Positioning Dubai as a destination of choice
Ahmed Al Khaja, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment
Over the years, Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) has become one of the hallmarks of the Dubai event season and has cemented its place as the summer destination of choice for tourists from around the world
Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE) is the subsidiary of Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and handles all city-wide retail and festivals to position Dubai as the hub for the region. Says Ahmed Al Khaja, Chief Executive Officer, DFRE, "Dubai has always been a great city for festivals and events. Historically, Dubai was a focal point for traders within the region as most trades passed through it. Building on this tradition, we continue to deliver His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai's vision to make Dubai the hub for retail and tourism."
Khaja is the face of Dubai's next generation. Walking to the meeting room offered a rare glimpse of the people at the office of DTCM who work tirelessly behind the scenes to promote Dubai to the world. With a degree in aircraft engineering followed by an MBA, Khaja is all set to take DFRE to new heights. Before joining DFRE, he worked with Dubai World Trade Center as Senior Vice-President, Venues. However, his first assignment was with Emirates airlines. "For me, it's destiny being back in the travel industry," he says.
As the head of DFRE, he has ambitious plans to deliver the strategy supporting tourism in Dubai bringing in 20 million visitors by 2020. So far he has been doing a great job working with the different entities in Dubai. "We work together with private entities and the government as one unit to deliver this vision, and I am confident that we will achieve the target and more," says the CEO.
So far, DSS has indeed been full of surprises. "It has done exceptionally well. We have put out a good number of events during the summer, and this has been well received. The official figures will be announced at the end of DSS," he says.
The CEO notes that so far it has been a great summer and very hot concerning deals for the people. "We focus on delivering value for visitors regarding stays in hotels or retail shopping across different malls in the city," he explains.
Dubai offers many attractions with new theme parks and projects announced frequently. "During the summer, we've brought great value - the parks are very affordable for people from the region to come and enjoy. We started introducing these packages early during the Arabian Travel Market. The response from the market has been excellent and very well perceived," confirms the CEO.
So, what are the plans for Eid in Dubai? Khaja replies, "There is a vibrant programme that we are putting together for Eid. Celebrations will start at the Dubai Airport all the way to the different outlets and malls. We will have concerts across the city as well."
Khaja stresses that several aspects have made this year's DSS successful. One is the 12-hour sale that was hugely successful in terms of the number of visitors. Another big attraction was the daily deals. "Every day there is one great deal in one of the outlets across the city, and the response has been great. You see lines of people waiting to pick up the deal. Plus, there are other 'shop and win' promotions. Today we had a great deal with two of the shopping malls mainly for people to shop and get whatever they are buying back in vouchers. There are more events and raffles including the one million dirham raffle draw. There is also an exciting programme for the last day of DSS on August 4," Khaja reveals.
He confirms that when compared to the top cities of the world, Dubai is well positioned globally with so many features concerning itineraries for both tourists and residents. In fact, Dubai hosts some of the best international brands. Also, there are many events to promote local brands and SMEs from Dubai.
"Dubai has many attractions added year on year. For example, the Dubai Mall is the biggest mall in the world. La Mer and Dubai Frame have opened recently. These new attractions put Dubai on the world map as a hub not only for the region but internationally as well," he states.
DFRE works with its partners, the retailers, shopping malls and the private sector to build a robust retail calendar. "We have main events and flagship events like the Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Summer Surprises that go on for four to six weeks. The three day super sale is very popular. International events like the Chinese New Year and Diwali are community celebrations that attract families from abroad to Dubai. Apart from this, we hold other events like the national days of different countries including the UAE National Day. During these days, we promote a themed Dubai," he adds.
"This year has been exceptional for us especially with DSS, and I would like to thank our retail partners and shopping malls as they pushed the bar very high with all the promotions and activities. Dubai delivered great initiatives for visitors and continues to show year on year growth," concludes the CEO.
Dubai offers many attractions with new theme parks and projects announced frequently