Big business: retail destinations

In a bid to attract record visitor numbers, some of the world’s most entrepreneurial cities are creating jaw-dropping shopping destinations alongside high-end leisure and hospitality infrastructures

Nothing beats retail therapy to uplift one’s mood – and put an emerging city on the world tourism map. According to an April 2013 study by CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate services company, an unprecedented 32 million sq m of shopping centre space is currently under construction globally. That is 15 per cent more than a year ago, with most of the development activity concentrated in emerging markets.

China continues to dominate development activity worldwide, with seven out of the 10 most active development markets globally in the country. In order to attract international retailers and shoppers, the Chinese schemes are also providing grand-scale leisure attractions. Creating destinations where people want to spend time is ‘the holy grail’ for new large-scale shopping centres around the world, explains CBRE.

One example is Chongqing, ranking fifth in the list of global cities with the most shopping space under construction. The Chinese city’s new 100,000 sq m development, Riverside Landmark, will offer visitors a vast array of shops as well as Madame Tussauds and Sea Life when it opens in 2015.

In Europe, Istanbul and St Petersburg are the only cities on the top 10 most active markets globally whilst the rest of the market is at a standstill. Other cities experiencing substantial expansion worldwide include Kuala Lumpur, Moscow, Hanoi, and New Delhi. Notwithstanding Abu Dhabi, which ranks 10th in the CBRE list.

“Dubai and Abu Dhabi have both seen huge growth in their retail economies due in part to the boom in shopping centre development but also to the rapidly expanding tourism industry. More recently, new shopping centres have become larger with leisure attractions becoming an increasingly important part of the mix. Bowling, cinemas, ice rinks and amusement areas are now commonplace and have created ‘destination’ centres that have also become social meeting points, particularly among the young local population. This has created a new dynamic with shopping centres evolving into a place to be, not just to shop,” the CBRE study says.

Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment (DEPE), organiser of the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), says retail tourism remains a catalyst for the city’s economic growth. “No doubt, DSF has stimulated economic activity in Dubai and continues to help maintain the city’s global status,” said HE Laila Mohd Suhail, DEPE’s CEO. Paris, London and Rome beware: the most visited cities of the future will not only have to offer a lot to do and see, but also have malls rivaling Versailles.