Please share a profile on your field of business and how you came into your current role.
My retailing career started in the 1960s, working at Woolworths before moving back to Ireland to work for Shannon Duty Free. In July 1983, I moved to Dubai as part of the 10-man team from Aer Rianta (the Irish Airport Authority) at the request of the Dubai Government to set up the duty-free operation as part of a six-month consultancy agreement.
When we opened for business on December 20, 1983, there was a great sense of achievement. I was asked to stay on to head up the new operation, which I accepted and have never looked back since then.
As the current Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Duty Free, we operate all the Dubai Duty Free retail areas, which are around 40,000 square metres across Dubai International and Al Maktoum International airports. I also oversee the Dubai Duty Free’s subsidiary businesses, which include The Irish Village, both in Garhoud and Dubai Studio City, The Century Village, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, and Jumeirah Creekside Hotel.
Congratulations on the 40th anniversary of Dubai Duty Free! Over 4 decades of stupendous achievement and growth how has Dubai Duty Free enriched and helped evolve the duty-free experience for the region and the world?
The brief to the original team was to develop a retail operation that would rival the best in the world – one that reflected the Government of Dubai’s ambitious plans for Dubai to become an aviation hub.
I think the development of the retail sector, including the development of the duty free industry around the Middle East, is good. When we came here a lot of suppliers didn’t know where Dubai was, and then we began to grow and other airports in the region began to open and develop very good operations. That regional competition has helped us with the suppliers in the duty free industry to take more notice of the region.
In Dubai we operate all the Dubai Duty Free retail areas at the airport, and we have around 40,000 square metres of retail space across Dubai International and Al Maktoum International airports. We think this model suits Dubai better than the concessionaire approach because 40 years ago Dubai was not as well-known as it is today. It needed marketing, it needed promotion and using the business model that was adopted, we were able to do that. We were able to advertise and sponsor events that raised our profile and the operation and the city. We ended up owning and organizing a major tennis tournament that is viewed all around the world and features the top players in the world. Our tournament generates over $1 billion worth of TV coverage.
Our famous Finest Surprise Promotion to win a luxury car, was our first step into a global promotion that has continued for 34 years and has been emulated by many.
To date, we have “given away” over 1,850 luxury cars since its launch in December 1989. In 1999, we introduced the Millennium Millionaire Promotion to win $1 million to welcome the new millennium and since then, we have announced 437 winners of $1 million.
We have received over 750 awards in the last 40 years, of which I am very proud. And I want to thank Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum for his continuous support and our terrific team of staff for ensuring that we run a successful retail operation.
I am very happy to have been part of the success story that has been Dubai Duty Free and to have seen our company grow from the very beginning to be one of the leading airport retailers in the world.