|Shopping festival gives healthy boost to Dubai bid to attract tourists|
|Mega sales attract millions
Annual bonanza attracts 5 to 10 percent increase in attendance over 2004
The Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) is reaching its climax with nearly $3 million and 100 kilograms of gold up for grabs, in the Gulf emirate's quest to become a leading tourist destination.
The annual month-long bonanza, which ends Saturday, sees virtually every outlet in this booming emirate put its goods on mega sale to millions of visitors who flock to Dubai for the retailing and entertainment extravaganza.
"This year we're expecting a 5 to 10 percent increase in terms of numbers," Laila Suhail, DSF chief marketing officer, told AFP.
In 2004, the event saw 3.1 million visitors, up from 2.9 million the previous year, who plowed a total 5.8 billion dirhams ($1.58 billion) into Dubai, a part of the seven-member United Arab Emirates federation.
The first DSF, a partnership of the government and the retail and tourist sectors, in 1996 drew 1.6 million visitors.
The biggest beneficiary from the event is undoubtedly Dubai's tourism industry, which in the first nine months of 2004 recorded 4.099 million visitors, with the total year's figure expected to top five million.
"The main objective is to help achieve Dubai's aim to attract 15 million visitors by 2010," said Suhail.
"We target the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states and advertise in Europe," from where there has been a marked increase in the number of tourists, she added.
Jumbo Electronics, a key DSF sponsor, said retail sales at its key outlets had increased 30 percent over the festival.
"The turnover during the DSF month is almost 40 percent higher than the turnover in an average month throughout the year," chief operating officer Arvind Nair said.
This year's DSF featured $27.1 million worth of prizes, with the daily highlights being raffle draws for three luxury cars and five kilograms of gold.
Jewellers have also pooled together for a grand win of $1.3 million worth of gold for one winner on the closing day, when another lucky person will walk away with 10 cars.
But the ultimate will be the lucky name picked for the $2.7 million cash prize.
A Bahraini tourist has reportedly won three cars in this year's festival alone.
The 126 sponsors and supporters have contributed some 25 percent of the total budget of $22.6 million for the festival, which annually runs under the theme "One World, One Family, One Festival," said Suhail.
Some 200 events have included an international jazz festival and sports events, musical concerts, and shows this week by top fashion houses Dior, Christian Lacroix and Gaultier.
"What I love about DSF is the atmosphere and all the cultures coming together, it's such a magical feeling," said Joyce Hassim, who travelled from Johannesburg just for the festival, her third so far.
Hotels and resorts, especially those along Dubai's coast, said they were currently running at almost 100 percent occupancy. One said the first quarter is normally peak season anyway, but the event no doubt has an extra impact.
Dubai has some 300 hotels and 35 shopping malls, with more to come including the Dubai Mall, promoted as the world's largest, and the Mall of the Emirates, to open this year, boasting the Middle East's first indoor ski resort.
Dubai is in the throes of a construction frenzy, with resorts, malls and residential complexes sprouting across the desert sands as part of its bid to establish itself as a regional business and leisure hub.
It aims to pull an amazing 40 million visitors a year by 2015.
Amman,02 14 2005
The Daily Star