record in Dubai – and was a testament to the travel retail drawcard that Qatar Duty Free has become. We’ve had some memorable MEDFA/MEADFA events – including great years in Dubai as the event grew into the world’s biggest regional travel retail conference, and a wonderful show in the shadow of the pyramids in Egypt in 2010 – but Doha 2013 can sit proudly alongside any of them.

Qatar Duty Free Senior Vice President Keith Hunter and his team did a superb job as host at the MEADFA Conference
Qatar Duty Free Senior Vice President Keith Hunter and his team did a superb job as host at the MEADFA Conference



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