x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Powdered milk and Tang are pure gold

Traveller's world Much joy at Dubai Duty Free where, after years taking third place, it has jumped into the number one slot.

Over 25 years, DDF has sold 508,500kg of Tang.
Over 25 years, DDF has sold 508,500kg of Tang.

Much joy at Dubai Duty Free (DDF) where, after years taking third place behind London's Heathrow and Seoul's Incheon airport, it has jumped into the number one slot in the most recent global duty free sales survey by Generation Research. With recorded sales of US$1.1bn (Dh4.04bn) last year, an increase of 23 per cent on the previous year, Dubai Duty Free is officially, the most successful airport retailer in the world.

With many airports down 20 to 25 per cent on the year, bizarrely two products that DDF can thank for its strong showing in these credit crunched times, are milk powder and orange powder. Sales of Nido - Nestlé's dried whole milk and Anchor's own brand - are phenomenal because nearly everyone going back to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran buy it by the bucket load. It is now specially produced for the duty-free market in an easily transportable fashion. The reason? It's hard to get good quality milk powder in those countries, and because a little powder goes a long way, it is possible to buy a year's supply as you pass though the terminal.

Tang, the orange powder, which again you just add water to, is the other big seller. Since Dubai Duty Free opened its doors 25 years ago, the airport shop has sold 508,500kg of the stuff, which is apparently equivalent to the weight of 100 fully grown elephants. Other favourites that have helped to push the sales figures up are pistachio nuts, chocolate bars and basic toiletry items such as toothpaste.

Perfumes and cosmetics is the department that accounts for the highest proportion of takings, although at only 14 per cent, the market share was down last year by three per cent. The top-selling cosmetics brand is Estée Lauder, particularly its Eight Hour Cream so beloved of fashion editors. DDF's success lies in its pricing policy - most items are 20 per cent cheaper than in downtown Dubai which, with low import duty, is already quite competitive. With 45 per cent of all passengers buying goods and spending an average of $50 (Dh184) each, the future looks rosy.

This news follows a less than optimistic start to 2009. In May, Colm McLoughlin, its managing director, announced that despite a three per cent rise in passenger traffic, people were spending less. The first five months of this year recorded a drop in sales of four per cent, but a spend, spend, spend June and July has turned those figures around, and now, sales are only one per cent behind last year. DDF's management is now hoping that business will end the year up, not down with a predicted total of $1.2bn (Dh4.4bn)

Etihad Airways continues to make inroads into India with a new direct flight to Hyderabad starting in November. Initially flying four days a week, the service will run daily from the start of 2010. It brings the number of Indian destinations served by the national airline to seven (Mumbai, Delhi, Trivandrum, Cochin, Calicut and Chennai) and follows bilateral talks between the governments of the UAE and India. Negotiations with the Indian authorities are not always easy as flydubai recently discovered to its cost when it had to postpone its new Indian routes, and in making the announcement, James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad, paid tribute to the Department of Transport of Abu Dhabi, "for further opening up air links". If you were one of the people who flew with Etihad on Friday July 31 you helped to break a record - for on this day the airline carried more passengers than any other in its history. A record 21,640 passengers took to the air and almost every seat was full - the load factor was 90.3 per cent. A date to remember to avoid next year, perhaps?

The Arabian Gulf has had its problems with the so-called red tide algal bloom but in northern France the problem is of a different hue. The coastline of Northern Brittany has been swamped by tons of rotting algae. Last weekend hundreds of locals and environmentalists demonstrated on the beach of St Michel-en-Greve as the number of beaches affected by the "green menace" hit 70. The seaweed is fine when it is alive but as it decomposes, it releases a foul stench and toxic gases.

A horse rider is taking legal action after his horse died and he became seriously ill after breathing in the fumes given off the sludge. The 27-year-old vet, Vincent Petit, had to be dragged away after the horse collapsed and he became unconscious. The problem is not new - last year two dogs died nearby - and environmentalists are blaming the intensity of local pig, cattle and poultry farming. Campaigners believe that the nitrates from the farms are polluting the water system and feeding the algae.

There is continued anguish within the industry over the British government's plans to go ahead with steep rises in air passenger duties from November. Hopes that it would relent in the face of the current economic climate seem to have been misplaced. Now both the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) are increasing the pressure. Last week, ABTA called on travellers to contact their local member of Parliament and WTTC denounced the proposals on three fronts: that it was short sighted during the recession since travel, more than any other sector, could help to kick start the economy; it is being sold as an environmental tax but so far none of the money collected has been used in this way; and, finally, it undermines the UK's supposed support for the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals as fewer travellers will mean less spending in developing countries.

Most appealing deal of the moment? A one-bed serviced apartment in the Shangri-La Residences for a month costs $5,513 (Dh20,250), valid until September 21. Perfect for Abu Dhabi residents whose air con is cranky, with the added bonus of being near the Chi spa, Pearls & Caviar, and the souq. sryan@thenational.ae