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DSF: 20 years of contribution to Dubai's growth, success, records


By Parag Deulgaonkar

Dubai is today a year-round tourist destination, thanks to the several marketing campaigns it has launched. But Dubai Shopping Festival, popularly called DSF, which has been running for two decades now, is the prime attraction, drawing millions of tourists from all across the world.

Year 2015 marks a special moment for DSF: It celebrates 20 years of success, becoming “the longest running and the largest shopping festival in the world.” It contribution to economic growth has been mindboggling, attracting 56 million visitors to date and leading to a total spend of over Dh145 billion in retail, hospitality and entertainment.

Starting with a few malls in 1996, there are over 70 malls and 6,000 retail outlets participating, offering discounts of up to 75 per cent on everything ranging from cars, haute couture fashion brands, electronics, gold, etc.

The Dubai Economic Council has said that retail is one of the most important sectors in the emirate’s economy and in terms of value it is about the same size of the financial sector, the real estate and the construction sector.

Besides, the emirate has retained its position as the second most important international retail destination globally for the third consecutive year, according to CBRE, a global consultancy.

“Dubai’s success in retaining its position as the second most important city in terms of international retailer presence underpins its status as a regional hub for business and tourism. The retail sector remains one of the most vital streams for economic activity in the emirate and the industry is likely to witness significant growth in the lead up to Expo 2020,” says Nick Maclean, Managing Director, CBRE Middle East.

Retail spend is expected to increase to Dh204 billion in the coming seven years with the Expo 2020 set to give a strong boost to the sector. Contributing to this growth for certain will be DSF, which will celebrate its "Silver Jubilee" in 2020 when the government expects over 25 million visitors.

Perfect partners

The festival is based on three pillars - shopping, entertainment and winnings – and exhibits the success of public-private partnership model.

Abdul Rahim Al Zarooni, Chairman of the Al Zarooni Group of Companies, says that the impact of DSF has been very positive especially on the retail, tourism, hospitality, entertainment and other related sectors.

“Because of all the unique initiatives that were launched under the directive of Dubai ruler, analysts predict a bright future for the city, which has resulted in businessmen investing billions of dirhams in various projects that now stand tall as iconic landmarks.”

Hussain Moosa, Associate Director for Shopping Malls, Majid Al Futtaim Properties, asserts: “Over the past two decades, DSF has transformed from a modest family-oriented shopping and entertainment event, to the world’s largest and longest running shopping festival. It remains a contributor of Dubai’s economic and tourism aims, driving millions of people here.”

Tawhid Abdullah, Chairman, Dubai Gold & Jewellery, Group (DGJG), states: “The festival is definitely one of the international events that people from all over the world look forward to and it definitely adds substantial value to all segments including retail, hospitality and aviation sectors. The non-oil economy owes a great deal to inbound tourists during the festive seasons.”

This year, DGJG is giving away 100 kilograms of gold and 40 carats of solitaire diamonds through the raffle draws.

Abijeet Sen, who is doing masters in business administration in one of India’s top Institute, says the unique aspect of the event is the long success of public-private partnership.

“I believe it should be a case study as it reflects how the public and private sector have joined hands for 20 years and have they have worked to make the event a global one giving a strong boost to businesses’ here.”

Shopaholics’ paradise

Suresh Kumar, an Indian businessman, visits the emirate every year, but his family accompanies him during DSF.

“We love to be here in January… it’s special as the kids love to be part of DSF entertainment, while we do our shopping. Every year, they bring something new to amaze tourists. Running the event successfully for 20 years shows the importance the government gives to the event.”

Catherine Levy, a Canadian citizen, is visiting the emirate for the first time with her family.

“We are enjoying our time here and it is amazing to see the entire city gearing up as a single unit to host the shopping event. We do plan to come here again and see what is planned for the future, especially for Expo 2020,” she adds.

Boon for businesses

To say the least, DSF has lead to an upsurge in economic activity with retail, aviation, hospitality and ancillary services such as money exchange houses and travel agencies reporting brisk business.

“The successful first two weeks of the DSF has given retailers a confident start for 2015 and also highlights the emirate’s position as a leading family tourism destination,” says Helal Saeed Almarri, Director-General, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).

Laila Mohammed Suhail, CEO of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment, an agency of the DTCM, adds: “People have always found Dubai an attractive place for shopping with the festival further consolidating our status as the best shopping and entertainment extravaganza in the region.”

During the first half of DSF, Dubai Shopping Malls Group, an umbrella organisation of malls, reports number of mall visitors gone up by 18 per cent.

Majid Al Ghurair, Chairman of Dubai Shopping Malls Group, says, “So far the promotions have led to a sharp increase in footfall in our malls and we are expecting the final phase to exceed our expectations as well.

The 2015 DSF, under the theme “20th Anniversary – A Journey of Celebrations,” will continue until 1 February.

 Why was DSF launched?

 Launched in 1996 under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, DSF was aimed to strengthen Dubai’s position as a leading tourist destination and to stimulate the economic and tourism sectors. 

The success of the festival has been driven primarily due to the close co-operation between the government and the private sectors, brining millions of visitors to give a head start to the businesses in the emirate.

It event is organised by Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment which also manages events such as the Dubai Summer Surprises, Ramadan in Dubai and Eid in Dubai.

 Year-on-year achivements
1996: The inaugural DSF attracted 1.6 million visitors with a total spend of Dh2.15 billion. 121 Lexus GS300 cars and 43 kg of gold were given. 
1997: Sales rose to Dh2.79 billion though visitor numbers remained at 1.6 million. The Global Village was launched on the Creek side on Baniyas Street.
1998: With the theme “Children of the World Meet in Dubai,” the festival saw 2.2 million visitors who spent Dh3.81 billion.
1999: Sales rose 14 per cent to Dh4.15 billion with the festival, being held under the theme "The Biggest Family Gathering of the Millennium."
2000: The theme “One World. One Family. One Festival” was introduced. A total of 2.55 million visitors came with retail spend rose 5 per cent over the last year. 
2001: First time 31 Rolls Royce cars were given away as prizes,  a mother won $100,000 prize under “To Mother With Love” promotion. It attracted 2.55 million visitors and total spend of Dh4.50 billion.
2002: Visitor numbers reached 2.68 million with a total spend of Dh4.60 billion. Global Village also moved to a new location at Dubai Festival City.
2003: Overall spend rose 11.3 per cent to Dh5.12 billion with visitor number reaching 2.92 million, driven by new concepts such as the Night Souq, Desert Camp and Dubai Fashion 2003.
2004: It attracted 3.1 million visitors, up while visitor spend touched Dh5.80 billion.
2005: The 10th edition brought in 3.3 million visitors as total spend reached Dh6.67 billion.
2006-2007: A combined 11th and 12th edition was held over a 45-day period. It attracted 3.5 million visitors and generated a total spend of Dh10.2 billion.
2008: Held under the slogan, “The Fifth Season”, it drew 3.2 million visitors with total spend of Dh10 billion.
2009: This DSF drew 3.35 million visitors with a total of spend of Dh9.8 billion as nearly 6,000 retail outlets participating.
2010: The government funding and private sector sponsorship amounted to Dh65 million. It drew 3.5 million visitors and generated a total spend of Dh10.2 billion.  
2011: The festival drew 3.98 million visitors with a total spend of Dh15.1 billion.
2012: There were more than 70 participating malls and 6,000 retail outlets. It drew 4.3 million visitors with total spend reaching Dh14.7 billion.

(The visitor and spend figures have been taken from www.mydsf.ae)