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Record attendance for MEDFA Conference

A record 320 delegates from 170 companies and 40 countries attended the 2005 Middle East Duty Free Conference

A record 320 delegates from 170 companies and 40 countries attended the 2005 Middle East Duty Free Conference held at Dubai`s Le Meridien hotel on 4th and 5th December underlining the region’s growing importance within the duty-free and travel retail industry.



Managed for MEDFA by TFWA under the patronage of Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Department of Civil Aviation and Chairman of Emirates Group, the conference gave delegates two full mornings of informative, interactive and often light-hearted presentations and discussions, supported by excellent networking opportunities, including sponsored sessions and a lively Gala dinner hosted by Dubai Duty Free.



MEDFA President and Managing Director Dubai Duty Free Colm McLoughin introduced the conference, summarising the tremendous growth that the region is enjoying, particularly in travel and tourism. Travel retail sales in the UAE alone were up 35.5% in 2004 over the previous year to $716m and a further 18.5% improvement is expected this year. Massive airport and airline investment continues apace, enabling increases in performance all round which are well above the global average.



Best practice films covering Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar, along with case study presentations on Jordan and Qatar further emphasised the phenomenal growth and vast potential of the region. TFWA President Erik Juul-Mortensen told delegates that the Middle East region was a fine example of `act global, think local` and that much could and should be applied by suppliers, landlords and retailers in other parts of the world.



The clear message of the conference was the importance of customer focus. Highlights were a frank keynote speech by Mark Riches, MD World Duty Free and BAA Global Airport Retail, on the importance of connecting with the customer. Retailers must work harder, he said, to give airport shopping category status and should remember that we are in the emotions business not the process business. Retailers need to move away from `selling stuff` to `triggering desire` and must learn to earn money from their customers, `not from each other`.



Dubai Duty Free`s Recruitment and Employee Development Manager Rachael Green went a step further with an excellent presentation on the importance of intercultural competence within the workplace. A supporting film where the shop floor staff were the stars, clearly demonstrated the importance of understanding different cultural requirements and expectations of customers – and each other. The importance of staff training was also covered by Abu Dhabi Duty Free Deputy Managing Director Dan Cappell who gave details of MEDFA`s training initiative, which includes an award scheme.



The importance of emotional engagement with the consumer was again picked up by Richard Burrows, Director General Pernod Ricard, who reminded delegates of the consumer`s desire and willingness to trade up whilst travelling. International spirits sales in travel retail came in sixth globally, but sales of premium spirits come in second behind the US, showing the importance of the outlet in value terms. Constant brand innovation is vital, however, to drive sales and avoid `death in the middle` between lower price basic goods and emotional engagement with luxury brands.



Other sales drivers include the increased use of credit cards. Prem Patel, Director of Marketing American Express Middle East, described the opportunities offered by credit cards including co-brand cards, such as that operated by Dubai Duty Free, tactical promotions etc.



A final panel discussion looked at the developments and challenges facing the future of the industry – in reality a global issue rather than a regional one. Health issues, terrorism, the logistical challenges of new aircraft such as the A380, and low cost carriers were all mentioned.



Presentations and contributions were made also by Pedro Castro, CEO Aldeasa Jordan; Haitham Al Majali, Managing Director Jordanian Duty Free Shops; Gwyneth Olofsson, author `When in Rome, Rio or Riyadh`; Barbara Anderson, Director Retail Technology Systems; Richard Isaac, ADDF Retail Operations Manager; Mike Murphy, ARIME`s General Manager/Financial Controller; Bernard Creed, DDF Financial Controller; Krishna Kumari, Assistant General Manager Qatar Duty Free; Patrick Brannelly, VP Passenger Communications & Visual Services Emirates Airlines; Jan Baljet, Deputy Chief Operating Officer Dufry Sharjah; and Sarah Branquinho, Business Relationships Director BAA. The two films were produced by Marshall Arts.



In conclusion, Colm McLoughlin hailed the Middle East as the most optimistic region in the world.

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