With just 131 days before the FIFA World Cup kicks off in Qatar, TRBusiness hears from Thabet Musleh, Vice President, Qatar Duty Free (QDF) about how the company is working hard to ensure an unparalleled customer experience at the airport for all those travelling to the event. However, he insists the developments are for FIFA ‘and beyond’.
As Qatar prepares to stage one of the world’s most high-profile sporting events, what critical developments will the airport and QDF undergo to really leverage the unique level of global exposure and passenger footfall?
Thabet Musleh: FIFA is an extraordinary opportunity given to us to showcase to all our passengers the best that Qatar hospitality and engineering can offer. We feel very honoured to be welcoming travellers from all over the world. All our teams are working extremely hard to deliver the best shopping experience worth travelling for. Passengers will have the chance to experience amazing offers from existing and new brands, as we are increasing retail offer from 90 outlets to more than 175 shops. We also believe that a unique shopping experience involves outstanding food and beverage concepts. With more than 30 new F&B outlets ranging from fast food to luxury restaurants and cafes (taking the total number of options to 71) we think we can offer the right choice of food and drinks to anyone. I also would like to emphasise that at Qatar Duty Free, our vision and goals remain the same. It is FIFA and beyond.
What other events taking place in Qatar this year will inform QDF’s retail strategy?
Our priority is to engage with our customers whenever they travel through our retail space and make sure their experience remains memorable. We constantly work on leveraging the incredible events that are taking place in Qatar to align with our marketing activations. We will dress the stores and create exciting animations including VR for the opening of our new retail offering, the tennis championship in December and January, Golf Tour in March and many other events throughout 2023.
What do you believe are the obstacles/challenges to creating a compelling retail offer at HIA?
Travellers’ shopping habits, tastes and interests are constantly changing, and it could be challenging to stay aligned with these changes. However, I believe we are successfully delivering experiences that match the interests and demands of our customers by keeping our offer up to date. We continue to showcase an impressive portfolio of fashion and accessories brands that are strongly appealing to customers including millennials, who are often considered to be the fastest-changing customer segment. Our space is designed to immerse passengers in a seamless luxury environment bringing quality and value to the whole experience of travelling.
It is no secret that Qatar has overcome a raft of challenges in the last few years. How has QDF adapted to the constantly changing trading landscape?
Thanks to the Emir of the State of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, Group Chief Executive Qatar Airways group, and Engr. Badr Mohammed Al Meer, Chief Operating Officer Hamad International Airport, the leadership, flexibility, and fluidity Qatar Airways group has shown allowed us to grow stronger as a business and leaders in the travel retail industry.
In years to come, how do you hope you will describe 2022 for yourself in your role with QDF?
Qatar Duty Free and the Group as a whole are experiencing once-in-a-lifetime events.
I am honoured to be able to play an essential role in significant projects, such as building a new terminal at our award-winning airport, expanding the retail offer, and hosting the world’s biggest sporting event on the back of a pandemic. Working on amazing projects like these together with my teams is a dream come true.
Qatar Duty Free is featured within two reports of the TRBusiness June/July ezine. Within the Top 10 Airports Report (p53) and within the fashion report (p89).