EXCLUSIVE: Meet the Filipina behind Dubai Duty Free’s biggest shopping complex

DUBAI: Just about six months after Dubai Duty Free (DDF) opened on Dec. 20 1983, Rebecca Gonzales, hailing from Manila, came on board to work as sales assistant.

Rising from the ranks over the years, Gonzales, now operations manager, she “feels great, proud and thankful” to be part of DDF’s growth.

“Absolutely life changing and fulfilling. I can say that I have found my true calling and passion and this is fortified day by day, year after year. There’s always a window of opportunity for everyone to grow professionally and change their lives,” Gonzales, one of the Filipino pioneers at DDF, told The Filipino Times in an exclusive interview.

She recalled how back in 2008, she was tasked to lead a small team of initially eight people from the operations to manage the build-up of the biggest Concourse/Terminal.

“This is when your patience and leadership skills are tested,” she said. “This is where you build good relationships with all the stakeholders and create camaraderie to get things done. Time is of the essence and with limited resources, you need to strategize with proper planning and contingency at hand,” Gonzales added.

The DDF Shopping Complex in Termina 3 of Dubai International Airport. (Supplied photo)

Nowadays, Gonzales would have a glowing smile whenever she passes by the DDF shopping complex in Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 3 – the facility’s biggest.

“Every time I look at the terminal and the DDF area, it’s like looking at a ‘masterpiece.’ It gives me pride to such an achievement which of course would have not been possible without the dedication of the entire team,” she said.
Back in the day, Gonzales said, things were “very challenging.”

“We needed to do everything manually, including entering the transaction and converting foreign currency to local money during payments at the point of sale. The present system is now upgraded due to modern technology and tremendous trainings provided by Dubai Duty Free,” she said.

Dubai Duty Free opened with 100 staff in 1983, 35 of which were Filipinos, according to company officials.

Today, DDF has 2,400 Filipino employees which are in 62 different positions, including shopfloor sales assistants, cashiers, supervisors, beauty advisors, merchandisers, wine advisors, display artists to name a few, while 22 are in managerial roles.
Some 1,700 are working in the shops.

Filipino employees account for 39.15 percent of DDF’s workforce, according to Colm McLoughlin, current Executive Vice Chairman & CEO, who was one of the 10-man team from Aer Rianta (the Irish Airport Authority) who moved to Dubai in 1983 at the request of the Dubai Government, to set up DDF, which in its opening year had a turnover of US$20 million.

Staff Report

The Filipino Times is the chronicler of stories for, of and by Filipinos all over the world, reaching more than 236 countries in readership. Any interesting story to share? Email us at [email protected]

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