GN Focus | Dubai Shopping Festival

It is time to rejuvenate

Laila Mohammad Suhail, CEO, Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment, talks of change and opportunity as DSF’s 18th edition kicks off

  • By Chiranti Sengupta, Features Writer
  • Published: 00:05 January 3, 2013
  • GN Focus

  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • Laila Mohammad Suhail has been associated with Dubai’s annual shopping extravaganza since its inception in 1996

From today until February 3, it is going to be one magical month. The Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) commences today with a series of events and a fascinating fireworks display, lighting up Dubai skies.

“The opening ceremony of DSF 2013 will be truly unique,” says Laila Mohammad Suhail, CEO, Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment (DEPE), organisers of the annual festival in the emirate. “We are looking at organising events around the creek, which has historically been the heart of Dubai. We are trying to bring the creek back to life,” she says.

It’s time for us to look at the brand and rejuvenate it in order to make it successful in the years to come.

Laila Mohammad Suhail, 
CEO, DEPE

Suhail’s association with the festival goes back to 1996 when it was inaugurated. Seventeen years on Suhail is still enthusiastic when speaking about her plans for the current edition of the festival. “With DSF essentially being driven by a retail philosophy that focuses on creating a mix of shopping, winning and entertainment, more than 70 malls and 6,000 outlets that are participating in the 18th edition of the festival will reap rich dividends,” says Suhail. “And we know for a fact from feedback received from our retail partners that 25 per cent of their annual sales is recorded during DSF.”

Driven by retail

In 2011, nearly four million people visited Dubai during DSF and spent Dh15.1 billion during their stay, out of which Dh8.7 billion was spent only on shopping.

Apart from successfully organising DSF, DEPE is now at the helm of all major events held in Dubai.

After an organisational reshuffle two years ago, which also saw the DSF portfolio coming under DEPE management, Suhail has now been entrusted with the charge of supporting and promoting the retail and events sectors, critical drivers of growth for Dubai’s economy.

A unified platform

“We are now responsible for launching the official calendar of events for Dubai to bring all the events on one platform and also developing marketing campaigns to promote that calendar in coordination with various partners,” says the CEO.

“Since the launch of the Dubai Calendar in May 2011, we have been able to strengthen the events sector significantly,” says Suhail. “Now the challenge is to find out how we can take it forward, identify the areas where we can improve and those we can further focus on. Our aim is to make sure there are events and retail promotions all through the year so that whenever a tourist visits Dubai, we will have something exciting to offer.”

Under the new mandate, instead of getting sponsors for a particular event, DEPE now signs partners for the year, which according to Suhail, provides its strategic partners higher returns on their investments.

After successfully positioning DSF to catapult Dubai’s image as one of the favoured shopping destinations in the world, DEPE is now looking at ways to add a new dimension to the whole experience.

“DSF is very popular among tourists and visitors, and it has played a major role in promoting the tourism potential of the city,” she says. “However, the road ahead for brand DSF is challenging. For a festival, its 18th, 19th and 20th years are critical as they are the pinnacle of its life cycle. So it’s time for us to look at the brand and rejuvenate it in order to make it successful in the years to come. We have to work with the stakeholders of the brand, sponsors and retailers, for instance, to reinvent it and take it to the next level.”

DSF has attracted around 45 million visitors and generated Dh100 billion for the emirate’s economy since its launch in 1996. “The peak tourism season in Dubai is between November and March and the festival adds to the traffic by drawing visitors from the neighbouring GCC states, Commonwealth of Independent States and India,” says Suhail. “We normally get 95-100 per cent hotel occupancy during the festival. Hotels around downtown and properties attached with malls specially post high occupancy during DSF. This year apart from the GCC and India, we are now promoting the festival extensively in China. We are expecting high tourism traffic from China not only during DSF but also during the Chinese New Year.”

An action-packed month

In addition to bargains and promotions and popular attractions such as daily car and gold raffles, the 2013 edition of the festival will feature a host of new events that visitors can look forward to. An Arabic musical produced by the Rahbani family, a street fashion show, the Dubai International Comedy Carnival, street performances and daily fireworks display are among the highlights of the entertainment calendar.

“Our DSF 2013 marketing campaign is running under the slogan Dubai at its best, which highlights the fact that during DSF all sectors in Dubai, be it retail, hospitality or events, will bring out the best that they can for visitors,” Suhail says. “This annual event is a testimony to the excellent partnership between the government and private sectors, which have continued to use their resources to make the festival bigger and better every year.”

GN Focus