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Wed 4 Jan 2012 03:45 PM

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Dubai expects retail surge as shopping festival kicks off

Rise in retailers offering cut-price goods set to lure high-spending tourists, says organiser

Dubai expects retail surge as shopping festival kicks off
More than 6,000 stores are participating in this years festival, DEP said

Dubai is expecting an up to 10 percent surge in retail sales during its annual shopping festival thanks to a rise in participating stores and an uptick in tourist numbers, organisers said.

The Gulf emirate’s month-long event, which kicks off on Thursday, will see more than 6,000 stores slash their prices to attract tourists and local encourage residents to bolster their retail spending.

“We are looking to increase the spend to about 5 to 10 percent more than last year,” said Laila Suhail, CEO of Dubai Events and Promotions (DEP), the organisers of the festival.

 “We are looking to attract more [visitors]. We make sure we coincide with the GCC spring holiday and the Chinese New Year to attract the maximum number of visitors to Dubai.”

The state agency said spend on travel, hospitality and retail topped AED15.1bn during the 2011 shopping festival and could surpass AED16m this year. UAE residents spent AED6.2bn on shopping alone last year, eclipsing the AED5.9bn spent by foreign visitors to the emirate.

“We have more participation from retailers this year, especially with the opening of the Boulevard Plaza at Dubai Mall and new retailers to the region,” said Suhail.

The UAE has benefited from a rise in tourists as Arab Spring unrest in the region’s traditional travel hotspots has diverted business towards the Gulf country.

Thomas Cook, Europe’s second-largest tour operator, said last month it would bolster its holiday packages to the UAE this year in an attempt to offset losses caused by regional political unrest.

The Arab world has absorbed a $7bn blow in lost tourism revenues since the start of the uprisings in January 2010, according to the Arab Tourism Organization in Saudi Arabia.

The Dubai Shopping Festival launched in 1996 as part of a wider government initiative to boost the Gulf emirate’s retail and tourism. Store sales are supported by music concerts and outdoor events in a bid to offer a rounded appeal to tourists.

Data from last year’s event showed clothes and accessories were the most popular items among tourists, with 61 percent including them in their purchases. Perfumes, cosmetics and skincare products also proved popular, alongside electronic goods such as tablets and mobile phones.

According to DEP, some four million people participated in DSF-related activities and events last year, with a total of 884,660 tourists visiting the emirate during the period.

The largest proportions of travellers last year were from India, the UK and Saudi Arabia, DEPE said. In 2012 the focus will be on GCC nationals, Russians, Europeans and Asians.

Dubai, which has long been the Gulf’s leading shopping hub, has added more than one million sq m of shopping space since 2006, and is now home to about 40 shopping malls.

Retail accounts for around 30 percent of gross domestic product in the emirate.

A 2011 report by consultants Business Monitor International (BMI) said the UAE’s retail sales would grow from an estimated AED79.35bn in 2011 to AED105.47bn by 2015.

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