It is time for Dubai Summer Surprises

NJD after a DSS face painting when she was young….she always chose a tiger design

Summer in Dubai these days are a lot different than 10 years ago thanks to the Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment, an agency under the Department of Economic Development of Dubai who have planned more than a 100 exciting shows and activities over 31 days set to cement Dubai’s reputation as the finest summer destination in the region through Dubai Summer Surprises 2012 (DSS).

DSS will run from June 14th to July 14th with the slogan “Dubai. Summer Fun and More”. I remember working with the DSF/DSS team in 2000 and had lots of fun at the DSF offices then with H.E. Laila Suhail who is now the CEO of DEPE and Ibrahim Saleh, Festivals Coordinator General and Deputy CEO of DEPE. Both of them are just as dynamic as I knew them 12 years ago and its great to see that they keep each year’s events fresh with new activities….I’m particularly excited with all the spa offers I’m about to experience – my body certainly needs it.

To know what you want to indulge in this year, check out the “Dubai Calendar” which gives visitors and residents a month-by-month line-up of the unique and entertaining events taking place in the city all year round and it is a great source of reference for anyone wanting to make the most of their time in Dubai….it is an awesome tool for people who have visitors all the time in Dubai.

This year’s partners and sponsors which includes Emirates Airlines, AW Rostamani, Al Futtaim Group, Emaar Malls Group, Emaar Properties, Majid Al Futtaim Properties, Al Ghurair City, Mercato, Paris Gallery, EPPCO and ENOC, Dubai World Trade Center, Dubai Duty Free in addition to Master card and Dubai Shopping Malls Group (DSMG), all of which, over the years, have played an important role in the success and continuing growth of DSS.

Malls across the city will play host to DSS signature events, such as World of Stories, Kids Fashion Week, Min Bladi Al Emarat, and the Sheila and Abaya Fashion Show, and kids can look forward to 8 highly popular international stage cartoon shows such as The Smurfs, Barbie, Hello Kitty, Sponge Bob, Charlie and Lola, Ice Age, and Teletubbies….man these bring memories of us going all over town with little diva. I must say I am glad she’s all grown up now and enjoys DSS the way I like – retail therapy!

My favourite bit this DSS will be naturally be the spa offers program “Dubai Spas” with cool discounts at the cream of Dubai’s luxurious spas. I’m not big into raffles partly because I never win anything but DSS usually has some mega prizes.

I’m pretty sure there is a lot more news coming up for DSS but the taster activity schedule that landed in my inbox makes me want to just here all summer.

Inspirational coffee moment with Colm McLoughlin

With Colm and Sinead…. movers and shakers behind the most successful brand in Dubai

After seeing Colm McLoughlin around town and in the media for over 11 years, I finally had a chance for a delightful chat with the man behind the most successful Duty Free retail venture in the world. I always wanted to do a blog on him so when our awesome Group was given an opportunity to get up, close and personal with Colm one morning a few months ago, naturally I jumped at the opportunity, had a chat with him and then found out even more later about the many initiatives he and his team help support via DDF.

Arriving in the UAE from Ireland in 1983 to help set up Dubai Duty Free (DDF) on a short-term contract with just a team of 10 people, Colm was enticed to stay longer to realize the vision of H.H Sheikh Mohammed to make DDF the most vibrant, successful and profitable airport retail organisation in the world. Over 28 years later, we find that the growth of DDF has surpassed all the goals that Colm had set and has gone beyond that into other fields as well. From 100 staff and earning 72 million revenues, DDF today has over 4,000 employees and posted Dhs4.6billion in revenues.

About 48 members of the original team are still with DDF and after facing the many travel related challenges over the years, and starting with concession shops to see the company grow into a major airport retailer today. Apart from owning the Aviation Club that houses the Dubai Tennis Stadium and The Irish Village and Century Village, Colm tells us of DDF’s plans to build a hotel within the same complex that would be run by the Jumeirah Group. The five star Jumeirah Creekside hotel will have 293 bedrooms with an all day dining restaurant.

While most people revel in DDF’s retail success, many associate the brand also with major sports tournaments and CSR initiatives. Colm tells us about the birth of Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the 20th year anniversary of the tournament this year and the fact that it is seen worldwide on TV in over 400 million homes. He is particularly delighted by the fact that the players always vote DDF as the best tennis championship in the world. The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships was honoured by the ATP, being named as the ATP World Tour 500 Tournament of the Year for 2011. This is the eighth time in nine years that the Tournament has won the Award, a truly impressive achievement.

