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TOURISM DSF gives a big boost to UAE tourism

Visitors coming during DSF are expected to increase by up to 8% from 4.3m visitors last year

By Sarah Algethami, Special to Gulf News
January 9, 2013
Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: This year’s Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) is expected to see up to eight per cent increase in visitor numbers compared to last year’s show, according to experts.

Dubai played host to 4.3 million visitors last year during the shopping festival. And this year, the growth rate is expected to be “7 to 8 per cent”, Peter Goddard, managing director of TRI Hospitality Consulting in Dubai, told Gulf News.

The 32-day-long shopping festival opened on January 3 and will run until February 3.

“DSF plays a good role in enhancing tourism, especially from GCC countries,” said Gassan Al Aridi, CEO of Alpha Tours, a tour operator in Dubai.

Visitors from Saudi Arabia continue to form the highest number of tourists from the GCC, said Al Aridi, adding, this year he expects the number to increase by 14 per cent from the same time last year.

Meanwhile, the majority of international tourists come from the UK, Russia and China, he said.

Tourists from Russia, the UK, and France made up 28 per cent of total tourists during DSF 2012, making Europe the top source market; while South Asia tourists accounted for 16 per cent; and GCC tourists made up 23 per cent, according to Dubai Events and Promotion Establishment (DEPE).

Aridi expects that Chinese tourists this year will increase by 38 per cent, while Russian tourists will increase by 14 per cent from last year’s DSF.

Hotel occupancy:

Hotels across Dubai are seeing high occupancy rates during DSF, according to Guy Wilkinson, Managing Partner of Viability, a hospitality consulting firm.

Dubai hotels have been recording high occupancy rates in the last few months. According to a recent Hotstats survey by TRI Hospitality Consulting, hotels in Dubai recorded a Gross Operating Profit per Available Room of $297.15 (GOPPAR- an industry benchmark) in November- the highest in the region for the month.

“70 per cent of our guests are from the GCC. Out of that, 45 per cent are from Saudi Arabia,” said Roshna Raj, Marketing Executive at Ramada Downtown hotel in Dubai. Raj added that 7 per cent of guests are from Russia.

Hotels that are strategically located- near major malls, beaches, and on Sheikh Zayed Road- have an advantage over others. But even hotels that are less in demand are almost full, Wilkinson said.

Hoteliers are facing fierce competition; but they can stand out by offering competitive rates, room packages and airport pick-up services, he added.

Normally, January is not a peak season for tourism, as many regional and international tourists tend to leave after the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, Wilkinson said. However, DSF has made January a great month for tourism. It encourages tourists to stay longer.

Shopping and leisure activities:

Retailers participating in DSF are pulling in tourists with promotional activities, including discounts, freebies, and raffle draws. So it comes as no surprise that tourists are focusing on shopping this month, as well as dining out, according to a report by Euromonitor International. Street performances and outdoor leisure activities are also crowd-pullers.

Tour operators are seeing the highest growth in sales during DSF. Georges Mousa, Group Chairman of Planet Travel and Tours, said he has seen growing demand for desert safaris and dhow cruises starting earlier this week. Tourists, predominantly from China and Europe, have booked their tours from the fourth of January onwards.

“We expect sales to grow by 15 to 20 per cent during DSF,” Mousa said.

During DSF 2011, shoppers spent Dh15.1 billion, out of which around 40 per cent (Dh5.9 billion) was generated by regional and international visitors, while UAE residents spent Dh6.2 billion, according to a survey conducted by YouGov Siraj, a research and consulting organisation. Clothes, fashion items and accessories topped the list of popular DSF purchases for tourists.

According to DEPE, tourists from Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UK were the top spenders during DSF 2012.

- Sarah Algethami is a trainee at Gulf News.

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