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Exciting times ahead for DSF: Laila Suhail

posted on 01/02/2015: 1797 views

As the curtain comes down on the 20th edition of the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) today (February 1), its lead organiser promised residents and visitors they have much to look forward to in the coming years as DSF grows with the city.

In an interview with Gulf News, Laila Suhail, CEO of the Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE) that organises DSF, said the growth of the shopping festival has always been intertwined with the growth of Dubai. And with Dubai's positive outlook for the coming years, the same could be said of the festival that has helped changed lives and Dubai's landscape for the past two decades.

"The past 20 years have been an amazing journey for DSF, and even more exciting times are definitely ahead,” Laila said. "As it has proven in the past, DSF will continue to grow, innovate and excel, and remain true to its long-standing universal theme, ‘One World. One Family. One Festival.'”

DSF was launched at a time when people thought of coming to Dubai mainly for business purposes. In those days, in 1996, family tourism was not the city's strengths. But much has changed since.

In just 20 years, Dubai has seen unprecedented growth — the opening of iconic landmarks like the Burj Khalifa, The Palm Jumeirah, Burj Al Arab, and many other malls — that made it easy to come up with family tourism packages and city-wide events for DSF.

Even Dubai's retail landscape has matured from traditional souqs to more organised consumer sales featuring local and international brands, chain stores, and many others.

But this development over the last 20 years can be considered just the beginning, Laila said.

"As you are aware, Dubai has many mega projects either under way or in the pipeline such as the Sheikh bin Rashid City and Mall of the World, and such economic activity will contribute immensely towards strengthening the appeal of DSF to a global audience.”

"Thus, DFRE is taking advantage of the positive economic environment that prevails in Dubai to chart its plans for the future editions of DSF. All our festivals, including DSF, are also part of efforts to support tourism growth in line with Dubai's Tourism Vision 2020.”

The vision for 2020 is to attract 20 million visitors annually. Currently, DSF contributes an average of 4.5 million visitors for the first month of the year alone.

"That DSF has benefited from Dubai's rapid growth is also evident in the fact that Dubai has become a global retail hub and is currently ranked only second to London as a city with the largest collection of global retail brands. The presence of top retail groups has certainly played an important part in luring shoppers to Dubai during DSF,” she said.

The 2014 Global Retail Development Index ranks the UAE 4th among 30 developing countries that have the most potential for retail investment, with retail sales in the UAE reaching a growth of five per cent in 2013 at US$66 billion (Dh242.2 billion). The index also cited Dubai's winning the bid to host the 2020 World Expo as a reflection of "the country's bright future”.

Incubator of Emirati leaders

But not only has DSF benefited retailers and, in turn, Dubai's economy. It has also provided the necessary training ground for Emiratis. As a result, a former DSF pioneer said DSF became an incubator for leaders.

Among them is Laila, who has headed the current DFRE team since 2008 and has been part of DSF before it was launched in 1996.

"DSF and similar government-driven events organised by DFRE have not only created life-changing opportunities for tens of thousands of people from around the world but have also become a platform for hundreds of Emiratis to benefit from the valuable experience and on-the-job training it offers in the areas of management, events, marketing and communications,” she said.

"In fact, DSF is a stepping stone for success for talented young Emiratis as it not only offers career opportunities for local talent but also prepares them for leadership roles. Many of our staff have gone on to occupy key positions in government and the private sector,” she added.

As the festival turned 12 in 2008, Laila took on the reins of leading the team and coming up with strategies to make festivals have an even stronger impact.

"It was both a great honour and a huge challenge to have been entrusted with this important responsibility in 2008, especially since I was the first woman to assume this mantle after a string of great male leaders. However, I was extremely confident that with the support and guidance of Dubai's leadership, all of us at DFRE would be constantly motivated to ensure the continued success of Dubai Shopping Festival.”

Since then, a group of 50 dedicated staff from different committees, both in the private and public sector, have played an equally crucial role behind the scenes in the day-to-day running of the festival.

DSF may draw to a close today but Laila said they will just rest for a while but, in no time, go into "preparation mode [again] with all efforts geared towards conceptualising, strategising and planning the next edition of the festival”. – Gulf News -


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