The Dubai Mall is all set to make the visitor experience smoother and faster, especially for those parking there. Will Salik technology soon be deployed at other leading malls in Dubai? Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: At some point within the next few weeks, shoppers driving down to The Dubai Mall and parking will need to plan their time spent at the destination to perfection.

If they take up a minute over four hours on weekdays, it will mean their Salik accounts will instantly be charged Dh40. If the visit to the mall is on weekends, a minute over six hours will mean a Dh80 debit.

New parking tariffs are coming into play at The Dubai Mall, with the billing integrated to the vehicle’s Salik tag.

It was last December that Salik, the Dubai toll-gate operator, confirmed it was contracted by Emaar Malls to handle the billing at The Dubai Mall, which in 2023 drew 105 million visitors and ‘one of the most visited places on Earth’.

The new parking rate structure is being put up across The Dubai Mall – and widely circulated on social media – ahead of it coming into effect.

Rollout in select parking areas

The new parking fee structure will be applied only to select parking zones within the mall initially.

The actual launch date has not been announced by Emaar Malls, but retail industry sources say this could happen in early July.

The billing and payment will be seamless, with future shoppers/visitors not having to queue up to pay off their parking fees.

The Salik technology will allow a ‘barrier-free parking experience’, with automatic fee collection for ticketless parking. This is through ‘using vehicle plate recognition to deduct fees from the Salik user accounts of vehicles based on the business rules defined by Emaar Malls’, the Dubai toll operator said in December.

Will ‘barrier-free’ parking become the norm?

Until now, other leading malls in Dubai have not confirmed whether they too will be rolling out ‘barrier-free’ entry and exit using Salik’s services. But ever since The Dubai Mall deal was announced, there had been speculation in the retail sector that the same could be rolled out - selectively – at high visitor traffic malls. And with the payment processing done instantly and seamlessly.

For shoppers, all they need to have is the Salik account for their vehicle and the billing takes care of itself – provided they intend to spend more than the allotted free hours.

At The Dubai Mall, on weekdays, the first four hours will be free, and for weekends, that extends to a full six hours. These are more or less on par with what other leading malls in the city offer.

All that visitors need to do is make sure they keep an eye on the time spent when at the mall.

Retail industry sources say that paid parking on its own has never hurt sales at their mall stores. “Paid parking has been in place at Mall of the Emirates, City Centre Deira and Burjuman for years, and where we operate Samsung shops,” said Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer at Jacky’s Retail. “None have been negatively impacted by paid parking.

“The Dubai Mall has a lot more entertainment aspects to it compared to other malls. So, perhaps they have a bigger challenge regulating traffic (in their parking areas). I assume they want to find ways to make people park at the other parking lots near the mall.

“The Dubai Mall has a lot of parking options - it is just that not everyone uses all the available parking lots, such as Zabeel lot across the road and connected to the extension where Lulu hypermarket is located.”

It’s all in the ‘free hours’
Four free hours on weekdays and up to six hours on weekends is what The Dubai Mall will have once the new billing for parking takes effect. “The free parking duration is generous and in line with what other mall operators like Majid Al Futtaim are having,” said the regional chief of a leading F&B brand and with a sizeable presence at the Emaar owned destination.

Free up space

Depending on the day and time of the visit, it’s not easy to find a parking spot at The Dubai Mall. On weekdays, there are also instances of people visiting nearby offices and parking at the mall - for more than a couple of hours.

Such use could be in for a sharp drop as the new parking fee structure takes effect. The fees are higher compared to what other popular malls charge for a similar time spent.

“The pressure for parking spots has often led to a loss of shopper traffic for the Dubai Mall,” said Sandeep Ganediwalla, Partner at RedSeer Consulting. “That’s going to change with the new parking tariffs.

“Visitors also have option to use the well-connected public transport options instead of driving to the mall. This trade-off will result in an improved overall experience for shoppers/visitors.”

By extension for retailers too.