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High Flyers

The Moodie Davitt High Flyers' article with ARI CEO, Ray Hernan chronicles ARI’s remarkable year and looks ahead to 2024

Ray Hernan CEO ARI Cropped

02 Jan 2024

From world-class store openings to extensive refurbishments – not to mention a complete brand refresh and invigoration – 2023 has been a busy year for ARI. In this column from The Moodie Davitt Report, Chief Executive Officer Ray Hernan reflects on a year of dedication and triumph for the travel retailer, shedding light on some ‘moments of joy’ experienced along the way.

As travel retail comes to the end of its first full year of normalcy since the impact of the pandemic, we at ARI have enjoyed a very strong period. The business is performing well in all our units, and we have exciting plans afoot looking forward to 2024.

This year has been a momentous one for ARI, with some phenomenal highs and great business milestones achieved. One of our most notable highlights for 2023 has been the roll-out of our brand identity and expression ‘Joy On Your Way’, which was revealed in February this year.

This new identity has seen us strengthen our focus on the emotional human connection that is so paramount in our industry, which I believe sets ARI apart from our competitors. Our existing customer value proposition (CVP) is how we deliver our brand; our formula for joy provides the strategic framework for delivering joy by removing barriers and enhancing the retail experience. As an exciting new chapter to this narrative, we have launched a new global programme at ARI called The Blue-Sky Hub whereby great ideas are initiated from our global teams and their input is celebrated.

Our people are our business and without their dedication, commitment and collective spirit, ARI’s achievements of the year would not have been possible.

Ray Hernan, CEO ARI

Most recently I was delighted to be in Cyprus with our colleagues where we celebrated a milestone anniversary for our Cyprus Duty Free General Manager Andrew Baker who has been with ARI and daa Group for over 40 years.

Andrew’s illustrious career spanned Ireland, Beirut, Qatar, New Zealand and many more locations. It was a pleasure to acknowledge Andrew and his wife Ellen, who has been by his side throughout his journey with the business.

Celebrating our people and our teams has always been a priority at ARI – in 2023, a key highlight for me was seeing our teams reunited in person for the first time in three years to celebrate our annual Star Awards. Colleagues from across ARI’s global estate were welcomed to Dublin for a gala event to celebrate and recognise the teams and individuals who have gone above and beyond to deliver the best retail experience to our customers and value to our partners.

People are the driving force of our business and each year our ARI Star Awards honour those who always strive for better, think differently and deliver an exceptional experience.

Like any business, while there have been challenges in 2023, we are delighted to say that this has been a momentous year for ARI in a lot of ways. In June we celebrated the first anniversary of our business in Portugal. We worked very closely with the team to ensure seamless integration and to help them create their own identity as part of ARI.

The collaborative effort, dedication and support from all our colleagues have translated into a remarkably positive first year, both financially and operationally, for our business in Portugal. Our focus now turns to delivering with our partner, ANA, an extensive capital refurbishment programme across all Portuguese locations to bring a brand-new and exciting revamp to our offering for our customers.

We were also delighted to mark two major anniversary milestones for ARI’s business journey this year. Firstly, as we commemorate 25 years of business in Canada, we reflect on the enduring relationships and partnerships built, challenges overcome, and growth achieved in that dynamic market. We proudly extended our portfolio in the region in September this year with the opening of our first standalone duty paid store in collaboration with Chanel at Vancouver International Airport. This partnership is a very exciting expansion of our ARI North America business and of our footprint in Canada. We are excited to share that more is yet to come; we will be expanding our reach in Canada even further in January 2024 when we open our duty free store at Edmonton International Airport.

Our second major anniversary of the year was marking 30 years in partnership with the Buhindi Group in the Middle East, with ARI Middle East (ARIME) now being the biggest multi-site operator in the region. Throughout this journey a guiding principle has been our unwavering commitment to creating a Sense of Place at each of our business units, aiming to deliver joy through extraordinary and memorable customer experiences for travellers who pass through our Middle Eastern stores.

The pinnacle moment of joy this year is undoubtedly the opening of our new store at Abu Dhabi International Airport Terminal A, marking a significant moment for our business. Years in the making, this world-class venture is set to redefine travel retail with an unrivalled and exceptional offering. The store stands as a testament to our colleagues’ unwavering commitment to excellence and innovation.

As we celebrate this momentous achievement, I would like to extend my gratitude to the stalwart teams at ARI, ARIME and Travel Retail Sales and Services (TRSS – a collaboration between ARIME and local partners) whose tireless efforts have transformed a vision into reality.

This launch not only underscores our commitment to setting new industry standards but also signifies a bold step forward in our mission to create unparalleled experiences for our valued customers and partners around the world.

Our new store opening in Abu Dhabi has proven to be just one of the ways in which we have delivered our commitment to our environmental, social and governance (ESG) programme for 2023. The new store is fully compliant with Estidama regulations, ensuring that sustainability is at the forefront of its design.

Our global teams have maintained a continuous and ongoing focus on our ESG commitments which included the total elimination of single-use plastics by the end of 2023 – a pledge that we are proud to have delivered ahead of time.

Ray Hernan, CEO ARI

Alongside all these monumental highlights and achievements remains the heartbeat of our business: The unwavering commitment of our colleagues throughout the ARI estate.

In this remarkable year, our dedicated teams from every corner of the globe have consistently gone above and beyond, embodying excellence in every aspect of their work. So, despite all our accomplishments, it is the everyday efforts of our colleagues that truly define our success. Their tireless dedication to delivering exceptional customer experiences and joy for our passengers has been the constant force propelling our business forward.

Now that we approach the end of this year, and as we turn the page to a new chapter for 2024, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to all our colleagues and partners across the world for their unwavering commitment, steadfast support and exceptional dedication to ARI over the past 12 months.

I would like to wish you all a very happy, safe and peaceful holiday season, and for each and every one of you, may there be ‘Joy On Your Way’.

Click here to read more from The Moodie Davitt Report: High Flyers’ in association with ARI  The Moodie Davitt Report High Flyers’ Column

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