UAE wants to be year-round travel destination
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.