Why Dubai continues to cement its position as a must visit destination?

6 Mins read

Why Dubai continues to cement its position as a must visit destination?

We spoke to Fareed Abdelrahman, managing director, Retail Destinations, Dubai Holding Asset Management (DHAM), about changing consumer demands and what they mean for Dubai’s tourism and retail

What are the top three trends shaping the UAE retail landscape today?

Consumer demands are indeed changing – and rapidly, too. With so many options available, physical retail spaces must be designed as a place people want to experience, not just where they needto go. This is the trend defining the ‘Experience Economy’. As technology and consumer habits evolve, delivering outstanding experiences is becoming increasingly competitive and will inevitably impact how the tourism and retail sectors mature. In fact, Millennials are fuelling much of this trend.

An Eventbrite study performed in the US found that 78 per cent of respondents between the ages of 18 to 34 said they would choose to spend money on an experience or event instead of buying something tangible. Similarly, according to data from Global Web Index, 55.9 per cent of Millennials in the UAE indicated they would rather spend their money on experiences. E-commerce may be on the rise, but the Experience Economy will give brick-and-mortar retailers a valuable edge.

We have also entered the age of ‘hyper individualisation’, one that has been in motion since before the pandemic. The surge in the availability of data on consumer habits and activity is changing how brands create new products and services, how they deliver innovative user-journeys and how they plan their retail expansion. Consumers are onboard with this, and increasingly so, because they want to feel special. Forrester Research found that 63 per cent of consumers will stop buying from brands that use poor personalisation tactics. This speaks
volumes and links to the third trend, which is the immersion of technology and the convergence of physical and digital experiences.

From virtual reality to immersive screen experiences, self-checkout and a more structured user journey, retailers are beginning to elevate the in-store experience. It’s a way to tap into the Experience Economy while keeping brands fresh, exciting and exclusive. We see this growing first hand in our own destinations, where retailers across our portfolio are testing the parameters of in-person experiences with tech-enabled features, exclusive benefits and events, and multi-sensory environments.

Tourism in the UAE is thriving because of landmark projects such as Bluewaters, JBR and Al Seef. What do you think tourists are interested in when they visit Dubai?

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Over the years, Dubai has evolved to become one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations, attracting visitors from all corners of the world. Our tourist numbers brush on pre-pandemic levels with a growth of more than 183 per cent year-on-year in H1 2022, welcoming over seven million international visitors between January and June 2022. The emirate continues to cement its position as a ‘must visit’ destination able to offer visitors a cosmopolitan city with elements of traditional local culture.What really sets Dubai apart is its strategic location and connectivity, which make it such a convenient destination to reach from far-flung corners of the world. Our advanced infrastructure and diverse and hospitable community, which caters to all budgets, make it an attractive place to visit.And when it comes to the Experience Economy, Dubai has been well ahead of the curve.

Our own flagship destinations like Bluewaters, Al Seef and JBR provide all-encompassing experiences that combine high-end hospitality with fine dining, entertainment and attractions so people can get the most out of their holidays. Whether it’s drone shows and Michelin-starred restaurants or indoor obstacle courses and contemporary museums like Madame Tussauds or the Museum of Illusions, we strive to design immersive experiences at every turn, with each of our destinations providing a unique lifestyle ecosystem that cater to every need. We frequently partner with Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) – a relationship we value immensely – to help us elevate the impact of experiences throughout the year, including retail festivals and seasonal events.

Our vision, at its core, is to contribute to Dubai’s position as one of the greatest cities in the world to live, work and play. By providing world-class experiences, restaurants and entertainment, we not only do our part in drawing millions of visitors from around the world every year, but also contribute to making Dubai an ideal place to call home.

How isthe FIFA World Cup driving footfall to Dubai, and how will the event impact the UAE’s economy?

High-profile sporting events draw significant numbers of both domestic and international tourists, which in turn act as high impact catalysts for economic development. The FIFA World Cup is already boosting Dubai’s tourism sector and economy at large, both of which have already seen a healthy recovery following the global pandemic.

