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Laila Suhail : CEO of DSF 2008, edidor talks to Laila Suhail, Chief Strategy Officer about her grandiose plans to make DSF 2008, the best yet.

The countdown has started. The world's biggest shopping and entertainment extravaganza is about to unfold in Dubai, this year, with a bigger budget, a renewed synergy between the private and the public sector and aspirations to vow as many as 3.5 million visitors.

Ever since its inception in 1996, every edition of the DSF has tread new path, making it a huge occasion that residents and visitors look forward to every year. In fact the world's eyes are focused on Dubai during the colourful and festive days of the Dubai Shopping Festival. This year, the 13th edition of the trendsetting festival promises more fun in shopping and entertainment. So watch out, there is much more than just the fireworks that promise to light up the DSF sky.

Q. GoDubai : You wish to put Dubai at par with international festivals? Who are you benchmarking yourself against and how?
A. The DSF is a pioneering initiative. There are no benchmarks. We are new, unique and different. There are various themes and events that are reminiscent of different festivals. The road carnivals with costumed street performers will have the same flavour of the festivals in Rio de Janeiro. The food festival is like that of the Singapore culinary festival while the fashion shows are comparable to those in Milan. But what DSF offers in a package –32 days of fun-filled entertainment and excitement –is something that is unique that no other festival has ever offered. We are creating a precedent every year, year after year.

GoDubai : The DSF is synonymous with Dubai. How far do you think this festival will help to put Dubai on the world map?
Dubai is now a leading tourist and travel destination in the world. Statistics show that Dubai is far ahead of Singapore and Paris where tourist arrivals and connectivity is concerned. Dubai's national flag carrier, the Emirates has been a key sponsor of the festival since DSF 1996 and has taken the festival to the world. The marketing strategy of the Dubai government has also been very effective in wooing tourists from tourists far and wide.

GoDubai : Statistics show that the number of visitors has increased over the years, the budget swells, consumer spending is more and the number of tourists coming into Dubai also increases every festival. This year's projection is also very impressive. How do you make it possible, every time?
This is a dream that has come true for us, as a result of a fantastic partnership between the private and the public sector. The key sponsors of the event have stayed with us right from 1996 and their numbers have increased over the years. This year we have 27 key sponsors and 100 support sponsors. The commitment of our stakeholders have been very rewarding. There is a major retail network that promotes the DSF. A shining example is the Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group that started out with 200 members in 1996, now they have more than 800 members. The gold and jewellery promotions during the DSF is one of the key attractions of the festival offering shoppers an opportunity to win 1kilo of gold everyday. The Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group has played a significant role along with the World Gold Council to promote Dubai's image as a city of gold.

GoDubai : The DSF has been a trendsetting festival in the Middle East. There are now similar festivals that are held in the other emirates and AGCC countries. How do you intend to maintain its original flavour and sustain the inflow of tourists?
The DSF has been the first of its kind anywhere in the Middle East. So now even if we hear of other shopping festivals, it has been quite easy to retain our original flavour and essence while adding value year. There are new and attractive events every year that hold the visitors in awe. It can be the balloon festival or the art oasis or the use of special pyrotechnics for a 20-minute fireworks display that give the festival its new look and feel every year. The number of key and support sponsors

About the inflow of tourists, we have different strategies to attract visitors of different countries. The strategy that we will adopt to attract tourists from South India will be quite different from the one that we will take to bring in visitors from Europe. For tourists from South India the possibility of buying and winning gold will seem very attractive while those from Europe will look at culture, heritage, hotels etc. But the fact is, that there is something for everyone during the DSF. Everybody returns with a rich experience of loaded with fun and entertainment.

GoDubai: Bigger, Better, Grander– the three buzzwords that characterize Dubai. How will DSF 2008 live up to it?
Dubai is our middle name and we are inspired to make the DSF bigger, grander and better every year. The DSF has grown along with the stupendous growth of the DSF. There is always something new to make a particular edition of the DSF stand out from the ones in the past. This year we have special events like the Dubai Food Festivals and Emirates World Records, the Dubai Fashion Week. So there is no doubt that we are matching Dubai's giant strides into the future.

GoDubai: This year you have started with a new theme of the “Fifth Season” to blend with the existing one of “One World, One Family, One Festival”, how do you think it will add to the success of Dubai's trademark festival?
We are continuing with the theme of the One World, One Family, One Festival but we have added a new slogan to help market the festival in foreign countries. The slogan for the first phase of the campaign was “A fifth season will bloom soon in Dubai” while the slogan for the second phase of the campaign is “Bloom in Dubai's Festive Season.” The theme of the fifth season positions Dubai as an exclusive period of festivities characterized by innumerable shopping opportunities, amazing entertainment events and a host of attractive prizes for shoppers.

GoDubai: You have something for everyone. What about those who are lesser privileged and cannot be out on the streets to sample the sights and sounds of the grand DSF?
If people cannot come to us, we take the festival to them. Through one of our sponsors, the Department of Health and Medical Services (DOHMS), we have drawn up several programmes where a lot of entertainment activities will be taken to sick and the elderly. There will be programmes where entertainers and performers will go visit the hospitals and the elderly in old age home and give them gifts so that they too can be a part of the fun-filled activities of the DSF. The Grand Mall

GoDubai: What is your personal contribution to the DSF? What difference do you think you have made as a Chief Strategy Officer?
It is the vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai and a dedicated teamwork that has made DSF as much a success as it is today. The key has been the ability to learn from our mistakes and avoid them in the future. (ends)

Posted: 19/01/2008

Source : GoDubai

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