The Dubai Mall is “a beacon of hope” and offers Arabs the economic and social freedom they need to compete in the modern world, Emaar boss Mohamed Alabbar was quoted as saying in a report by a British newspaper on the world’s biggest mall.
The comments were featured in an article looking at how Emaar's flagship shopping and entertainment destination has become one of the world’s most visited sites, attracting over 75m visitors in 2013.
Earlier this year, the Dubai developer, which also built Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest tower - said that footfall at the mall surged 15 percent last year, with average monthly visitors totalling 6.25m.
At the same time, the mall's 1,200 plus retail outlets recorded a 26 percent rise in sales during 2013 compared to the previous year, Emaar said in a statement at the time.
The number of shoppers significantly surpassed those at some of the world’s most famous destinations, with Time Square in New York attracting 42m visitors and Niagara Falls visited by 22m.
Commenting on the significance of The Dubai Mall’s record-breaking visitor numbers, Alabbar said the mall offers Arabs the economic and social freedom they need to compete in the modern world.
“Three hundred million Arabs in this region feel they can make it here. They can get their break here. It’s a beacon of hope, it’s enriching,” he was quoted as saying by The Sunday Times newspaper.
Local retailer Sarah Belhasa, from Studio 8 fashion store, also was quoted as saying business in the mall is good and she believed Dubai “is the best place in the Middle East to be a woman.”
Writer and commentator Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi added: "The Middle East – the world – needs a new place where east meets west, as it used to do in Cairo, Alexandria, Algiers, Beirut and Baghdad. Here, Arabs and everyone else all rub along together. Is that important? Does it change things a little for the better? I think so. And if you don’t agree, you don’t have to come.”
The GCC as a whole continues to show strength as a dynamic retail market with four countries ranked among the top 25 in the 2014 AT Kearney Global Retail Development Index (GRDI).
Factors influencing the growth of the regional retail industry include the construction and infrastructure boom, a growing and young population, strong GDP growth, and increasing consumer confidence and spending, AT Kearney said.
The UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman were all prominent in this year's list with the UAE climbing one spot to claim fourth position.
Retail sales grew five percent in the UAE in 2013, boosting annual sales to $66bn, AT Kearney noted.
It added that Dubai’s winning bid for Expo 2020 "highlights the country’s bright future and the massive infrastructure and development projects in the pipeline".
Kuwait also climbed one spot to rank eighth in this year’s index.
"The country’s rapidly growing GDP makes it a strong retail market, with high oil prices, strong trade and fiscal surpluses, and large government reserves creating a positive outlook," the index said.