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Home / Events / Dubai Shopping Festival
Dubai Shopping Festival - Milestones
Dubai Shopping Festival, 28 jan - 28 Feb 2010

A glimpse into the growth of one of the world's most recognized festivals and its contribution to the glittering city of Dubai.

One of the reasons for Dubai's rise as a commercial and tourism hub can be attributed to the sensational success of Dubai Shopping Festival, the Emirate's annual shopping, leisure and entertainment bonanza.

What Dubai has become today is part of the visionary aspirations of its leaders; and what Dubai has accomplished in so short a time is a stunning example of foresight and dedication. The ongoing economic crisis may have slowed it down, as it has affected other cities all over the world, yet Dubai remains on track to achieving what it has set out to do.

"When it started in 1996, it was essentially a retail event designed to enhance trade activities in Dubai. Since then, it has grown to become one the foremost shopping events in the world, and the biggest of its kind in the region," said Laila Suhail, CEO, Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment, organisers of the annual shopping festival.

From a small retail event with big ambitions to a massive tourism event that it is today, DSF has taken great strides and has contributed significantly to the growth of this vibrant city and to the stature that it enjoys today. With great bargains and discounts, mega raffles, entertainment and cultural events, carnivals and games, Dubai Festival has capture the hearts of millions of tourists from all over the world.

Looking back, the numbers are in fact very impressive and quite staggering. Over the span of 14 editions, 35 million visitors have made their annual visit to Dubai to enjoy DSF's massive shopping, leisure and entertainment offers. That has translated to about AED74 billion in total spend, with AED9.8 billion of that coming from last year's sales, an extraordinary feat considering the crisis that has slowed down the economy globally.

"This only means that DSF has established a strong brand equity; and that it has continuously provided an unparalleled holiday experience for visitors. It is not unusual for visitors to come back for another DSF edition the following year simply because the festival has carved for itself a reputation for setting the highest standards and constantly innovating on what it has to offer," Suhail added.

Innovation has been a part and parcel of DSF's success, as new and exciting offers each year make it more appealing to tourists. And this year, it will no doubt be different as the focus is equally on the biggest and most rewarding offers as it is on the culture and heritage of Dubai. Emphasis is also given on providing visitors a complete holiday experience in Dubai, where they will enjoy as a family; as a member of a larger, vibrant community composed of more than 200 nationalities; and experience a festival full of rewarding, fun and exciting moments.

Dubai Shopping Festival's inaugural year in 1996 was a resounding success. It attracted more than 1.6 million visitors and generated revenues of more than AED2 billion. It has since grown in terms of visitor numbers and retail spend year-on-year.

Sales figures jumped to AED2.79 Billion, while visitor numbers remained the same. Huge discounts were offered in participating outlets across various shopping malls, paving the way for Dubai's ascent as the shopping capital of the region. It was also during this year that the Global Village made its debut at the Creek Side, and was an instant crowd puller.

DSF introduced "Children of the World Meet in Dubai" in 1998, which attracted huge numbers of families with their children to Dubai. It was also this year when the 'Nissan Patrol A Day' Super Safari raffle was added to the festival, and two high profile sporting events made their debut on the DSF calendar - the ATP Dubai Tennis Open saw top seeds compete for vital points in international rankings, while the European PGA's Dubai Desert Classic had Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Jose-Maria Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie vie for the top spot.

The Festival theme was later changed to "The Biggest Family Gathering of the Millennium". Sales increased by 8.92 per cent compared to previous year, sending a clear signal that the worldwide recession at that time was no hindrance to the event's success. The street venues of Al Riqqa and Al Muraqabbat, Al Diyafah and Al Seef came alive with hundreds of fun events like Smurfs Village, Planet Pepsi, Toy City and whole lot more of entertainment activities.

The growing tourist arrivals saw an interesting rise in the number of European visitors as well, highlighting DSF's global appeal. It was this year when DSF formally introduced its overall theme - "One World. One Family. One Festival." - that it has used ever since. It attracted a record 2.5 million visitors from far corners of the world and neighbouring countries, while overall spending during the 31-day shopping and entertainment extravaganza registered a four percent increase.

31 Rolls Royce cars on raffle raised the bar higher for big promotions in the region, not to mention the US$100,000 prize purse of the 'To Mother With Love' promotion. Hotel revenues increased from AED450 million to AED480 million, expenditure on dining rose by 20 per cent to AED510 million and expenditure on rides and entertainment increased by AED28 million.

2.68 million visitors - five percent more than the previous year - ensured yet another successful staging of DSF, which has successfully curved its name on the global event calendar. It was prizes galore as besides the regular 31 Nissan Patrols, two Lexus cars and AED 200,000 in cash and 41 kilos of gold were given away. The hotel guest lists increased by 15 per cent, also showing that the total number of visitors from the other Arab speaking states outside GCC increased by 22 per cent.

Several new tourism and retail concepts were introduced during DSF 2003, like the Night Souq, which came across as a welcome opportunity for shoppers during the leisurely hours of 9pm to 3am daily, and the Desert Camp, which captured the thrill of adventure in its own distinct way. Dubai joined the ranks of the fashion capitals of the world by organizing Dubai Fashion 2003, an event that featured the best names in international fashion and jewellery.

Art and music lovers had a field day, as Dubai hosted some of the world's most talented performers like Whitney Houston, Bryan Adams, A.R. Rahman, Zakir Hussain and Jethro Tull who gave world-class performances at the Festival.

The new concept of Dubai Fashion 2004 featured top fashion houses like Dior, Christian Lacroix, Givenchy and Emanuel Ungaro. The Festival registered a total of 3.1 million visitors, posting a growth of six percent over 2.92 million visitors in 2003 and the total visitor spend during DSF 2004 touched AED 5.80 billion, compared to AED 5.12 billion in the previous year, thus registering an overall increase of 13.28 percent.

With the continuously rising trend DSF 2005 registered 3.3 million visitors with a total spend of Dh6.67 billion. And for this 10th special edition of DSF, mind-boggling raffle promotions, like the Lexus Mega Raffle, gave away two top-of-the-range cars plus AED 100,000 per day. Four Emaar Properties Villas, besides the 10 Nissan Patrol cars, were raffled.

DSF 2006-2007 was a combined 11th and 12th edition and presented double the celebrations, excitement, and provided increased opportunities for shopping and entertainment. Commencing on the 20th of December, 2006, the double-edition was also the longest, spanning 45 days and ending on February 2, 2007.

The longer duration of the festival also meant that more international events were introduced to the festival. Cirque du Soleil, the world renowned circus act, made its debut in the Middle East in Dubai during DSF and attracted visitors of all ages and nationalities. The Dubai Balloon Festival was another international event that was organized during DSF.

A new and innovative marketing slogan, "The Fifth Season", was introduced to reflect DSF's increasingly growing stature as a world-class event that everyone looked forward to, just like they would the four seasons of the year. With more than 3500 retail shops and 40 state of the art shopping malls offering unbelievable discounts on international brands, DSF 2008 transformed Dubai into the shopping haven of the region.

The mega draws came with a twist of excitement this year, the Lexus Mega Raffle presented two high end cars and 100,000 in cash but in different international currencies every draw. DSF 2008 gave out 72 Lexus cars, 43 Nissan cars and 32 kilos of Gold.

Dubai Shopping Festival posted impressive visitor and spending figures on its 14th edition, despite challenging economic conditions. Around 3.35 million visitors spent approximately AED 9.8 billion during 32 days in DSF 2009, proving the unshakable popularity of DSF, and Dubai's position as an attractive shopping and leisure destination.

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