Higher costs hit Global Village turnout

A rise in entrance fees and more expensive visas blamed for a drop in visitor numbers to the annual event.

DUBAI -JANUARY 27,2009 - Low turn out of tourist vsitors  at Global village in Dubai. ( Paulo Vecina/The National ) *** Local Caption ***  PV Global 6.JPG
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Participants of Dubailand's Global Village extravaganza have blamed a rise in entrance fees and more expensive visas for a drop in visitor numbers to the annual event. A major tourist attraction for Dubai, Global Village last year attracted 4.5 million visitors over its three-month run. This year's event, which began on Nov 12 and will end on Feb 21, has so far lured 2.2 million people, according to the information centre at Global Village.
"We have one more month to go and I don't think that by the end of the period the number of visitors will be the same as last year," said Osman Esmail Osman, the organiser of the Egyptian pavilion. "It never used to be this way. To get to the Global Village, you had to wait in traffic for at least an hour, but now we can get here from the downtown area in about 20 minutes." Representatives from Global Village were unavailable for comment.
The developer, Tatweer - the master developer of Dubailand - launched Global Village in 1996 to attract families to the emirate and to gauge visitor numbers to the entertainment project. Global Village offers visitors a cultural and entertainment experience that features participants from more than 30 countries. Stallholders use the event to showcase a range of products at country-themed pavilions.
But this year, stallholders fear they will not generate enough revenue during the event to cover the cost of rent. "Sales are down by about 40 per cent compared to last year and we paid Dh180,000 (US$49,000) to rent this 18 square metre stall," said Shueta Bhattia, a saleswoman at Al Amber, a clothing stall in the Indian pavilion. "Right now, I've come to regret that decision because we are going to come out with a huge loss."
Mohsen Ali Abdallh, an Emirati who owns Al Janateen, an oriental perfume store in Al Ain, and who has a stall in the UAE pavilion, agreed. "The event is a disaster this year," he said. "I can hardly believe what is happening to us right now. Last year, I used to make sales of Dh5,000 a day and now I'll be lucky to make Dh500." Sunil Bhatia, the chief executive of the Indian pavilion, blamed the drop in sales and the number of visitors to Global Village on the higher cost of visit visas, introduced by the Dubai Government in August last year. "The 30-day visa charge for tourists is now about US$150, which is really discouraging for Indian and Pakistani families to come here."
Mohammed Naem, who is in charge of the Pakistani pavilion, said an increase in the entry fee to Dh10 per person was the main source of the problem. "This event is known to attract people from the middle and lower classes in Dubai who have large families," he said. "Last year, the entry fee charge was Dh5, now it's Dh10, which cannot be afforded by many people during this difficult time." When Dubailand is completed in 2020, Tatweer estimates that 40,000 visitors a day will flock to the venue, a figure that will contribute to Dubai's ambitious plan to lure 15 million tourists a year to the emirate by 2015, compared with 7.7 million in 2007.
Last month, Khalid al Malik, the chief executive of Tatweer, said Dubailand was being reviewed and a plan to deal with the economic slowdown would be announced soon. abakr@thenational.ae skahn@thenational.ae