The power, pride and passion of Dubai Duty Free

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

Dubai panorama

My global whirlwind tour continues with a case of ‘If it’s Sunday, this must be Dubai’. Over the past 11 days, I calculate my shocking carbon footprint stretches to 23,1771 miles.

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My team back at HQ have even suggested creating a travel retail version of the popular ‘Where’s Wally?’ character, called ‘Where’s Martin?’ but I have convinced them it would never sell, as even I don’t know where I am most of the time [Actually, Robbie Gill (below), the globe-trotting owner of leading travel retail design company The Design Solution, did produce something similar one Christmas, called ‘Where’s Robbie?’ I solved it straightaway of course by finding him in a walk-through duty free shop…]

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I’ve been in Dubai to continue my work on a forthcoming publication by our Moodie Corporate division dedicated to the incredible 30-year success story of Dubai Duty Free.

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We’ve also been commissioned to produce a video honouring those three decades of achievement. Yesterday, as a result, was ‘Moodie Movie’ day as I interviewed some of the original ‘Pioneers’ of Dubai Duty Free (remarkably, over 40 of those who were employed way back in 1983 are still with the company), including Executive Vice Chairman Colm McLoughlin and President George Horan (top two pictures above).

Earlier in the day I spent an enthralling half hour interviewing HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum (below), President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of the Emirates Group and Chairman of Dubai Duty Free. Sheikh Ahmed is a human dynamo, a man who has been the driving force behind the phenomenal growth of Dubai’s aviation sector (including airport retail) in recent years and his vision and ambition are legendary in the industry.

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You don’t build a business from scratch to a projected US$1.8 billion this year without possessing some remarkable qualities besides great commercial acumen. I asked all my interviewees what they thought made Dubai Duty Free so special as well as so successful. Each of them spoke, some very emotionally, of the concept of ‘family’ that  the company has nurtured so carefully – an emphasis that is just as great today, when the retailer has over 6,000 employees, as it was in 1983 with the original 100.  Most of the staff are from overseas and Dubai Duty Free places a tremendous emphasis on creating a home away from home environment and atmosphere for them, as you’ll hear from Vice President – Human Resources Nic Bruwer (below) in one of the most fascinating of the various film interviews.

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You can read the book (‘Dubai Duty Free – 30 Years On’) next month, while the film will be published to coincide with the annual MEADFA Conference in November. Both are well worth waiting for, I promise. The book is no traditional history of Dubai Duty Free – instead it tries to capture the very essence, the DNA of the company, its people and the Dubai Duty Free brand. The film brings some of those people to life in a way that will both interest and touch everyone who watches it.

Sinead asks the questions

Footnote: Quite the worst interviewee of the day was me, as Vice President – Marketing Sinead El Sibai (above) turned the tables and grilled me to try to sum up various aspects of Dubai Duty Free’s three decades. My protestations of “I ask the questions around here!” went unheard as I discovered that being on the end of questions with the camera rolling is far from a simple proposition. This one will need, as we say, heavy editing.

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 [That’s a take: Senior Vice President – Corporate Communications Salah Tahlak]

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 [A true pioneer: Dubai Duty Free Vice President of Purchasing Saba Tahir]

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