Middle East • DXB
“Destination brand, lifestyle brand, experience brand”
In part two of our DXB special, Martin Moodie talks to Dubai Airports Executive Vice President – Commercial Eugene Barry about the philosophy underpinning DXB. “Our role here is not as managers of infrastructure or just as managers of a business. We’re managers of the city’s reputation for millions of people every month,” Barry says.
Eugene Barry (right) with Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths during the recent Chinese New Year celebrations at DXB.
Martin Moodie: This is a highly significant move by Dubai Airports and there’s clearly a lot more to it than just a new brand identity. What’s the thinking behind it?
Eugene Barry: Over the last few years we’ve been moving towards a direction at the airport where service is becoming more and more critical for us to evolve and address.
When we became the biggest airport in the world for international traffic five years ago, it was the achievement of an objective we had been chasing for many, many years. But we quickly realised that nobody’s going to give you any prizes for being big; we also need to be good at what we do. The two airports we manage [DXB and Dubai World Central] have grown so quickly over the last decade; we’ve gone from 34 million passengers in 2007 to 90 million between them last year.
The majority of those customers are connecting through Dubai, so our airports are often all they see here. They’re very service conscious. They’re very brand conscious. They’re very value conscious and they’re aware that they’ve got choices to get from A to B.
And, so, we have made a very conscious effort over the last couple of years to focus more on hospitality and service. What we’ve done is re-branded the airport as a destination brand, a lifestyle brand, an experience brand, and everything’s going to fall under that. With DXB, we are promising to deliver a certain standard of experience, a certain collection of products or services that is consistent with our brand.
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“Within the commercial world we’ve been blending retail, food, hospitality and experience a lot in recent years. You’ll see a lot more integration. In the past, the different disciplines have happened in silos.”
So, everything we do, whether it’s on the aviation side of our business, on the concession side of our business, on the consumer side of our business, we’re all moving in one direction now as a company. And the partners we have internally, stakeholders, tenants, concessionaires, airlines are all part of the story. They’re all represented here.
We’re having four workshops with our employees, and with the employees of our partners, and we’re sharing the story with them as well. So, there’s a huge amount of work being done on identity, value, behaviours, and expectations as well.
As you say, you don’t just want to be the biggest, you want to be the best. How are you going to win the hearts and minds of every traveller coming through the airport?
That’s a great question. I asked it to a big social media influencer a month ago: How do you scale up a personal experience? An individual experience to 90 million people? And he told me you start with one and you focus on the individual, not on the collection of people.
And, so, even though a lot of what we’re going to do will be related to commercial products and services and the experience that comes around that over the next couple of years, another whole set of experiences is going to revolve around technology.
And technology is very personal; it’s very individual. So much of what we do today on social media will become integrated with some of the platforms we’re creating and testing already. For example, we have a community app for our employees; they’re all empowered now in their hands with up-to-date information on what’s happening inside the airport. We’re going to integrate that with some of the other platforms that exist across the airport.
We’ve invested a lot in Wi-Fi over the last couple of years and now claim that we have the fastest Wi-Fi in any airport. It’s completely free, which I know is a subject close to your heart as well. And this integration of technology and experience and product and service is coming closer and closer together.
Within the commercial world we’ve been blending retail, food, hospitality and experience a lot in recent years. You’ll see a lot more integration, an integrated effort, I think, as well.
In the past, the different disciplines have happened in silos almost and airports have treated partners individually rather than collectively. And with technology, we’re trying to blend all of those different elements together to create an experience, because travellers coming through our airport don’t see these different operators or different brands. They see one thing, which is the airport. And we take responsibility for that ultimate experience.
Returning to the subject of the rebrand to DXB, I understand that this is the consumer brand. Does Dubai International still exist, per se?
We’re DXB. Everybody calls us DXB anyway, so our airline customers know us as DXB. And when you as a traveller book your flight, DXB is on your ticket, DXB is on your baggage tag. And, so, DXB is Dubai International Airport’s brand going forward. We’re going to unveil the physical, tangible assets relating to DXB across the airport. It’ll become more and more visible.
Dubai Airports is the company that manages DXB. So, our corporate brand will still be there, but it’s not a consumer brand. And we discovered this a couple of years ago when we got deeper into attempting to talk directly to customers. Dubai Airports doesn’t really have any consumer cache.
So, that was the decision a couple years ago to move towards DXB, which is more personal. Everybody has an individual DXB story. And DXB is also the City of Dubai; it’s commonly called DXB. So, it’s already very well known and it’s held in very high regard locally.
“The contribution that the aviation sector makes to Dubai is huge; it’s about one third of Dubai’s GDP. It’s the lifeblood, it’s the gateway of the city, and it’s always been that way.”
The DXB branding also features prominently across JCDecaux Dicon’s digital advertising footprint.
You had the ruler of Dubai present for the unveiling, which underlines the importance of the event. Is DXB the manifestation of his vision for what Dubai can be?
Yes it is. It’s an endorsement from the ruler of the country, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed; and his son Sheikh Hamdan; and His Highness Sheikh Ahmed, Chairman of Dubai Airports, and the leaders from Dubai Duty Free and Emirates.
Their presence shows how important the airport is to Their presence shows how important the airport is to the city. The economic contribution that the aviation sector makes to Dubai is huge; it’s about one third of Dubai’s GDP. And it’s about 20% of employment here; it makes a big contribution to local life. It’s the lifeblood, it’s the gateway of the city, and it’s always been that way.
Everybody here is proud of the airport. The fact that our ruler was here and personally endorsed it is a massive deal to us. He insisted on being the first to tweet about it. So, that’s ownership and that’s guardianship of our story.
In his address – speaking without notes in front of the ruler of the country and other royalty – your CEO Paul Griffiths spoke with a lot of passion.
Yes he did. We’ve realised that our role here is not as managers of infrastructure or not just managers of a business; we’re managers of the city’s reputation for millions of people every month. And we’re at the front line of that. For those millions of people who connect through our airport every month, you’d never set foot in the city. They’re connecting through our airports. So, we’re the only glimpse of this city, this country, this region, that many, many people see.
Looking at it differently like that means we’ve got a big responsibility to make sure that everything we put in front of them is of a certain standard and quality – the service we have, the partners we work with, the effort we make to make that experience a worthwhile experience. It’s a massive step-change and it’s not just processing people.
Paul spoke about customers, he spoke about travellers. He didn’t speak about passengers. So, even the terminology of what we’re managing is going to change significantly over the next year or two as well.
This beautiful shot of DXB at night illustrates the effective simplicity of the new branding.
“The dark night keeps the flower’s scent treasured for the breeze that rises, all so that the breeze can play with it.”
– From ‘The Dark Night’ by Crown Prince Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (‘Fazza’)
The Moodie Davitt Report • The Online Magazine • March 2019