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The Promenade aT The dubai mall

shOpping Oasis RETAIL DEVELOPERS HAVE PLAYED A KEY ROLE IN TURNING DUbAI INTO A POPULAR

shOpping

Oasis

RETAIL DEVELOPERS HAVE PLAYED A KEY ROLE IN TURNING DUbAI INTO A POPULAR GLObAL TOURIST DESTINATION

by Spencer rumsey

D ubai has left its days as a pearl-fishing

village on the persian gulf far behind to become a world-class, modern-day cos-

mopolitan ports complete with skyscrapers and huge shopping malls. but such

glittering spoils of the oil wealth of this united arab emirates city are not for

the benefit of its inhabitants only. On the contrary, dubai, whose population was

about 30,000 in 1930 and now numbers about 2 million, is turning into a destina-

tion for tourists from all over the world — roughly 10 million per year. and some

of these visitors are enjoying activities not normally associated with the arabian

peninsula. “i went skiing at the Mall of the emirates,” said Christina Walsh, a

25-year-old new yorker who has visited dubai twice in the past two years. “it was

really fun and more challenging than we assumed, considering it was indoors. it

looks like you’re in Vermont!”

Of course, snow would have been the furthest thing from the minds of the bedouin tribesmen who settled near the mouth of dubai Creek in the 19th century — tradesmen and savvy merchants at heart, willing to take pains to meet their customers’ needs for camels and pearls, for dates and fish, and for any of the finest goods available from the lateen-rigged ships sailing the gulf and the arabian sea. in only a few generations, their success has been phenomenal. but no one could have foreseen that this humble settlement would grow to someday boast the largest shopping center on the planet: Mall of the World, a joint venture of emaar properties and dubai holding unveiled

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last november as part of the Moham- med bin rashid City mixed-use de- velopment, which

last november as part of the Moham- med bin rashid City mixed-use de- velopment, which is projected to draw some 80 million visitors per year. the emirate is today a global retail powerhouse, thanks to its state-of-the-art shopping centers, according to david Macadam, CeO and vice chairman of the Middle east Council of shopping Centres. “in dubai you can now find more brands than in any city of the world except london,” Macadam said. the retailers’ success can be easily quan- tified, says Macadam, by looking at the figures of dubai’s two super-regional malls: the dubai Mall, an emaar devel- opment; and Mall of the emirates, devel- oped by Majid al futtaim. “the dubai Mall has over 65 million visitors yearly, which equates to more than 180,000 shoppers per day,” he said. “the Mall of the emirates is ranked as the seventh- most-productive shopping center in the world, with annual sales averaging over $1,450 of sales per square foot.” Keeping the customers coming is the dubai shopping festival, now in its 18th year, which promises “one of the best shopping experiences in the world” and draws tourists from the gulf Coast countries and elsewhere. last year’s event drew 3.4 million, according to the dubai department of tourism & Com- merce Marketing. the next festival is scheduled for Jan. 2 — feb. 2, 2014.

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the credit for dubai’s develop- ment goes to the “wise vision of the late sheikh Zayed and sheikh Maktoum,” according to the government’s website, because they took advantage of both the discovery of oil in 1966 and the de- parture of the british in 1971 to invest petroleum revenues in an international airport and a deep-water harbor with low import duties. this free-trade for- mula turned dubai, second-largest of the seven emirates of the united arab emirates — abu dhabi being the largest — into a business and tourism hub. “his highness sheikh rashid bin saeed al Maktoum was quoted as say- ing, ‘What is good for the merchants is good for dubai,’ ” said phil Mcarthur, president of dubai-based Mcarthur & Co., which handles development, leasing, operations and marketing for shopping centers in the region. “his son, his highness sheikh Mohammed bin rashid al Maktoum, the current ruler of dubai, has completely en- dorsed this vision.” “dubai has strived to position itself in the tourism industry with its luxuri- ous hotels and beach resorts, its devel- oped infrastructure and airport, and the growing importance of emirates air- lines,” sais andrew Williamson, Jones lang lasalle’s head of retail for the Middle east–north africa region. the growth of government-owned emirates

The luxury courT aT mall of The emiraTeS, in dubai

airlines is emblematic of the growth of the city itself: in 1985 the airline had only two planes, but today the fleet com- prises about 200, serving 130 destina- tions in about 60 countries. “the [2012] announcement of Mall of the World as the largest shopping cen- ter in the world reinforces the position of the retail market in dubai as a tourist destination,” said Williamson. part of the Mohammed bin rashid City develop- ment in partnership with universal stu- dios, it will not be completed for several years, but it would not have gotten off the ground without the success of the two pri- mary super-regional malls and their status as tourist attractions, Williamson says. Meanwhile, some of dubai’s older malls, such as al futtaim’s deira City Centre, built in 1995, and al ghurair group’s burJuman, completed in 2004, are being refurbished to compete with the newer shopping centers, he says. getting here has not been easy, of course. in november 2009 dubai was broke, according to a Time magazine arti- cle that said the emirate had to postpone payments on “some of its $80 billion in debt.” and yet that was also the year that saw the opening of the burj Khalifa, a soaring edifice of residences, corporate suites, restaurants and hotel rooms that was then billed as the world’s tallest

building — at some 2,600 feet high and with 54 elevators, a swimming pool on the 76th floor and an observation deck commanding a 50-mile view. the burj al arab — a waterfront hotel so luxuri- ous that its developers felt justified in claiming a seemingly tongue-in-cheek seven-star rating, two more than the five typically associated with something so opulent — is modeled to resemble a dhow, the traditional lateen-sailed craft that plowed the gulf for generations. then there is the palm Jumeirah, a man- made archipelago in the shape of a date palm. an island taking shape in Jebel ali harbor will feature a breakwater spelling out the words “it takes a man of vision to write on water” — a line from the po- etry of dubai’s ruler, sheikh Moham- med bin rashid al Maktoum. the real estate market in dubai continues to improve alongside other sectors, according to bansrelal gos- hichand, marketing and public-relations manager at the local Jones lang lasalle office. “the strongest performance in the office sector remains concentrated in the best-quality projects in prime lo- cations,” goshichand said. the residen- tial and retail markets are witnessing a more broad-based recovery, while the hotel sector has maintained its strong growth and the industrial sector contin- ues to expand.” the retail market apparently still has room to grow. “While dubai will see a number of new shopping centers in the coming years, we believe there is de- mand for those retail centers,” said Wil- liamson. “the demand is coming from the growing resident population in dubai, as well as the strong number of tourists. … dubai is a cosmopolitan city that has diverse retail requirements.” dubai has some 30 million square feet of existing retail gross leasable area and an additional 11 million square feet in various stages of development, ac- cording to Mcarthur. this works out to about 14 square feet per capita — hence

the dependence on tourism for sustain- ability. so far the formula seems to be working. even those smaller retail centers that “have been suffering in the last few years and were eclipsed by the large super- regional malls are doing better now,” according to Williamson. Community centers, too, are drawing the interest of developers, he says, because the sur- rounding neighborhoods have been

growing, sparking demand for house- hold items and goods and services. “everything to do with the infrastruc- ture of the country is very strong,” said Macadam, citing the hotels, beaches, power grid, highways and airports as top- of-the-line. “you’re coming to a first-world place,” he said. “everything is kind of new and shiny, and the people in that region are not used to new and shiny, so when they do come there, it’s all great.” SCT

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Resort & Spa • Phoenix, AZ December 3 – 4, 2013 This year’s line-up of speakers

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