By Elizabeth Broomhall
The retailer plans to recruit a further 200 Chinese staff to accommodate tourists from the country
The world’s biggest duty free retailer Dubai Duty Free (DDF) is planning to boost its proportion of Chinese staff again this year in a bid to further tap the Chinese tourism market, the company’s vice president of finance said Sunday.
The fast-growing retailer, which recorded a 15.6 percent rise in revenue last year to $1.46bn, is to add another 200 Chinese recruits before the end of the 2012, so that staff from the Asian country will account for around a quarter of all workers, Bernard Creed said.
“Currently we have 229 staff who are Chinese, we’ve just recruited another 194 more, and at the end of this year we’ll add another 200,” he told delegates at the Dubai-based HSBC: Global Connections conference, which focused on relations between the MENA region and China.
“So by the end of this year out of our 4,000 staff, 650 will be Chinese.”
Dubai Duty Free is among a number of UAE companies seeking to capitalise on the Chinese tourism boom, recently introducing Chinese signage within the airport as well as a Chinese version of the DDF website.
Residents from the Far East state have flooded to the Gulf country in recent years, with figures from Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing citing more than 150,000 Chinese visitors in 2010 - a 41 percent rise on 2009.
By 2015, China expects 100 million people to venture abroad, making it the world's biggest outbound tourism market.
Travel experts believe a mix of tour operators, iconic hotel chains, airlines and retailers in the Middle East are all in a position to profit.
At Dubai Duty Free, Chinese shoppers already rank rank alongside those from Russia and Europe as the company's biggest spenders.
Cigarette brands from China represent around fourteen percent of DDF’s entire tobacco sales, with top-selling label Chungwa alone accounting for one tenth.
The brand, DDF’s bestselling item, brought in revenues of AED15.9m in the first half of 2011.
In an earlier interview with Arabian Business, CEO of DDF Colm McLoughlin said the firm was encouraging its non-Chinese workers to learn basic phrases.
DDF expects the move to become increasingly valuable in the coming months and years, as Chinese workers become harder to recruit, Creed said.
“Hiring Chinese staff is becoming more and more difficult. Usually people come to Dubai for economic reasons, but the Chinese are coming here just to learn English, and they stay for two years and then they leave after that.
“The salaries being offered by duty free [firms] in China are also becoming more and more competitive and harder [to beat]."
However, DDF was continuing with its plans to try and accommodate the Chinese market, he said.
“Chinese credit card company UnionPay is now the biggest credit card company in the world – bigger than Visa and Mastercard.
“We now accept that, and we also accept the Yuan at all of our duty free terminals.”