Chinese New Year heralds tourism influx for Dubai

Credit: Emirates News

Dubai is welcoming a surge in Chinese tourists who are fast becoming some of the biggest overseas spenders, globally.

This weekend marks Chinese New Year, the beginning of the lunar Year of the Horse, but for many well-to-do Chinese it’s a time for an overseas vacation and some luxury retail therapy.

Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing has recognised the value of the Chinese yuan – with around a quarter of a million visitors a year, up 28 per cent annually, according to their most recent figures.

Courtesy of UAE Interact / UAE National Media Council

DTCM has strengthened its focus this year, targeting Chinese tourists with valuable offers and discounts, especially during festivals like this weekend’s Chinese New Year.

Dubai’s world famous brands and labels, and favorable prices continually draw the Chinese, who are among the top consumers of luxury products, but constantly on the lookout for cheaper options than their domestic offerings, which attract taxes as high as 40 per cent.

For those who travel here, duty-free shopping was listed among the major attractions for Chinese tourists.

Elmo Kaidullah is the manager of the world’s largest shopping center, The Dubai Mall, and he says Chinese consumers are spending more now on every single purchase than consumers from any other countries.

“We recognize that they are becoming more acute in details, looking after more specific information, they are much more aware about the trend, the changes, the new comers, the new launches in the market,” says Kaidullah.

He says Chinese shoppers generally prefer leather bags, watches, accessories and cosmetics.

He added that their consumption habits have continually evolved with times as they are becoming better informed and more familiar with luxury products.

The DTCM says much of the growth in tourism can be attributed to destination marketing, and as of September last year, they now have four offices based in mainland China.

Originally broadcast on Emirates News, 31 January 2014

Desert Ice Cafe

Image Credit: Chillout Cafe Dubai

Dubai is renowned for its year-round warmth and iconic landmarks, but there’s also a place visitors can take in the sights without working up a sweat.

At the Chillout ice lounge in the Times Square mall, sub-zero temperatures not only keep the tourists cool, but prevent the ice sculptures of Dubai’s best-known landmarks from melting.

Visitors are supplied with thermal jackets, boots and fur hats as they enter the cafe, which holds its temperature at a constant minus-six degrees Celsius.

Image Credit: Chillout Cafe Dubai

Hani Fanoos is the head of service. He says, “This country is known for its really hot weather, so to have a place made of ice like this is a really unique idea.”

Fanoos says most visitors came from Gulf countries which, with their traditionally hot and arid climates, never experience snow or ice.

They focus on attracting return visitors too.

“Every year, especially during the month of Ramadan when we are closed,” he says, “we do new ice carvings, come up with new ideas and new ice figures as well.”

It is not just the sculptures that are frozen. Everything from the chandeliers and paintings, to the tables, chairs and plates, and even the menu, are all carved out of ice.

Chillout first opened its doors in 2007. Visitors pay AED60 for a 40- minute visit, including a hot drink.

For one Saudi family, it was the first time they had come across such a concept.

Janna Aref says, “It’s a new idea and I don’t think it exists anywhere else in the Arab world.”

As well providing visitors with warm clothes, the cafe also covers its frozen seats with fur and treats the floor to prevent slipping.

Owners say the ice lounge attracts around 100 visitors a day.

Originally featured on Emirates News, 17 May 2013