The Global Village amusment park, Dubai Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Retail leviathan Dubai Shopping Festival flings open its doors on Friday to welcome millions of Gulf visitors on the hunt for high-end goods at bargain-basement prices.

The 32-day marquee event — touting sales of up to 90 per cent off in addition to more than 150 events and family activities — is fully expected to entice more than 4.5 million GCC visitors to Dubai this year, said festival organisers Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), an agency of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).

Laila Mohammad Suhail, CEO of DFRE, told Gulf News in an interview that the annual celebration of all things retail is not a mere sales season or discounts — it is more about the shopping experience.

“It’s an inspirational celebration that rewards by delivering exceptional experiences,” said Suhail.

The retail extravaganza makes a huge impact on the local business community with many retailers projecting 25-30 per cent of the annual sales happening during DSF.

“On average, DSF attracts around four to 4.5 million local, regional and international visitors. These visitors spent around Dh15 billion during the 32 days of DSF in recent years, and we are looking to maintaining the momentum this year,” she said.

“As Dubai grows, DSF grows. When DSF started in 1996, we had only five shopping malls in Dubai, now we have more than 70 shopping and 6,000 retailers participating in DSF 2016.”

With the theme “Unwrap the Exceptional”, DSF this year is packed with raffles, heritage and concert events, blockbuster comedy shows and fun activities for young and old alike.

Malls are expecting to welcome a record number of visitors.

Majid Al Futtaim malls, which include Mall of the Emirates and City Centre Deira, Mirdif and Me’aisem, will all kickstart the first day of the festival with twelve-hour sale offers with up to 90 per cent off from 12pm to 12am until stocks run out.

A party will be held at Global Village to celebrate the DSF Opening under the theme “Shop the World at Global Village this DSF”. A series of activities will take place during the two days (January 1 and 2) that collectively will showcase the concept of the DSF Global Village World Party, including non-stop entertainment throughout pavilions and main stage over the course of two days and bespoke main stage shows.

Estimates for this year’s premiere retail event weren’t provided by DSF organisers, but are expected to surpass last January’s record of 650,000 passengers, believed to have landed in Dubai between January 2 and 4.

Global payments technology company Visa, official payment partner of DSF, said there were 1.9 million Visa cards used for 9.8 million transactions during the 2015 edition of DSF, accounting for a total of $1.5 billion (Dh5.5 billion) in Visa card spend, both domestically and internationally.

From internationally renowned events to celebrity icons, family-friendly activities to pulsating live entertainment and raffle promotions offering millions of dirhams in prizes, this year’s DSF aims to take revellers to a different plain.

The traditional attractions of the festival such as fireworks and the DSF Mega Raffles will continue to pull visitors.


DSF, which was launched in 1996 based on the vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to establish Dubai’s position as a family tourism destination, has grown to become one of the biggest shopping extravaganzas and the longest-running festival of its kind in the world.

DSF annually attracts on an average 4-4.5 million visitors with a total spending of Dh15 billion. From 1996 to 2014, DSF has attracted approximately 56 million visitors with a total spending of Dh145 billion, whether on shopping, hospitality or entertainment.