MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA. Welcome to the MEADFA Guide for 2016, the official publication that accompanies the Middle East & Africa Duty Free Association Conference, which begins in Dubai on Sunday.

2016 has been one of the toughest years ever for travel retail in the Middle East and Africa. The combination of regional conflict and instability, low oil prices and currency fluctuation have contributed to softening consumer spend and a downturn in sales in many markets. The region’s leading industry players speak openly and candidly about the challenges in these pages.

Yet there is a flipside too. The Middle East is home to some of the world’s most exciting airport infrastructure projects, which offer spectacular opportunities for the channel.

Dubai Duty Free has embarked on an ambitious 1,300sq m expansion of space at Dubai International, just months after opening 7,000sq m of space at the new Concourse D.

At Qatar Duty Free, an expansion of luxury is high on the agenda, while Aer Rianta International is completing a major renovation of Bahrain Duty Free, opening new concepts at Beirut Duty Free and revitalising other operations.

At Baghdad International, Iraq Duty Free is expanding its presence with stores set to open in a third terminal soon. And in Saudi Arabia, Lagardère Travel Retail and local partners will make their duty free debut, bringing new design, concepts and brands to that market.

There’s investment aplenty in other parts of the region too. Cairo International Airport Terminal 2 reopened in September, with large retail spaces devoted to Dufry, Egyptair Duty Free Shops and Cairo Airport Duty Free. Also in North Africa, IDFS Morocco is doubling its space in Marrakech and adding 400sq m of new space at Casablanca Airport T1, which is set to open in early 2017.

Delegates will hear much more about these developments at MEADFA in Dubai – and a lot more about the many challenges facing the industry too.

Please enjoy this Official MEADFA Guide with our compliments.