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According to Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, the city witnessed an average hotel occupancy of 74 per cent in H1 2022, ranking as one of thehighest in the world. With 40 daily shuttle flights scheduled between Doha and Dubai combined with streamlined immigration procedures, the emirate stands to benefit tremendously as a base for travellers. In fact, experts have predicted near full hotel occupancy rates citywide throughout the World Cup season.

A packed calendar of themed events and activities, special hotel offers and shopping deals will allow retailers to enjoy high sales and foot traffic, which is a promising sign for the economy.

With the cooler months upon us, which regional and international feeder markets do you anticipate will garner the highest rebound?

As global travel restrictions ease, tourism worldwide is recovering at a compelling pace, as travellers have a renewed appetite for holidays. We look forward to a strong rebound from India, as Dubai has long been a favourable destination for Indian tourists. Visitors from the country have more than doubled during H1 of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021.

As we ease into milder weather in Dubai, we’ll concurrently welcome visitors from colder countries seeking to retreat to warmer temperatures, the UK being a prime example. Since the re-opening of our borders, we’ve seen a large influx of UK tourists. Regionally, Dubai has been drawing considerable footfall from our neighbours in Oman and Saudi Arabia, especially with Saudi National Day at the end of September – a major occasion for families to drive over. China has always been one of our strongest feeder markets over the years, too. With Covid-19 restrictions easing further in China, we anticipate a strong comeback and surge in Chinese visiting numbers.

Dubai’s ranking as the most popular destination by TripAdvisor’s 2022 Travellers’ Choice Awards will also continue to support the emirate’s reach and attract new markets interested in exploring this iconic tourism destination.

What is coming up for DHAM Retail in 2023?

We’ve had a great start to the year at Dubai Holding Asset Management with a steady stream of new F&B and lifestyle
concepts such as Bluewaters, Al Seef and The Outlet Village. In just this past year alone, our scope of retail tenants has grown to include brands like Virgin Izakaya, Wokyo Noodle Bar, Puma, Aeropostale and Paul & Shark. We’re excited for the next year as well with promising new openings planned throughout.

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An essential part of our portfolio are community centres, so we were pleased to launch brand-new ones in Ghoroob and Villanova. Community centres enjoy consistently healthy performance since they provide essential services for their surrounding areas and cater to people’s increased desire for convenience. 

Along with new retail experiences lined-up at other destinations, Dubai Holding has also rolled out a rewards programme ‘Tickit’, launched at leading dining, hospitality, in-store shopping and entertainment offerings across the city, including Bluewaters and Al Khawaneej Walk. It allows members to earn points for every transaction with partner brands in an effortless, instant way. Memberships are linked to users’ UAE-issued bank credit or debit cards with automatic rewards upon every transaction.We’re also pleased to be offering an exciting line-up of activations in alignment with Dubai’s globally renowned retail calendar, including flagship festivals and the holiday season.

In 2021, Dubai attracted Dhs6.4bn ($1.7bn) in foreign direct investment, claiming the world’s top rank in
FDI capital, projects and job creation in the tourism sector. How have DHAM’s retail destinations contributed to this accolade?

The tourism and retail sectors have been pivotal to the UAE’s extraordinary economic recovery following the global pandemic. The government’s swift and comprehensive response allowed us to open our borders earlier than most with the right measures in place.This is a true testament to the resilience of our economy, having reinforced confidence in investors from around the world.Even the latest numbers released from the Department of Economy and Tourism confirmed how strongly the sector is performing, with 7.12 million international overnight visitors arriving between January and June 2022 alone.

Dubai Holding Asset Management plays a pivotal role in reaffirming Dubai’s attractiveness to visitors as well as new businesses and investors, striving to deliver and enhance our eclectic offerings to boost the Emirate’s economic growth, development and global competitiveness.

Our portfolio elevates the city’s position as a global hub for tourism and leisure as we operate and manage an extensive range of strategically located retail assets across prime destinations and communities, comprising more than 2,500 retail and F&B outlets representing leading local, regional and international brands. Flagship attractions like Madame Tussauds, Museum of the Illusions and Brass Monkey, among many others, set base in Dubai as a result of our destinations’ popularity as well as the potential and promise of the sector itself.


Source: Gulfbusiness

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