DSS targets 1.7m tourists of all ages

Despite the rumours, summer deals on hotel rooms and car rentals means increased bookings for the trade this summer, finds KEITH J FERNANDEZ
Modhesh and friends welcome tourists arriving at Dubai International Airport

DUBAI is where it’s at this summer: some 1.7 million people can’t be wrong! Practically all that tourism comes down to three little words: Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS), the annual shopping and entertainment festival that has revitalised the season.

The 10-week long event, which opened with the Ice Surprises week on June 21, continues with weekly themes around art, food, adventure, cartoons, heritage Surprises, and concludes with Back-2-School Surprises on September 1.
“In 2005, the DSS brought in 1.5 million visitors, who spent an estimated Dh1.72 billion ($468 million) in the city,” says DSS CEO Saeed Al Nabouda. “Every year we see a growth of between six and eight per cent, but this year, a 15 per cent increase seems more realistic. We expect revenues to cross the Dh2 billion mark this year.”
That increase is despite the World Cup having dominated the beginning of the season and is being largely attributed to the cancellation this year of the annual Dubai Shopping Festival, which brings in close to 3.5 million tourists, a shock Nabouda has since been slowly absorbed by the emirate’s resilient economy.
Accordingly, some Dh80 million will be spent in promotional expenditure this year, the highest-ever promotion spend on the event.
Part of the focus this year is on taking the event beyond its traditional children’s market, says Al Nabouda. “We’re broadening the appeal to the family, because children don’t travel without families, of course, and adults need something to do as well. Much of the events at Ski Dubai, for instance, appeal to any age.” Events like the new beach adventure at Dubai’s Mamzar Park, from July 17, is another such. Another is a range of discounts on spa treatments at 18 of the city’s top spas, including the Akaru Spa at the Aviation Club, the Taj Spa at the Taj Palace Hotel, the Six Senses Spa at Madinat Jumeirah and Cleopatra’s Spa at Wafi City.
Predictably, there are promotions galore at shopping malls, petrol stations and more. The Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group alone is putting up prizes worth Dh2 million with coupons available on a spend of Dh250. “With a focus on giving customers a chance to win their lifestyle aspirations, this year’s grand prize is a luxury apartment in Dubai’s International City,” says Tawhid Abdullah, managing director, Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group. Other prizes include 1 kilo gold bars, solitaire diamonds and BMW 3 series cars.
Indeed, Dubai, with its population of under one million, already has four times as much shopping area per capita as the United States – and more malls are on the way, including the massive Dubai Mall and the Mall of Arabia, aimed to be the largest in the world. Indeed, by 2010, when the country will see an estimated 15 million tourists, retail spending is expected to reach 25 per cent of the UAE’s GDP.
But how does all this business affect us in the travel trade?
In keeping with every year, for instance, rumours doing the rounds this summer too predict a drop in hotel occupancy. One four-star hotel manager says this is the first year in three years of operation that he needs to work to fill his rooms.
An InterContinental Hotel Dubai spokesperson dismisses that out of hand: “For July and August we are looking at an average of between 80 and 90 occupancy,” she says.
A spokeswoman for a chain with hotel and apartment properties across classification in the city, meanwhile, says summer rates definitely help business. “With all the summer offers we’ve got lined up, we’re looking at between 65 per cent for the smaller properties to 90 per cent for our five-star brand.”
The DSS-led Bundle of Surprises packages are available from a variety of hotels including the Park Hyatt, Jebel Ali Golf Resort and Spa, Al Bustan Rotana, Le Meridien Mina Siyahi, Moevenpick Bur Dubai, Grovesnor House, the Novotel World Trade Centre, Radisson SAS Media City, Oasis Beach Hotel, Al Khaleej Palace Hotel, Arabian Courtyard Hotel and more. The ideal package wraps within it added benefits like complimentary breakfasts, usage of gym and wet areas, free transportation for guests to and from the airport and various DSS activity sites including major malls and Modhesh Fun City (MFC), along with a welcome basket with drink and fruits placed in the rooms.
Car rental companies are already seeing good business and it is anticipated that nearly 90 per cent of all cars with companies will be rented this season, again partly because of special summer deals.
Says Rahoul Sineej, general manager,Thrifty Car Rental Services, “We combine the best values on a wide variety of cars to suit our customers’ need. This DSS, we have a range of irresistible offers lined up. For a two month period we are offering a Mitsubishi Lancer starting at Dh79 a day. For luxury cars like Mercedes E240, the BMW 730Li, our special offer begins at Dh899 per day during the summer promotion period. Every DSS we record increased sales and this summer will be no different. I am sure that with the initial responses have already received this DSS too will be no different.”
As ever, the major bookings for hotels and car rentals alike are coming from around the Gulf, but attention is now moving to international markets. Al Nabouda told media that international visitors accounted for 30 per cent of total numbers last year, while this year that is expected to reach 35 per cent. “We are becoming more and more international,” he says.
(More information on the various offers is available at the Ahlan Dubai helpline: +9715-600545555)