FROM THE OLD SOUKS STEEPED IN TRADITION TO THE MODERN DAZZLING MALLS OF THE FUTURE, DUBAI IS A SHOPPING LOVER'S PARADISE COMPLEMENTED BY AN ABUNDANCE OF CULINARY OPTIONS TO SATISFY THE DESIRES OF ALL.

Dubai has set itself an ambitious annual target of welcoming 20 million visitors by 2020.

In the lead up to Dubai Expo 2020, the emirate's tourism industry professionals are pulling out all the stops to diversify every aspect of the industry, already visible from the influx of mid-range accommodation options and world-class entertainment facilities, to the development of an extensive events calendar.

In particular, 2016 was a memorable year for the emirate with the inauguration of an array of unparalleled attractions aiming to broaden the destination's appeal, including Dubai Opera, Etihad Museum, IMG Worlds of Adventure, as well as Dubai Parks and Resorts.

These additions, alongside a five percent increase in room supply – which has now surpassed 102,800 keys – are the accomplishments of significant investments into advancing overall tourism infrastructure.

All in all, these serve as a clear reflection of what Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) describes as the efficacy of the emirate's outward-facing measures and its proposition enhancement. This whirlwind of activity is what sets Dubai apart as a leading tourist hotspot over destinations in the region.

Mohamad Awadalla, CEO, TIME Hotels, enthused, "Dubai is a standing jewel in the Middle East with nonstop development in every industry."

RETAIL THERAPY

Besides Dubai's aim of boosting arrivals, Dubai Tourism has also outlined a strategic plan for increasing the industry's contribution to GDP.

While the destination is yet to reap the benefits of its latest attractions, the emirate has a well established retail sector, which according to Dubai Tourism is a core pillar of its tourism sector and undoubtedly plays a big part in Dubai's ranking as number four in terms of highest average spend per tourist.

Indeed, as disclosed by H.E. Sami Al Qamzi, director general, Department of Economic Development, retail is a dominant economic activity, contributing up to 30 percent of the emirate's GDP.

Al Qamzi clarified, "[...] The sector will play a key role in Dubai achieving its tourism vision [...]."

As a retail haven, Dubai has it all.

From indulging in the extravagant haute couture of The Dubai Mall's dedicated Fashion Avenue to bargain hunting the emirate's two outlet centres or engaging in the art of bartering at the historic souks, Dubai is considered a one-stop shopping destination that appeals to every kind of visitor.

As Samarth Bahl, director, sales, Dusit Thani Dubai, summarised, "Dubai as a city is very vibrant and offers all kinds of shopping facilities and bargains at various price points from the Spice Market, to Meena Baazar, to high-end fashion retail stores in Dubai Mall and design district.

It is just unbeatable in terms of options, choice, variety, and yet can accommodate any budget."

With its reputation as a global leader and innovator, it is no surprise that the emirate is home to the world's largest shopping mall in terms of total area, The Dubai Mall, which is currently undergoing a vast expansion. In Dubai, shopping malls are more than just a collection of retail outlets.

They offer a multitude of dining and entertainment options, making these shopping centres destinations within themselves.

Further consolidating its position as a hub of adventure and thrilling activities, Mall of the Emirates boasts Ski Dubai, a 2.25ha indoor ski resort, while The Dubai Mall features a lineup of family friendly leisure offerings such as KidZania and Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo.

In addition to the contemporary retail centres dotted throughout the city, travellers seeking a more encompassing cultural experience tend to enjoy the bustling souks of the old city, explained Mark Deere, general manager, Amwaj Rotana Jumeirah Beach.

Overall, Dubai's divergent retail offerings are a reflection of the expeditious evolution from a humble pre-oil trading hub to the megalopolis of today.

Hoping to provide its guests with an immersive experience, while capitalising on the hotel's convenient setting, Stephan Vanden Auweele, area general manager, Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers, outlined, "Being located in the authentic part of Dubai, we offer cycling tours into the old souks [...].”