Dubai gears up for shopping trip

As another record-breaking Gitex closes, the city gets ready for the ultimate shopping trip. That is entirely appropriate for a dynamic economic system founded on trading expertise

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By  Frank Kane Published  November 22, 2006

In a nation of merchants, the sales conference is the ultimate event, and so it has proved in this year’s Gitex exhibition. Now that the pomp, pageantry and (sometimes) sheer frenzy is dying down around Dubai’s conference area, it is time to assess the event that ranks as one of the greatest technology shows on earth.

As predicted, the statistics broke all records – 130,000 visitors came to see products and services from 1,200 exhibitors representing 2,300 companies from 61 countries. The simultaneous staging of GulfComms appears to have been successful too. There has as yet been no official count of the number of vehicles milling round the World Trade Centre are at the peak of the even, but that too must have been a record – and one which the organisers of next year’s event must seriously grapple with. Traffic flows at times were close to bursting point.

Also unquantifiable is the amount of business which this event generates, but it must be ranked in the billions of dollars. Quite apart from all the official launches and sales pitches for new products, there must be a multiplier effect to all that networking. The Norwegian telecoms executive who bumped into the Chinese manufacturer at the party thrown by the American software company will surely have a bigger, and more global export book that in 2006. This is the Gitex magic. Dubai puts on a great technology show. But even as the stands are being taken down at the end of the show, Dubai s getting ready for the next big thing. Shopping is close to being the national past-time already, but in less than a month from now it will become an obsession. The Dubai Shopping Festival kicks of next month, bigger and better than ever after the sad disappointment of cancellation ealier this year.

The organisers are now planning for the event to last 45 days, compared to 32 in 2005, and for the first time it will span the Christmas, New Year and Eid al Adha holiday periods, which always prompt an upward trend in spending. In 2005, when the event took lace in February, some 3.3 million visitors spent AED7 billion in Dubai’s shopping malls. They will be lured, as usual, by the excellent range of products on sale, but also by the prospect of winning cars, jewellery, cash and other treasures in the raffles, which this year will total AED50 million.

So as one show closes, another begins. It is entirely appropriate for a city like Dubai, with its tradition of global trading and commercial enterprise, should move so effortlessly from one big money-spinning party to another.

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