Thursday, August 5, 2010

A 30% Increase in Middle Eastern Tourists at Chic Outlet Shopping Villages

With shopping being something of a national obsession in the Middle East, it’s probably no surprise to learn that travellers from this part of the world are just as determined to indulge in this favourite pastime when they’re abroad as they are when they’re at home.

Value Retail - which operates nine ‘Chic Outlet Shopping Villages’ around Europe - says its has received a thirty percent increase in Middle Eastern visitors in the first quarter of this year and it is now targeting a 52 percent increase by the end of the year.

The luxury European shopping villages are proving popular with Middle Eastern customers for a number of reasons.

Chic Outlet Shopping Villages offer luxury designer goods from top fashion and lifestyle brands such as Armani, Gucci, Givenchy, Dolce & Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli to name just a few, at discounts of up to 60 percent. Not only that, but visitors from the Middle East are allowed to claim an additional tax free saving of up to 15 percent, making for some fairly phenomenal savings to be made on designer goods.

According to Sally Beames, director, Marketing, PR and Tourism, Value Retail, the Chic Outlet Shopping experience is not only about grabbing a Gucci handbag at rock bottom prices.It’s also about the entire ‘shopping experience’ itself, which she explains offers something completely different to the mega-mall concept found in the Middle East.

“Shopping is a way of life in the Middle East, but what’s interesting is how different the shopping experience is in our villages compared to the retail experience here,” says Beams. “We think that’s what’s endearing us to our Middle Eastern customers.”

One major draw is the style and architecture of villages themselves which feature elegant boutiques, cafes, and restaurants: “The scale of the villages is very small in comparison to a Middle Eastern mall. They are built for a European vernacular and are European in architecture. Each village has its own identity, reflecting the locale it resides in. And the shopping experience is outdoors so in every way it’s a quintessentially European experience,” she adds.

Another bonus is that each village is strategically located close to major European tourist hot spots approximately one hour away from the destination cities of Barcelona, Brussels, Antwerp, Cologne, Dublin, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Munich and Paris.

“The locations in Europe are chosen in very interesting areas where people can combine shopping with culture, shopping with sightseeing, shopping with spa, shopping with food or shopping with a children’s activity such as Disney Land Paris,” explains Beams.

Value Retail is now on a major push to bring more shoppers from the Middle East to its villages and is looking to work with travel agents across the region to do this.

“We have been working towards the best way of adding value to the travel agent so that this can be a money-making opportunity for them too,” says Naz Musa, managing partner, Gulf Reps who is representing Value Retail in the Gulf.

The villages have created packages in conjunction with local hotels, attractions, tourist boards and transport handlers that travel agents can simply pre-sell to their clients.

“They are simple packages, spa and shopping, dinner and shopping. It gives the travel agent community in the region something to pre-sell and make a commission out of when all the airlines have cut commissions and hotels have cut commissions.

Its another ancilliary option to give something the client wants, pre-arranged, pre-sold and commissionable to the travel agent community for the first time ever this year,” says Musa.

In terms of the target customer, Beams describes this as anyone that is “used to spending money” – the average GCC shopper spends €300 per visit to Chic Outlet Shopping, She adds: “The typical customer is someone who knows Europe very well.

Possibly has a house there, definitely travels there over the summer, knows their brands very well, and appreciates the newness of the brands that are being offered to them,” said Beams Musa explains: “Our focus initially was the expatriate market, just because it was a quick win market for the UAE but very quickly it became apparent that the Arabic market was the lucrative shopping market, especially outside the UAE. They are the ones who specifically travel for shopping and they spend the most so they are our target audience.”

As for which villages are set to prove the biggest hits with Middle Eastern customers this year, Value Retail is predicting that the Spanish villages – Las Rozas in Madrid and La Roca in Barcelona are set to make an impact thanks to new direct flights routes opening up to those cities with Emirates and Qatar Airways.

“Spain is going to be interesting for us,” said Beams. “We are now able to focus on Spain more because we’ve got access to it.”

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