We did more than just shop at Doha Festival City. We sat down with Robert Hall, General Manager of Doha Festival City and spoke about the ups and downs of the retail industry as well as its future.

January usually offers an opportunity to draw conclusions from the previous year. How would you describe 2020 and its outcomes for Doha Festival City and the Qatar retail community?

Increased safety and hygiene measures, importance of supporting tenants and building long-standing relations with visitors are the main takeaways of the year. This year more than ever, Doha Festvial City – and the retail community worldwide – could not rest on their laurels, but had to rebuild the attractiveness, the trust, and the relevance to ensure the postpandemic success.

What are the main priorities for Doha Festival City as a brand?

Doha Festival City focuses on the experiential side of the brand – our main priority is to offer memorable moments to our guests through various activities, in addition to featuring the most diverse retail, dining, and entertainment offers.

How do you make sure the Doha Festival City brand remains strong even during these challenging times?

In October, we relaunched our brand and announced its new ethos, focused on guest experiences, memories, and feelings. The relaunch allowed us to communicate on our updates and future plans, reinstate our brand goals and start our journey towards achieving them: despite the remaining restrictions, we managed to host several events, maximising our engagement with Qatar community.

What are the most important 2020 highlights you would like to share with our readers?

We managed to make the last quarter of 2020 rather eventful: we relaunched our brand, continued our CSR engagement by partnering with The Teal Society in the framework of Pink October, ran the first in-mall Radio Show in partnership with Mazaji FM, held our Fashion Month and hosted the European Drive-In Cinema Festival. This was a very special year!

What were the main challenges in introducing and applying Covid-19 safety measures? Which ones are still in place in the mall? And which ones do you envisage for continue post COVID?

Doha Festival City applies rigorous safety measures, following all the authorities’ guidelines as advised. We continue a thorough mall disinfection on a weekly basis, as well as daily cleaning and sanitisation during the opening hours, social distancing enforcement, Ehteraz and temperature checks. It is likely that most of the safety guidelines will remain in place including regular hand sanitising and enhanced disinfection, as people have become more aware on safety and hygiene in public places.

Despite this year’s pandemic, several brands have continued to open at Doha Festival City this year – what are these brands and how did they diversify Mall‘s offer?

Yes, we are extremely satisfied to be able to host new retailers and boost our offers even in such a difficult year. We added new outlets to our gourmet, health and wellness, mobile and telecommunications, home accessories, fashion, and jewellery offer. In total, 26 new tenancies opened in 2020, and 23 more are set to open by early 2021.

Last November, you held a series of fashion shows – can you tell us more about these events? Was it challenging to run them in the context of continued restrictions, and are more fashion shows or similar events planned this year?

We indeed had to adjust our shows in line with the government’s guidelines: they hosted a limited number of VIP guests; however, all of Doha Festival City’ customers were able to watch the shows through live streaming on our YouTube channel and see recaps on the screens available throughout the Mall. Despite a more intimate setting, we are glad that we were able to hold these first big events of 2020, bringing back Doha Festival City’s upbeat and fashionable spirit to Qatar.

Doha Festival City positions itself as a community player. How did you fulfill this role in 2020?

Engagemet in CSR activities is an integral part of our corporate strategy. In 2020, we supported our retailers affected by the pandemic-induced crisis by granting them a three-months’ rent waiver; ran the #FestivalCares campaign spreading a message about the importance of safety measures. We also partnered with Education Above All to help underprivileged children, and raised awareness about Women’ Health in Qatar together with the Teal Society, our 2020 Pink Month partner.

You also hosted a European Drive-In Film Festival last year – how did the festival go, and are you planning to hold similar cultural events in the future?

European Drive-in Cinema Festival showcased the diversity of cultures in Qatar, and strengthened our bonds with European partners. It was an honour for us to host the festival, partnering with nine European Embassies. The drive-in setting was a very convenient solution to enjoy the cinema experience in the safest and comfortable way.

What’s the feeling you hope to convey to your visitors when they shop at Doha Festival City in 2021?

Feelings are at the heart of Doha Festival City’s identity; we want our customers to feel 100 percent safe while shopping in Doha Festival City, but – more importantly – feel excited and welcome, as our goal is to remain Qatar’s one and only choice for fashion, dining and entertainment.

To conclude, can you share your wishes for 2021 with our readers and broader Qatar community?

I would like to wish for 2021 to be a year of health and happiness, and to be relevant to each of our visitors’ lifestyle and create precious moments for you and your loved ones at Doha Festival City, making it your one and only choice. ✤