SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

Qatar 2020 | TOURISM & RETAIL | INTERVIEW

DHFC is an entertainment destination in Qatar like no other, providing unique experiences inspired by the local culture.

Jihad Zarkout
BIOGRAPHY

Jihad Zarkout is the assistant general manager of BASREC, the parent company and owner of DHFC Mall. He joined BASREC in 2011 and is currently overseeing the remaining developments and operations of DHFC. Zarkout holds a degree in civil engineering from Beirut Arab University, with more than 25 years of diversified experience in project management and real estate investment and development. He also holds an MBA from the European School of Management and École Supérieure des Affaires in Beirut. Some of his previous positions include director of the investment development division at the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) and overseeing the investment and real estate development division at Qatar Islamic Bank.

DHFC is Qatar's one and only world-class destination for entertainment, shopping, and dining. Where did the idea for DHFC come from?
DHFC opened its doors on April 2017. The owner of the mall is Bawabat Al-Shamal Real Estate Company W.L.L. (BASREC), with four shareholders. We now have over 425 shops in operation, 100-plus F&B businesses, and 100 kiosks. DHFC welcomes almost 50,000 visitors per day on average. In terms of gross leasable area, we are the biggest shopping mall in Doha, at 265,000sqm.

What entertainment offerings best match Qatari preferences?
DHFC provides the biggest entertainment offering in Qatar, with indoor and outdoor attractions. This includes Angry Birds World indoor and outdoor parks, Virtuocity, and Snow Dunes. Angry Birds World features over 20 unique rides and suitable for all family members, a large array of F&B outlets, retail shops, and edutainment activities. Virtuocity is dedicated digital gaming hub that merges the virtual world with the real world. Equipped with full motion racing simulators, escape rooms, and a multipurpose eSports arena, the park offers an immersive digital experience for teens and adults. Snow Dunes is Qatar's first indoor snow park featuring a fantastical Arabian-style castle set in the distant past. The park utilizes the world's most advanced snow-production technology to create snow that is identical to the one in nature at minus 4 degrees Celsius. Defying logic and guaranteeing delight, the park encompasses a variety of rides and attractions suitable for the whole family such as super fun slides, slopes, and carousel. The park features various F&B outlets, retail stores, and party rooms that will deliver an exclusive fun and exciting experience for the entire family. Our mall also has Qatar's first VOX 4DX cinema complex with 18 digital screens, Theatre by Rhodes, and green spaces for outdoor exercise and an outdoor leisure trail cycling.

How do you see the evolution of the local retail market?
DHFC works closely with Qatari business owners to diversify the local retailers. We also reach out to top Kuwaiti and Turkish brands to ensure we are catering to all demographics.

In term of entertainment options, how did DHFC decide to start with Angry Birds, and how is DHFC's entertainment offering evolving?
During the conceptualization phase, we wanted to create an entertainment destination like no other—something unique and inspired by the local culture. Rather than outsourcing something from outside, we teamed up with Qatari company Leisure, which manages and operates the entire entertainment side of the business. Leisure conducted market studies and analysis to determine what best to introduce to the market. And this was how Angry Birds, Virtuocity, and Snow Dunes came to life. Now there is a new component under consideration that we will hopefully decide on by the end of 2019.

What opportunities will FIFA World Cup 2022 and local demographics bring to the country?
The FIFA event will certainly increase the number of visitors and tourists, not only during the World Cup itself, but also in the two years leading up to the event. Many people will come to Doha for related preparations, and such a huge international event requires considerable organization. Our marketing team is working hand in hand with the Qatar National Tourism Council to prepare different activities to increase the footfall involvement of DHFC. The decision to waive visa requirements for certain visitors to Qatar have had an impact on the diversity of nationalities visiting our mall. The government is taking strategic decisions to enhance the tourism sector and environment in Qatar, and this will definitely have a positive impact on us. Meanwhile, we will prepare a special set of events to go with the FIFA tournament.

What is the relevance of technology and innovations for making DHFC a smart mall?
As a smart mall, DHFC offers innovative digital options including free Wi-Fi and digital wayfinding to enhance consumer experience and is easily accessible, offering 8,000 smart parking spaces and VIP valet services. We are currently working to introduce an application that customers can use to see what initiatives and promotions we are offering. We are looking at the latest technologies and choosing those best for our mall and customers.