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Destination Dubai is a huge success

Destination Dubai is a huge success

Laila Suhail, the CEO of the DSF Office, says that the increasing popularity of the shopping festivals has helped in building brand Dubai.

September 9, 2008 10:14 by

She is a woman with many roles. Laila Suhail, the CEO of the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) Office, is also on the board of the Dubai Gold and Jeweler Group and part of the Dubai Shopping Malls Group Committee.

“It’s easy because all of them ultimately aim at promoting Dubai as a destination,” she says. Suhail has covered 24 DSF and Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) festivals over the last 14 years, and in 2001, she was also given the Government Excellence Award by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed, for garnering record sponsorships during DSF 2000.

With the DSS 2008 recently concluding, the Business Weekly’s Sharmila Dhal caught up with Suhail to talk about the festivals, and find out her future plans.

You’ve been with the DSF Office for well over a decade, holding various posts including that of chief strategy officer before becoming the CEO. How have you contributed to the success of DSS and DSF?

The success of DSS and DSF today is because of team work. By team work, I mean not only the support and participation of the Government but also our partners in the private sector and the public at large.
As for my own strengths, I think I am creative and have the ability to construct a picture by linking dots from here and there. I began working at the age of 18 and can generate ideas and concepts. I have been with DSF for 14 years and this has given me huge experience and learning.

How have DSS and DSF evolved over the years?

When we started, the concept of a festival was not clear. But over the last 14 years, DSF has grown around the changes that Dubai has and one of the biggest successes in branding we have today is that of ‘Destination Dubai’.
Also, we try and add something new every year.

Apart from the varying times of the year that they are held, are there any other basic differences between DSS and DSF?

Yes. DSF is focused more on shopping with emphasis on bargains, sales and other attractions. DSS is more entertainment-oriented, entails a lot of activities and is more indoor. Both the festivals convey the same message of Dubai as a tourist destination. So there is bound to be some amount of overlap in terms of entertainment and shopping in the two festivals.

With prices skyrocketing, Dubai is no longer perceived as a shopper’s paradise. Cities like New York and Hong Kong for instance are considered a better bargain for branded clothes. What do you have to say about this?

I do not think so. While there is inflation all over the world, the growth of the retail sector in Dubai is there for all to see. In fact, we often have a situation where brands go out of stock. It is a challenge for us to keep up supplies with demand.
The increasing number of visitors that we get also proves that Dubai remains an attractive destination for shopping. It has the right kind of infrastructure and facilities that are required for shopping.

On a comparative scale, which brings in more revenue, DSS or DSF? And why?

Talking about revenue, I must clarify that we are not a revenue-driven organization. We are self-financed. We only recover our costs from the festivals. Our objective is clear; to boost tourism and the economy of Dubai. So we measure our success in terms of the number of people participating in the festivals and the total spend.
Over the years, as you can see, the figures under both these heads have been very encouraging.

You have spearheaded the Modhesh brand. How did you arrive at this idea?

Modhesh is our ambassador who does a great job despite the summer getting too hot for him. He carries a simple message: Big fun for little ones. The concept came from a television programme on DSF 2000 where a father was gifting a toy to his child. Today, Modhesh is a strong brand.

You are the first woman CEO of the DSF Office. Do you think there are enough opportunities for women in general in Dubai?

Dubai is very supportive of women. And they hold very high posts in different sectors. We are very well taken care of.

What are your expansion plans for DSS and DSF?

As of now, all I can say is that we will be strengthening the two brands. We will be adding new departments and facilitating better event management. From the consumers’ point of view, we will be identifying needs, planning more offerings and hopefully exceeding expectations.

What new can we expect at the next DSF?

That’s a surprise. We are in the process of finalizing the agenda.

First seen on The Business Weekly.

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