It’s no easy task placing Dubai on the world map

When I arrived in Dubai all those years ago, I certainly did not envisage that I would still be here, over 31 years later, but I’m glad to still be here.

I remember Dubai as a very different city back in 1983, and the same could be said of the Dubai International Airport (DIA). Prior to the opening of Dubai Duty Free (DDF), the retail offer at the airport consisted of a group of independent retailers, many replicating each other’s product offer.

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 the emirate to become an aviation hub.

December 20, 1983 was a momentous day, one that I remember well. That’s the day DDF opened for business. There was a tremendous buzz of excitement among airport employees, passengers and, of course, the DDF management and staff.

On that first day our sales reached $44,000, and in our first year of business our turnover was $20 million. Despite such a positive start to the business, I don’t think anyone at the time foresaw just how successful the operation would become one day, and the role that it would play in helping to put Dubai on the world map.
Colm McLoughlin is the executive vice chairman of the Dubai Duty Free and chairman of the Dubai Duty Free Foundation.

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