The dubai shopping festival is all set to close another record year. The region’s premier festival is expected to welcome the highest number of visitors and witness record spendings in 2013, as residents and tourists rush to shopping malls, bazaars and retail outlets to reap the benefits of sizzling sales.
The 32-day festival, which has become an engine of growth and diversification for Dubai’s economy, is expected to break the highest spending record this year by generating sales of more than Dh15.1 billion, which it made during the 2011 edition. The turnover may post 10 per cent growth to contribute Dh16.2 billion to the emirate’s economy this year.
Shoppers loaded with bags during a DSF sale in Mall of the Emirates. — KT photo by Grace Guino
The mega festival is sure to establish another record in 2013 by welcoming seven per cent more visitors, exceeding comprehensively last year’s all-time high numbers of 4.36 million. It is projected that the latest edition of DSF will be welcoming more than 4.7 million visitors in 2013. Every passing year, more and more people visit Dubai during the DSF and help generate economic activity in the retail, travel and hospitality sectors that ultimately benefit the emirate’s economy in a one-month period. It has so far contributed more than Dh130 billion to Dubai’s economy since the first edition was launched in 1996. There is no second opinion that the shopping festival has become a huge success and inspired other nations across the globe to replicate this successful business model to stimulate domestic consumption as well as to boost international tourism in order to stabilise their economies.
For instance, in the Gulf region the second edition of Jeddah Shopping Festival is running parallel to the DSF from January 9 to February 7 this year. The 30-day event aims at stimulating the tourism and retail business of the city locally and regionally and expects to attract about 1.5 million visitors. Its first edition attracted approximately one million visitors last year while retail sales grew 70 per cent.
On the international front, Taiwan launched its first-ever nationwide shopping festival in 2012 to revive its domestic consumption amid the global economic downturn. The nine-week event targeted local consumers as well as international tourists by offering discounts, coupons and other shopping incentives to stimulate buying.
Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, among others, have also launched similar shopping festivals, but they are no match to the success of Dubai Shopping Festival. Although, Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival, The Great Singapore Sale and Amazing Thailand Grand Sale, run from eight to 11 weeks, but they attract less number of visitors and generate less sales compared to the DSF’s visitor numbers and spending during just one-month festival period.
Consultants, analysts, residents, stakeholders and participants of the DSF said festival period should be extended for another four weeks to maximise its economic benefits at micro and macro levels. The emirate has potential even to hold this festival parallel to Global Village, which usually continue for a longer period. But, just four-week extension in the existing festival will give boost to retail, travel and hospitality sectors that will ultimately benefit Dubai’s economy and attract more international tourists, which at present comprise just 25 per cent of the total visitors. As the tourism sector is back on track, the emirate has everything to offer to grab its due share by attracting more visitors towards its mega event and this could only be possible by extending its period like other international events.
Jitendra Gianchandani, chairman and managing partner of Jitendra Consulting Group, said the longer duration of the DSF is good for Dubai and all sectors. “Its combo, I mean its combination of shoppers’ paradise and a successful business model, for shoppers its paradise, for business people its successful business model and above all for tourist its one more attractions to visit Dubai,” Gianchandani told Khaleej Times. “Its one formula that suits all. Even residents get benefited,” he added.
The emirate is already considered a ‘shopping paradise’ and its premier shopping festival should be continued for at least an eight-week period, which luckily coincides with the peak tourism season. Foreign tourists and locals alike will have 50-plus days to take advantage of the great discounts and special offers as well as enjoy the fun activities.
“I love visiting Dubai’s malls and shops during the DSF to take advantage of amazing deals on electronics, home appliances and jewellery and if its period is extended to eight weeks it would shrink my savings,” said Saba Usman, a resident of Dubai.
Basir Mahmood, a banker by profession, said Dubai should exploit its tourism potential by attracting more international visitors during peak winter season from December to February. “The longer DSF version of eight weeks will definitely help attract more international traffic and generate more business activity in retail, travel and hotel industry.” It is pertinent to note that retailers on average record 20 to 25 per cent sales growth during the month-long DSF. Restaurants, travel agents, airlines and hotels will all experience business boom in case the festival period is extended till the end of February each year.
The UAE is spending billions of dirhams in infrastructure development, airports expansion and port facilities to boost commercial operations as well as cruise tourism in the emirate. Analysts said this would be an appropriate step to extend the DSF to eight weeks to cash in on the investment in key sectors by attracting more international visitors rather than just focusing on residents and regional tourists.
“Dubai is a shopping paradise and the DSF has become a brand for shoppers across the globe,” Deepak Babani, chief executive of Eros Group, told Khaleej Times.
About the DSF’s contribution to business growth, he said the festival is one of the UAE’s and the Middle East’s premium shopping festivals attracting millions to the city. “DSF accounts for around 15 per cent of our turnover,” he said.
Ashish Panjabi, chief operating officer of Jacky’s Electronics, echoed the same views and said DSF is about more than just shopping today. “It adds another month on the calendar for us,” he said.
To a question, he said Dubai Events and Promotions Establishments (DEPE) has been working fairly strategically to bring in customers from different parts of the world based on their own respective calendars.
“For example, DSF started on January 3 this year, which means Russians who tend to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas (which is generally in early January), were able to come to Dubai as it was a holiday for them. As a result, we saw a lot of Russian customers in the first half of this year’s event.”
Last year, DSF was timed so that it coincided with the Chinese New Year and we saw a huge influx of Chinese tourists as the DEPE had specially marketed to them, Panjabi said. “Many years ago, when DSF used to be held in March, we’d see Indian or Iranian tourists at that time as school holidays usually start in India towards the end of March and the Iranians celebrate Nowrouz,” he added.
The hospitality industry is on the track to prosperity and expecting a higher occupancy levels and average daily rates during DSF. The executives at various hotels across the emirate have no second opinion that DSF plays a key role in boosting hotel business during the event.
“It is absolutely true; DSF is a major contributor to boosting the occupancy level especially at the beginning of the year, starting the year on a positive note. We are already witnessing a high occupancy rate in January due to DSF and school holiday season,” said Wael El Behi, general manager, Ramada Downtown Dubai.
Frank Owens, general manager and area director business development, Emirates Grand Hotel, said DSF is affecting occupancy and sales in Dubai. “Right now, we are running a very good occupancy for January.”
Moussa El Hayek, chief operating officer of Al Bustan Centre and Residence, said: “Of course, DSF has become an internationally acclaimed festival and most of the travellers like to come to Dubai during the festival to avail the best discounts and bargains that the city and malls have to offer.”
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