Dubai festival judged a success

Dubai Shopping Festival benefits from regional unrest as more GCC tourists visitedthe UAE.

The Dubai Shopping Festival enticed visitors who had planned to holiday in Egypt.
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The unrest in the Mena region has added to the success of the Dubai Shopping Festival this year, retailers say.

Shops and hotels say they are pleased with the month-long festival, which finished yesterday and brought in more visitors from India and Saudi Arabia than usual.

Many visitors from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Gulf came to the emirate instead of Egypt, which is a popular holiday destination for the region.

"The regional unrest in some of the countries obviously had an effect on the tourist inflow to Dubai," said a spokesman for Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment.

Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer at Jacky's Electronics, said: "Egypt being closed definitely helped us. We saw that on the street. We saw a lot of Saudis. We did definitely see the traffic here."

Many Indian visitors took advantage of cheap package deals to the emirate.

"What we saw as the biggest increase was the number of Indian tourists who came in this year," Mr Panjabi said. "The packages that you were getting in India were just phenomenal.

"For as low as 18,000 rupees (Dh1,465), 20,000 rupees, you were getting three nights stay in a hotel, the air tickets, a desert safari.

"Indian tourists tend to carry a lot of LCD TVs back with them. We did see our television sales go through the roof this year as compared to previous years."

On its website, the Indian carrier Jet Airways said it was offering Dubai Shopping Festival packages starting at 15,385 rupees a person for a three-night stay.

Some hotels were overbooked in the past couple of weeks and shopping centres had an increase of between 10 and 25 per cent in visitors and sales, the Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment said.

A spokesman for the organisation added these figures were based on various reports from malls, including comparisons with last year and the previous month. The promotions agency said that the festival received more than 3 million visitors, with almost Dh10 billion (US$2.72bn) in expenditure.

A school holiday in Saudi Arabia, which coincided with the event, helped boost the numbers of visitors from the kingdom.

Retail sales at the 2009 Dubai Shopping Festival fell 2 per cent from the previous year despite new malls and about 2,000 participating shops. Figures for last year's festival have yet to be released but the agency said it "was also around those figures".

This year it is a different story and a number of hotels have enjoyed 100 per cent ocupancy this month on certain days.

"Our city occupancy has gone up year-on-year by a minimum of 10 per cent," said Naeem Darkazally, the vice president of sales and revenue at Rotana, which has 13 hotels in Dubai.

"The shopping festival this year, as every year, has a very positive impact on mainly the GCC market. We have also seen a diversion of GCC residents who were booked to go to Egypt and switched to come to Dubai instead because of the unfortunate circumstances in Egypt."

Syed Zulfiqar Mehdi, the director of sales and marketing at the Samaya Hotel in Deira, Dubai, said: "It was a successful festival this year compared to last year. Dubai is not expensive like before.

"We saw an increase in GCC tourists. A lot of Indian people came to Dubai because it's better value for money. More options are available for every type of customer."

The fact that Chinese New Year took place during the festival meant there was also an influx of Chinese visitors into Dubai. A number of these tourists cancelled plans to travel to Egypt and remained in Dubai for longer, Mr Mehdi said.

He added the hotel was running at full occupancy on a number of days because of factors including the shopping festival, regional instability, elsewhere, conferences and events in the emirate, and the weather. But an increase in visitor numbers did not necessarily translate into sharp increases in profit in the electronics sector.

"We have seen a huge price drops in one year as well," said Mr Panjabi. "The quantities definitely are up in terms of unit sales, but we've also seen a price drop in some categories of 30 to 35 per cent in the last year.

"Having said that we've managed to exceed our sales over last year by a couple of percentage points."

Mr Panjabi said sales of electronic items including tablet devices and smartphones had done particularly well this year.