The brand may not be known by many smokers in the Emirates, but it has become the best-selling cigarette at Dubai Duty Free. Chunghwa cigarettes from China now outsell Marlboro and Camel at the airport retailer, which plans to double the number of Chinese sales staff in response to the changing mix of passengers.
Chunghwa is followed closely in sales by Panda cigarettes, which are also from China.
The sales trend has not been lost on executives at Dubai Duty Free.
"The Chinese visitors are increasing all the time and they are making a big difference," said Colm McLoughlin, the executive vice chairman of Dubai Duty Free. "They are buying a lot of luxury products, perfumes, watches and make-up."
Dubai Duty Free has 200 Chinese employees at Dubai International Airport, whereas five years ago the company had virtually none, said Mr McLoughlin.
"The biggest-selling cigarette is now Chinese. It's a very good and very important market for us," he said.
So far this year, the number of hotel guests from China has increased 27 per cent in Dubai, according to figures released last week by the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
Dubai Duty Free is processing paperwork for more than 150 Chinese recruits to come to work for the company, and the total level could exceed 500 in the next few years.
Sales were strong in the first quarter of this year, helped by an influx of Chinese visitors. Total sales at the airport retailer were up 14 per cent to Dh1.42 billion (US$387 million) in this year's first quarter compared with the same period last year, and the retailer aims to make Dh6bn this year, and Dh10bn within six years.
Dubai Duty Free, which began trading in 1983 and has about 4,000 employees, operates 18,000 square metres of retail space at the Dubai airport and says its revenue last year was Dh5.3bn.
It is not the only company to recognise the potential of Chinese tourism since the Chinese government in 2009 approved the UAE as a travel destination for Chinese citizens.
Piers Schreiber, the vice president of corporate communications and public affairs at the Jumeirah Group, says the hotel company now has about 300 Chinese employees in its properties throughout Dubai.
"We have seen huge increases in the number of Chinese visitors to the country and a significant increase in the number of Chinese guests coming to our hotels," said Mr Schreiber. "But one hotel stands out, and that's the Burj Al Arab." Since 2009, the number of Chinese guests at the 200-suite hotel has risen from almost zero to 26 per cent of the total.
"As part of a broad recognition of different sectors in the UAE, the Chinese market is very important," said Mr Schreiber.
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