UAE wants to be year-round travel destination

Friday 26/06/2015
Flamingos stand in a water reservoir on Sir Bani Yas Island, off the coast of Abu Dhabi.

Dubai - The United Arab Emirates has turned conventional wisdom on its head by showcasing its sweltering summer as major tourism, heritage and shopping festival de­signed to attract families from the Gulf, the rest of the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

This year the summer calendar in the UAE includes the holy fast­ing month of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr — the feast marking the end of fast­ing — and school holidays. Tour­ism authorities, along with the private sector, in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah have pulled out all the stops to offer tourists activities for the whole family.

Concerts and performances by leading artists, including Saudi singing sensation Mohammed Abdo and Emirati singer Habeeb El Yasi and Indian singers Shreya Ghoshal and Arijit Singh, Arabic and West­ern comedy nights, and shopping deals and prizes are among the big draws.

Abu Dhabi Summer Season fes­tival began June 11th and extends to September 5th, offering three months of entertainment and fun in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Ghar­biya. The Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) is giving away 12 Mercedes-Benz cars at the emirate’s malls.

“Abu Dhabi’s Summer Season is a shining example of a coordinated multi-partner marketing campaign initiative which will stimulate de­mand over the summer period to broaden and strengthen our year-round visitor proposition,” TCA Abu Dhabi Acting Executive Direc­tor Sultan Al Dhaheri said.

“We have formed an emirate-wide programme of activities in partnership with private event management companies, the emir­ate’s hotel providers and shopping malls to deliver a ‘fun for all’ propo­sition for visitors from within the UAE, as well as from across the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), the In­dian subcontinent and Europe.”

According to TCA, last summer saw 786,376 guest arrivals in Abu Dhabi, an increase of 20% during June, July and August from the pre­vious year. The number of guests from the GCC, excluding the UAE, increased 25%, from India 26% and from Europe 19%.

“Hotel occupancy grew by a total of 7% from 2013, and we are aiming to improve that figure again this season,” added Al Dhaheri.

Dubai’s Summer Season promo­tion powered by Dubai Shopping Malls Group (DSMG) is back with a campaign from May to October in partnership with Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE) to roll out this blockbuster shopping bonanza among 25 participating malls across Dubai.

GCC residents and tourists in the UAE will get opportunities to win prizes worth $1.5 million in travel packages, cash, luxury cars, shop­ping vouchers and more.

“This year, Dubai will witness the biggest number of retail pro­motions being launched in a single summer season, giving shoppers from around the world a rewarding experience including the opportu­nity to win amazing prizes, while at the same time further boosting sales and footfall at the participat­ing malls,” DFRE Chief Executive Officer Laila Mohammad Suhail said.

Dubai welcomed a total of 13.2 million international overnight visitors in 2014, according to gov­ernment statistics, representing a year-on-year increase of 8.2%, sig­nificantly higher than the global av­erage of 4.7%.

Dubai’s ambition for 2020 is to become the world’s number one family destination and win a sub­stantial share of the global tourism market. Family travel accounts for more than 12.5% of the $1.7 trillion global tourism market and is pro­jected to grow at about 5% annually to 2020, according to recent figures published by Reuters.

With this in mind, Dubai is invest­ing more in family attractions. Over the next two years Dubai Safari Park, Dubai Opera House, Legoland Dubai, Hollywood-themed Motion Gate and Bollywood Parks Dubai are all expected to open.

“Over the years, Dubai has po­sitioned itself as an international summer destination, offering hassle-free online visa, ex­tensive leisure and tourism pack­ages and world-class infrastructure and transportation system,” noted Kulwant Singh, manager of Lama Group, one of Dubai’s leading tour operators.

“During this season, hotels are also very keen to drop prices and offer value-for-money deals to at­tract GCC nationals and other for­eign tourists who flock to the city for the annual Dubai Summer Sur­prises — the region’s most antici­pated summer entertainment and shopping bonanza,” he said.

“Aside from the buzzing retail activity across the emirate, there is also a calendar full of activities centred on culture, arts and fam­ily values,” Singh said, stressing, however, that the summer festival continues to play a crucial part in boosting the retail and tourism sec­tors.

“We are very positive that this summer will be as successful as 2012 when Dubai welcomed 4.36 million visitors if not more,” he said.

The city of Sharjah, about 12 kilometres from Dubai, hosts its own summer festival offering pro­motional activities, attractive dis­counts, raffles and entertainment.

The Sharjah Commerce and Tour­ism Development Authority recent­ly launched Sharjah Tourism Vi­sion 2021, which aims to attract 10 million tourists by then, when the UAE celebrates its 50th anniversary, by focusing on family and cultural tourism.