Tourists show malls their shopping dollar

Dubai’s BurJuman Centre is a big draw

From the time Dubai Duty Free coined the slogan Fly Buy Dubai, the emirate has set the benchmarks for shopping tourism in the region, with destinations around the region – from Egypt to the most recent, Kerala – now jumping on the shopping tourism bandwagon.

And why not? Retail spending during the 45-day Dubai Shopping Festival 2006-2007 was estimated at Dh8 billion, or about eight per cent of the city’s Dh110 billion GDP, a statement said.
Much of this has to do with the desire of leisure tourists, in particular, to have a good time while not indulging in activities that are too strenuous.
As travelling increases, so does shopping, say Melody LA LeHew and Scarlett C Wesley, authors of a study on tourist shopper’s satisfaction with shopping mall experiences.
“With many options available to travellers today, shopping currently accounts for 33 per cent of all trips taken in the USA, followed by outdoor activities (17 per cent), visits to historical sites and museums (14 per cent), and travel to beaches, cultural events, and festivals, and national/state parks (10 per cent each),” they said, quoting Travel Industry Association of America numbers.
A TIA study found that more than half of US adults travelling named shopping as their primary or secondary reason for travel, and that tourist shoppers spend a lot on their purchases – an average of $333 during each trip taken, with 22 per cent spending more than $500 each trip.
“Tourists like to take something home from the trip, and therefore, they go shopping. A tourist’s shopping behaviour is very different from his/her normal shopping activity. Tourist shopping is not only limited to souvenirs but also includes purchases of clothing, jewellery, books, arts and crafts, and electronics. Typically, tourists do not go shopping with a specific list; rather shopping becomes a by-product of their travel experiences,” say LeHew and Wesley.
Tourists also want to be entertained, and the International Council of Shopping Centers says that malls are now able “to foster the same magical experiences that were once only seen in national amusement parks such as Disney World”.
Large, tourist-focused shopping centres typically include amusement parks, ice skating rinks, water parks, and/or various other entertainment venues as part of their tenant mix. A fine example of this sort is Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates, which, like Raffles City in Singapore, goes one step further by hosting a hotel on site.
Following suit are BurJuman Centre and Rotana Hotels in Dubai (the BurJuman Rotana Suites opened earlier this year), City Centre Bahrain,
But, as a shopping centre, how do you reach out to shoppers on holiday? Do you co-ordinate with tourist boards? Do you link up with hotels?
These and other questions will be answered this month at a workshop entitled Capitalising on Travel and Tourism Markets, organised by the Middle East Council of Shopping Centres (MECSC) at the Kempinski hotel, Mall of the Emirates on December 5 and 6.
“Strategic tourism marketing can be one of the greatest opportunities for incremental sales in a shopping centre. The shopping component, when properly promoted can enhance the visitor experience,” said Kim Redman, Regional Director, MECSC.
“To keep up the standards and services of the malls, it is necessary to encourage industry professionals to update their knowledge through training and development programmes.”
The extensive marketing seminar and workshop will help industry professionals from across the Middle East region rethink strategies and reposition their centres to thrive in the shopping mall industry which is clearly on a growth path, mainly driven by a healthy tourism sector.
“There are so many different tourism market segments and so many different ways to reach the various segments, that you must be very strategic in your thinking to most effectively capture the tourism,” said Carolyn J Feimster, resident and founder of CJF Marketing International (CJFMI), who will lead the seminar.
The attempt to draw in a tourist-oriented customer base appears to be in opposition to the retail industry’s increased interest in building customer loyalty, requiring a multi-pronged approach to target different customer groups differently. 
by Prachi Parihar