DUBAI Synonymous with the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), Laila Mohammad Suhail is modest about the stellar role she has been playing in Dubai for two decades. As CEO of Dubai Festivals & Retail Establishment (DFRE), she has turned the city into the shopping capital of the world and has come to be known as its “retail festivals expert”. In an exclusive interview with XPRESS, she reveals the core team that works with her and how they overcome the many challenges they face:
Team DSF is a global case study in the successful management of a retail establishment. How have you achieved this?
We are a core team consisting of about 50 people, each handling numerous tasks at a time. But the actual implementation of DSF involves complex logistics made possible through the coordination between all Dubai government departments and the private sector. As we see it, everyone in Dubai is involved with DSF in some way or the other.
Besides yourself, who are Team DSF’s key members?
The key members include:
Yousuf Mubarak, Executive Director, Government Affairs Division, who is responsible for ensuring the seamless integration of the city’s civic and administrative entities with all DFRE festivals to secure locations for shows and concerts, arranging visas for performers, maintaining safety and security, hygiene of food outlets, health of visitors and transportation.
Suhaila Ghubash, Director, Festivals and Events, who is involved in formulating the annual events strategy for DFRE and for all operational aspects of events that pave the way for visitors to have unique experiences and take back memorable moments.
Saeed Mohammad Mesam Al Falasi, Director, Strategic Alliances Division, who is responsible for sponsorship development, specifically bringing on board new sponsors and managing relationships with existing strategic partners and sponsors, as well as liaising and coordinating with key corporate partners.
What about media and marketing?
DFRE has a marketing and communications team that is entrusted with ensuring that key messages of each festival are unified across all stakeholder communications and developing a comprehensive media, advertising, public relations and online strategy for each festival. Additionally, our Media Centre offers year-round support to the festivals by implementing key elements of the marketing communications plan.
What are the main challenges in organising DSF?
Innovation and maintaining high standards are both the main characteristics and challenges of DSF and our teams keep this in focus when planning events.
The festival could not have been successfully staged without the following:
Support of our strategic partners and key sponsors: It is because of this long-standing partnership between the government and private sector that DSF is seen as an international festival brand par excellence.
Innovative initiatives: Every year, DSF has been successfully pushing the bar higher and higher in terms of the variety and quality of its offerings. Annual research: Visitors and shoppers certainly expect a better deal year after year. With the help of our annual research and customer/visitor feedback, we identify the interests and desires of our visitors, and plan accordingly. However, the majority of them expect a good mix and that is why the key elements of our festival are shopping, entertainment and winnings.
During the milestone 20th edition of DSF, shoppers are being spoilt for choice thanks to the numerous promotional offers, bargains and discounts of up to 75 per cent offered by over 6,000 retail outlets. DFRE has also organised over 150 events and activities based on our relentless intent to create a cheerful, charming ambience across the entire city.
What is the biggest reason for DSF’s success?
Since it was launched in 1996, based on the directives of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the UAE has spared no efforts to succeed in its race for excellence, and today, through DSF, we have positioned ourselves as among the best shopping and entertainment destinations of the world.
There are a number of reasons for DSF’s success, but primarily it is because DSF, as the longest running festival of its kind in the world, has truly become a citywide achievement that has grown from being focused on sales and promotions to providing unique shopping experiences through retail promotions and innovation. The line-up of world-class events and shopping-related offerings along with life-changing prizes have encouraged loyal visitors to come back for more every year and also lured millions of new tourists to Dubai. That DSF has been able to successfully host millions of visitors every year is also a reflection of Dubai as the ultimate attraction with its world-class infrastructure, iconic landmarks and the determination to push beyond boundaries of excellence.
How has DSF impacted Dubai’s economy?
DSF’s success as an important retail initiative that has contributed towards Dubai’s economy is evident from the fact it annually attracts an average 4.5 million visitors with a total spending of around Dh15 billion. It is too early to forecast the results for DSF’s 20th edition, but we expect to keep up the momentum that we generated in our previous editions across all economic sectors including travel, hotels, retail and support services such as food and beverages (restaurants), financial services (money exchange houses) and transportation (rent-a-car companies).