Qatar Duty Free (QDF) is planning to launch the first Christian Dior spa in an airport, TRBusiness can reveal.
Potentially earmarked to open in July, it will feature a full range of treatments coupled with a premium Christian Dior boutique showcasing beauty products only.
The Hamad International Airport (HIA) based travel retailer is also set to unveil an airport ‘first’ Louis Vuitton lounge and restaurant concept at Hamad International Airport on 22 May, shared QDF Vice President Thabet Musleh during the TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference last week.
The developments follow an impressive set of financial results for Qatar Duty Free, which announced growth exceeding +59% year-on-year during its financial year (April 2022 – March 2023) driven by a more than 49% uplift in sales per passenger.
This was against a more than doubling in year-on-year passenger traffic growth (+101.19%) to reach 35.7 million in 2022, according to HIA’s annual traffic report.
On a calendar year basis (Jan-Dec 2022), turnover rose by 26% compared with 2019.
‘Launchpad for travel retail brands’
“What we’re most impressed with is the growth; we’re way ahead of 2019 already,” Musleh – who as reported earlier today has been promoted to QDF Senior Vice President – told TRBusiness. “I don’t believe any other airport other than in Hainan is delivering the numbers we’re delivering globally today.
“What is interesting to see is [growth] in every category and nationality. The team at QDF has done an amazing job at consistently bringing in innovation, working with our partners to deliver something amazing for our customers. Ultimately, the results speak for themselves.
“The team are constantly looking at innovation and how we evolve the business; if we don’t change anything, we become stagnant. There will always be changes and that makes us a little bit unique from everyone.
“We want to become the launchpad for all brands and products in travel retail. Last year, I think no one had more world exclusives than QDF, be it fragrance, liquor, tobacco, luxury… We will continue to deliver for our customers.”
Among the highlights in 2022 was the unveiling of phase A of the new terminal expansion project in November, coinciding with the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
In November and December – the period of the FIFA World Cup – QDF turnover recorded a more than 112% increase versus the same period in 2021.
As official retail partner of the global football tournament, QDF presided over one of the largest assortments of official FIFA World Cup merchandise, souvenirs and collectibles, which were sold at various points of sale including the eight stadiums in Doha, at the official FIFA fan zone, in the world’s first permanent FIFA store, and through various outlets at the airport.
QDF estimates that it processed a total of 459,000 transactions at the FIFA stores, selling 1.4 million units during and after the tournament.
It claims the result puts FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 sales 46% above [on a like-for-like basis] those recorded in Russia’s previous FIFA World Cup tournament.
Within the newly expanded phase A at HIA, passengers can indulge in a raft of regional and global ‘firsts’.
An avalanche of new brands have arrived at The Orchard commercial area, the cradle of the Central Concourse situated within the newly expanded terminal.
On show is the first Dior boutique at HIA, the exclusive FIFA World Cup store, a two-storey Fendi boutique and first airport Fendi Café, which join the first TimeVallée boutique in the Middle East and the inaugural Ralph’s Coffee Shop at an airport.
QDF footprint beyond Doha?
In the South Node, QDF has unveiled many new retail and F&B outlets, including a unique concept Louis Vuitton boutique, a brand-new Hermès boutique, and food court.
“This was a fantastic year for Qatar Duty Free, our home Hamad International Airport and the Qatar Airways Group,” stated Musleh. “We are honoured to have played a significant role in the FIFA World Cup tournament, the tremendous airport expansion project and many other significant events in the country.
“Our goal was to offer an unforgettable and seamless travel experience to all the passengers, and we successfully achieved that goal. I would like to thank all members of the QDF community for their unprecedented and continuous support. Our financial results represent our tremendous success, and we look forward to showcasing many more triumphs and achievements in 2023.”
Phase B of the expansion started successfully at the beginning of this year, updates Musleh, who says the two-year expansion project could now finish in Q4 2024 or Q1 2025 – earlier than expected.
“Passengers can continue to expect to be wowed, experience world firsts, the latest innovation, brands and technology,” commented Musleh.
Asked whther QDF is seeing the uplift in spending being positively affected by Chinese travellers following the unlock of China’s borders earlier this year, he responded: “We are. They are back and spending like they were before – and more.”
QDF operates more than 37,000sq m of duty free concession space, housing over 180 luxury and affordable retail and F&B outlets.
The FIFA World Cup’s arrival in Qatar brought global exposure to the country – and QDF – as football fans flocked to fill stadiums and fan zones.
International tourists visiting Qatar were not required to have a visa to enter the State of Qatar provided they held a valid digital Hayya card.
E-commerce platform coming…
Last month, Qatar Tourism extended Hayya to become the portal handling all tourist and business visa applications in a nod to Qatar’s eagerness to continue investing in its tourism infrastructure, an important pillar for strategic growth in the region – Qatar is targeting more than six million visitors a year by 2030.
As a result, visitors to HIA will be able to benefit from a more seamless travel experience as Hayya is permitted for e-gate entry at customs/immigration.
Asked about the potential for QDF to utilise Hayya, Musleh responded: “The opportunity for Qatar Duty Free through Hayya is very simple; the more people coming to the country [means] more potential customers for Qatar Duty Free.
“I also believe that QDF is integral to the customer experience when you come to a country or use a transit airport. We are seeing more and more people using HIA and Qatar Airways because of the shopping and transiting experience. QDF is really integral to that. You’ll see now and in the future a lot of our experiences tailored towards that.”
Elsewhere, Musleh confirms that the travel retailer is working on its much-anticipated e-commerce platform, with the first quarter of 2024 targeted as the rollout period for the first phase.
“We’ve delayed our e-commerce on purpose as we want to make that whatever we do is right and reflects what we do in the terminal,” clarified Musleh. “It has to be as good and experiential as the brick and mortar offer.”
The launch of phase one will be followed by subsequent phases. It is gathered these will include inflight ordering mechanisms as part of a multi-channel offering touching QDF’s website, Qatar Airways’ check-in and the HIA app.
“We’ve decided not to have our own app, but to be integrated with Qatar Airways and the airport,” said Musleh. “When you check-in and you’re looking at which gate your flight is departing from at HIA, you have the ability to shop.”
According to HIA’s first quarter 2023 results, passenger traffic climbed 44.5% to 10,315,695 as aircraft movements increased by 18.6% in a performance demonstrative of the industry’s “resilience and the vital role that airports play in connecting people”, according to HIA Chief Operating Officer Engr. Badr Mohammed Al Meer.
Looking forward, QDF has not ruled out business expansion beyond Qatar into overseas markets.
In response to a question from TFWA Managing Director John Rimmer during the TFWA Asia Pacific Conference, Musleh replied: “Absolutely. We are looking within this region. “It’s already documented that His Excellency Mr Al Baker has plans for Africa. We will continue to look at any opportunity that arises. It has to be right for us, but when that opportunity arises, we will take it.”
All images courtesy of Qatar Duty Free/Hamad International Airport.