DSS over 26 years: How the Summer Surprises festival has evolved


July 24, 2023 | By RetailME Bureau

DSS over 26 years: How the Summer Surprises festival has evolved

This year marks the 26th edition of the Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) running from June 29 to September 3. Organised by the Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), Dubai’s summer-centric event DSS has witnessed many twists and turns along the way. From answering questions such as ‘who would come to Dubai during summer’, DSS has ensured every summer is busier than the previous one.

“Last year we celebrated the 25th edition. This year, we’re in the 26th edition of the festival, and it’s a proven success,” said Suhaila Saqer Obaid Ghubash, Executive Director, Festival & Events at DFRE. “[When DSS started] Dubai at that time only had a handful of hotels. Now we have hundreds of them in the city – and this summer, they seem busier than ever.”

Ghubash, who started out as a volunteer and has been involved with the festival for 23 years said the idea of DSS was first floated at a majlis with the idea of attracting people to the emirate during the summer.

“At the beginning of DSS we had one or two malls as part of the event – now we have more than 35,” she shared. “The festival has hundreds of attractions and entertainment offers, so we have proven that people will and do come to Dubai in the summer, which is a great success story for this festival.”

“Over the years, the festival’s content has evolved from being just a small part of the annual calendar to something with much bigger that draws people to visit or stay in Dubai, including incredible concerts, unmissable retail offers and prizes, mall activations and hotel deals. There is so much more citywide engagement than there used to be.”

Each year, months go into the planning of the event, to make sure the festival is bigger, better and fresher than ever before, “That is the challenge,” Ghubash admitted.

Since this year’s 67-day festival began, visitors and residents have been taking advantage of a huge number of retail sales in Dubai, with up to 75% across over more than 3,000 outlets. Retail promotions have been a firm fixture since the early days of the festival, and the 2023 season is no different with promotions such as the DSS Amber Millionaire and DSS Beat the Clock with Rivoli Group among many more.

DSS means the perfect opportunity for tourists to visit Dubai to grab a luxury bargain as well as experience some of the summer attractions, many with special rates and deals. ‘Kids Go Free’ hotel stays and free entry to family attractions for children have become a popular feature of DSS, said Ghubash. “Families are the core of the festival,” she added.

Drawing tourists to Dubai is a critical part of the festival’s success, which is why significant efforts are invested in making sure their experiences of summer in the city are exceptional.

“From the time visitors make their booking to come to Dubai until they arrive here, from their experience in their hotel until they go and shop and enjoy their time in the city, we want to make it special,” said Ghubash. “We look into those details and make sure that the whole journey and the entire experience is memorable, so that we know when they go home, they leave with a lot of magical memories. That is what makes them come back again and again.”

The planning of DSS involves making sure new retail activations, prizes and entertainment offerings – like new acts and shows – are put on throughout the festival. It also means retaining and evolving much-loved elements, including the iconic Modesh and his friend Dana and their summer destination, Modesh World, and staging roadshows across the GCC ahead of DSS to generate buzz and entertainment in the final weeks before opening.

In summation, Ghubash mirrors the growth of DSS to the overall growth of Dubai. “So much has changed. DSS has evolved as the city has evolved. Dubai as a destination, of course, has contributed immensely to the content of the festival. That’s why we hope DSS will continue to grow for another 25 years and more.”

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