Qatar Duty Free
A new face for luxury travel retail at Hamad International
The Viale di Lusso project, opened on 2 August, emphatically underlines the Qatar Airways Group’s faith in the future of travel and travel retail.
The opening of luxury avenue Viale di Lusso at Hamad International Airport (HIA) on 2 August was a powerful show of strength and a signal of faith in the future of travel retail from the Qatar Airways Group. At a time when other travel retailers are retrenching, Qatar Duty Free hosted the biggest launch event of its kind in its history and one of the most spectacular luxury unveilings we have seen at an airport. The timing was fitting too, coming in the same week in which Hamad International was named as the World’s Best Airport at the Skytrax 2021 World Airport Awards. The consumer-voted award marks a breakthrough moment for the Doha hub, and major recognition of its status in the airport world today (see panel below).
How Hamad International and Qatar Duty Free captured the spectacular opening on 2 August
As reported, what the group calls “a unique luxury travel experience”, features an enhanced retail and dining portfolio and a number of global and regional firsts.
Landmark moment: Qatar Airways, Hamad International and Qatar Duty Free management led by Group Chief Executive H.E. Mr. Akbar Al Baker prepares for the unveiling of Viale di Lusso, after a spectacular catwalk show introduced guests to the brand range
Leading the way: Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker tours the new zone with Qatar Duty Free Vice President Operations Thabet Musleh. Below, Akbar Al Baker with special guests Italian Embassy First Secretary, Ms Carlotta Colli (left) and Ambassador of Greece to Qatar, H.E. Mrs Eleni Michalopoulou.
Our on location video captures the excitement of the unveiling of Viale di Lusso as it happened
The new luxury zone houses the first airport boutique in the Middle East for fashion designer Valentino, as well as stores representing designer names Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Jimmy Choo, Chloe, Emporio Armani and Pucci, which build on QDF’s existing collection of high-end brands.
Dolce & Gabbana offers a colourful, playful introduction to the luxury zone
The Emporio Armani Ristorante and Emporio Armani Caffè is a world first for an airport, with a high-quality menu inspired by Italy and many premium design touches. Next door, a Starbucks Reserve coffeehouse offers coffee connoisseurs the chance to discover new creations and rare, single-origin selections of unique roasts.
Emporio Armani showcases its latest casual luxury lines in its boutique (above and below), which complements the high-class restaurant that sits adjacent (below)
The Viale di Lusso official opening ceremony was officiated by Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, Hamad International Airport Chief Operating Officer, Engineer Badr Al Meer, and Qatar Duty Free Vice President Operations, Thabet Musleh. The Ambassador of Greece to Qatar, H.E. Mrs Eleni Michalopoulou, Deputy Ambassador of Italy, Filippo Perzolla, and the Italian Embassy First Secretary Ms Carlotta Colli were guests of honour. H.E. Akbar Al Baker said: “At Qatar Airways Group, we know that the excitement and anticipation of international air travel begins the second travellers step through the doors of the airport and into an exciting, memorable, and fulfilling journey. This collaboration between QDF and HIA proves our continuous efforts to offer an unrivalled retail and dining experience for our passengers.”
Fashion house Valentino makes its airport boutique debut in the Middle East with this elegant store
Engr. Badr Mohammed Al Meer said: “Hamad International Airport is proud to launch Viale Di Lusso, a unique luxury avenue at the heart of the award-winning airport terminal, offering a suite of global brands joining its existing retail portfolio. As a diverse lifestyle destination of its own, HIA continues to curate memorable luxury and exclusive retail experiences for travellers, designed around their discerning tastes, convenience and wellbeing.” Thabet Musleh said: “Viale Di Lusso represents another step in the delivery of QDF’s mission to transform the retail and dining offer at HIA to ensure that we continue to raise the bar in travel retail globally, providing our passengers with a differentiated, memorable, and unique experience. It is an exciting period for us as we continue to grow and expand looking forward to further enhancing our retail and dining portfolio in the next few months.”
Stunning execution and a superb offer from bags to accessories at Fendi
Discussing this project and the wider expansion plans later with The Moodie Davitt Report, Engr. Badr Mohammed Al Meer said: “It’s a very big achievement to be able to convince this number of great brands to come and open at an airport here at what has been a difficult time, and as the industry is still recovering. “In the beginning they were a bit reluctant but when we showed them our numbers, our expansion plans, they were convinced about what we and they could achieve. You can see by the attendance of the brands today that they are paying a lot of attention to Hamad International and the business potential here. And they can see that once they open at the airport, we develop a strong partnership and help each other to grow through mutual support.” Thabet Musleh added: “It has been amazing how so many partners have supported us so strongly. We are very humbled and it shows the trust that they have in Qatar Duty Free.