Other than tennis, DDF also sponsors the Desert Classic Golf Tournament, World Cup Horse Racing the Dubai Film Festival amongst other key events that help drive tourism and put Dubai on the map for world class events. Other events associated with DDF is the Irish Derby, Emirates Festival of Literature, local productions like City of Life, Gulf For Good, the library at DUCTAC as well as managing the DDF Foundation for children’s education and health in countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Dubai Duty Free also supports ‘Hand in Hand for Haiti’, the travel retail industry-funded educational initiative, where DDF Foundation provided US$500,000 to finance a new Sports Complex at the Lycee Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable School in the town of Saint Marc. The DDF Sports Complex at the Lycee school will offer pupils and the wider community in Saint Marc an outstanding sports and leisure facility. Facilities will include an international regulation soccer pitch, a 6-lane athletic track, a basketball court and a volleyball court.

During our conversation, it also emerged that DDF has won over 250 awards. But Colm personally also received an award recently by the Garbally College, which presented 55 former pupils with Alumni Awards. Colm with his two brothers Ray and Feidlim were amongst fellow alumni that included prominent and highly respected Irish professionals from the field of Business, Politics, Science, Education, Religion and the Arts. Both of Colm’s older brothers, Ray and Feidlim, have enjoyed highly successful business careers combined with high profile sporting success on the rugby field.

In addition to awards and CSR related events, Colm also supports initiatives by DDF to raise awareness and create environmental ambassadors within its operation. Dubai Duty Free sponsored two of its employees’ recently to participate in the ‘International Antarctic Expedition 2012’ expedition led by the renowned polar explorer and environmentalist Robert Swan, OBE. I asked Colm on DDF’s future plans and he enthusiastically tells us about Dubai Airports expansion plans, which would result in further growth of DDF with at least 1,000 more staff and 8,000sqm of retail space at concourse three. The concourse is anticipated to complete beginning of next year followed by another concourse three to four years later.

With the two new concourse areas, Colm expects sales to exceed the Dhs10billion mark with staff numbers increasing to over 8,000 to support the footprint at the bigger airport due to increased traffic. Speaking of some of his proudest achievements, Colm talks about team building initiatives and training provided to DDF staff. The management encourages staff to achieve exceptional results and provide them with all the facilities and tools to help them perform better in the workplace.

DDF is known to provide sports facilities at the residences of staff as well as computers and programmes so that they continuously improve their skills. Colm attributes this initiative to His Highness Sheikh Ahmed who is seen as a superstar as a boss who provides opportunities to his team to grow themselves and DDF to new heights.

In his leisure time Colm loves to cycle, swim and play golf. In ten years he hopes to see DDF doubling the business with more than 50 nationalities working together to sustain DDF in its pole position as the best airport retailer in the world. It was a pleasure spending the morning with Colm and Sinead and I hope to get insights from him and his team, who are equally dynamic, more often.

Patron of the Arts

Performers at a recent exhibition from Uzbekistan supported by Dubai Culture - I loved it

Thanks to Yasser & his team, my daughter loved the performance by a Chechen Dance troupe recently organised by Dubai Culture

The last few weeks has been awesome for Dubai Culture – I’ve always known the team there to be super dynamic (I seriously want to know where people like Yasser and Bilal get their energy) but I reckon recently they have surpassed themselves after hosting one amazing cultural performance/exhibition/celebration after another.

So when the equally amazing team of Asda who know I lap up anything that’s remotely associated with Art & Culture and would support the boys there anytime contacted me about the The Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Patrons of the Arts Awards,I jumped up and headed towards Jumeirah Zabeel – its not just the superb hammam there that pulls me towards this amazing hotel.

This key initiative was announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai and honoured 47 organisations and individuals for their contributions towards the city’s cultural scene …which I may add grows twofold every time I get my fabulous self to set some time aside after work to check my social calendar.

Organised by the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the Emirate’s dedicated Authority for culture, arts, and heritage, the awards were aimed at encouraging patrons of the arts to further strengthen the evolution of the city’s cultural landscape through patronage.

Saeed Al Nabouda, Acting Director General, Dubai Culture & Arts Authority was there and he looked so different than when I first worked with him during DSF 2000 – he has managed to get increased support from Government departments and organisations, in addition to a vast pool of new patrons for culture and the arts.

It was awesome to see some of my favourite organisations and the representatives from Emirates Airlines, Jumeirah Group, Dubai Duty Free and AGMC – BMW being honoured – these guys do great stuff for art & culture and the people behind these brands are the nicest you will find in Dubai.

I’m hoping more things like Art Week, Art Dubai, Design Days, Dubai International Film Festival, Gulf Film Festival, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and Dubai Festival for Youth Theatre add to the culture and arts scene of the city….we definitely need to give more recognition as well to the performing arts which has struggled heaps over the last 10 years. The tides are changing thanks to the amazing work of Dubai Culture and this diva is pleased to be in a city that brings so much of the worlds static and performing arts to us on a silver platter. Smiling heaps!