Retailers and hoteliers are still waiting for a boost in trade from the Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) shopping festival even though reports from the first weekend seemed to indicate a slight increase in visitors from last year. "There is better movement, better traffic in the malls. We're seeing people carrying bags," said Eisa Ibrahim, the general manager of BurJuman centre and a member of the Dubai Shopping Malls Group board.
Retailers were hoping for a great improvement on last year. Sales in the festival rose by 17 per cent at 23 shopping malls across Dubai last year, the group said. But these revenues were shared by a greater number of shops, so many individual retailers reported a drop in business compared with the previous year. Joe Nahhas, the brand director for Mont Blanc in Dubai, said sales during DSS so far were slightly higher than last year, in line with the improved economic situation. But any surge would come after GCC schools break up within the next month.
"DSS starts before the summer really kicks in," he said. "All the tourists that we're attracting haven't had a chance to really get to Dubai yet." The shopping and entertainment event, which was launched in 1998 to promote retail and tourism in the summer months, last year brought in 2.2 million visitors who spent Dh3.37 billion (US$917.5 million). The Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment (DEPE), which organises the event that runs until August 7, aims to at least match those figures.
Hoteliers say early signs are positive but a strong flow of business for DSS was unlikely before the start of the school holidays. "The schools in GCC are still going on and our occupancy remained the same as last week with an average of 60 per cent," said Haitham Assem, a senior marketing executive at the Kempinski Mall of the Emirates hotel. "However, we do expect a good pick up as of July 1." Once families start arriving, the hotel said it expected to see occupancy rise above 80 per cent.