Eye-catching displays from Pucci (above), Chloe and Jimmy Choo
“One of our USPs, which we have brought to this project, is simply that we do everything in-house as a group, and that is very important. We focus on customer service as a group and whether it’s the airport, airline or duty free, we offer that five-star service to the customer.” On the wider ambitions for HIA, the major planned expansion of the terminal is going “according to plan,” Engr Badr Al Meer added. “We have many brands interested and even a waiting list. We are sending a message to all the brands, those that are here and those that are not. We will help them market their brands. We can help them and we will talk about them and promote them. “And we aim to satisfy passengers with all tastes, whether they want to shop in the high-end stores or elsewhere.” Engr Badr Al Meer said that passenger traffic had been returning, but that even this growth has been outstripped by soaring levels of business, from which brand partners are benefiting.
Spectacular Starbucks: A new look for the coffee house with its Reserve brand, celebrated with gusto by staff and guests at the store (below)
“Although our traffic is still much lower compared to 2019, our sales are at around 90% of pre-crisis levels already. So it shows us that passengers are coming back, and are willing to spend in duty free. “During the last four to six weeks we have seen dramatic increases in passengers partly due to vacation season. We hope it continues through the year. On 1 August we recorded 70,000 passengers for the first time since COVID. Until this point we had been close to 60,000 a day. I’m not sure it will continue at that rate of growth but if we hit 45-50% and more of 2019 numbers, things will then take off fully as travel returns. “As we are not as busy as before, we have taken the time to renovate, so that when the travellers come back they will see a new range of units. We will have many new concepts coming here, some firsts for airports in the world.”
Teaser shot: Before the unveiling, guests were greeted by a stylish digital wall that previewed the luxury avenue behind, with a fashion show kickstarting a memorable launch event
Next on the agenda, and a project well under way is the North Node expansion, with an ambitious commercial offer led by a walk-through duty free store to be completed by January 2022. This will lead into a full expansion to be complete by September or October 2022, featuring a stunning 5,000sq m garden surrounded by retail and dining, as first previewed by the group at The Trinity Forum in 2019. More on this to follow soon. Al Badr said: “After this latest expansion is completed we will launch another tender straight away in November-December this year for the expansion of Concourse D and E terminals and their contact gates. “Work on this project will start in January 2023, immediately after the World Cup. We will award a contract around the middle of next year. We are also preparing our plans to go for design on a remote terminal on the western side of the airport, with full contact gates. This will go for design tender hopefully this year, with work beginning after D & E expansion are complete. So there is a lot happening, and much to look forward to.” *See next page for the latest big store concept and brand openings at Hamad International.
“A global benchmark” – Hamad International named Best Airport in the World by Skytrax
In a critical recognition of its customer service over the past 18 months, and its continuing investment in its facilities, Hamad International was named as the World’s Best Airport at the Skytrax 2021 World Airport Awards on 5 August. The consumer-voted award (as announced in the video below) marks a breakthrough moment for the Doha hub, which opened in 2014. The 2021 World Airport Awards recognise the efforts of global airports in adapting and meeting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hamad International Airport Chief Operating Officer Engr. Badr Mohammed Al-Meer said: “This is not only a truly remarkable achievement for HIA and the State of Qatar, but an endorsement from our travellers for our commitment to service excellence. HIA continues to serve as a global benchmark for airports around the world, thanks to the dedication and collaboration of our team and stakeholders. To this day, HIA’s crisis preparedness, business continuity strategy, and agile and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be recognised by leading industry institutions. As we look towards the future, HIA remains devoted to boosting our efforts in providing the best airport experience to all our passengers.”
He also told The Moodie Davitt Report: “If you look at HIA we are only open for business for a few short years, while the others that compete have been in business for decades. Just getting to this point is an achievement. We are happy with where we are now but is this the limit? No. We aim to achieve much more.” Hamad International Airport also won the awards for the Best Airport in the Middle East, the World’s Best Airport in the 25 to 35 million passenger category, and for the Best Airport Staff in the Middle East. Edward Plaisted of Skytrax said: “Inaugurated in 2014, Hamad International Airport has rapidly become a customer favourite and moved from number three in the world in 2020 to be ranked World’s Best Airport this year. “Achieving this honour is very much a team effort, and our congratulations go to the management, staff and stakeholders at Hamad International Airport that help make this happen. As travel hubs worldwide have been impacted by the pandemic, Hamad International Airport was undeterred by the global travel disruptions and continued with its expansion plans while introducing additional airport health and safety standards. As the Official Airport Partner for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 we wish Hamad International Airport every success in helping to host such a major event.”
The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 299 | 17 August 2021
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