'Gastronomy plays a huge role in drawing tourists to Dubai', says DFRE CEO Ahmed Al Khaja
Now Reading
‘Gastronomy plays a huge role in drawing tourists to Dubai’, says DFRE CEO Ahmed Al Khaja

‘Gastronomy plays a huge role in drawing tourists to Dubai’, says DFRE CEO Ahmed Al Khaja

The CEO of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE) tells us about the growth and impact of Dubai Food Festival, and how it has positioned the emirate as an international culinary hub

Neesha Salian

The 11th edition of the Dubai Food Festival (DFF) concluded on May 12, marking the end of a 23-day culinary extravaganza, which showcased Dubai’s rich and diverse gastronomic landscape.

This annual event, designed to elevate Dubai’s status as a global hub for culinary excellence, featured a comprehensive programme of activities, including special menus, events, promotions, and more.

With 769 participating restaurants, including establishments recognised by Michelin and Gault&Millau, DFF 2024 attracted attention from food enthusiasts worldwide. The festival also welcomed 778 chefs, including international talents, who contributed to various culinary events and activations throughout the festival.

Highlights of the festival included Dubai Restaurant Week, the 10 Dirham Dish initiative, e& Beach Canteen and Foodie Experiences, each providing great opportunities to explore Dubai’s culinary offerings.

Here, Ahmed Al Khaja, CEO of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), talks about DFF’s role in promoting Dubai’s food scene, enhancing the city’s lifestyle experience and promoting tourism.

What distinguishes Dubai as a global gastronomy hub?

Dubai is home to more than 200 nationalities and nowhere is this thrilling diversity showcased more vividly than across the emirate’s gastronomy ecosystem that comprises around 13,000 restaurants and cafés.

In an era where gastronomy is increasingly playing a pivotal role in the attractiveness of tourism destinations, Dubai’s culinary proposition is more exciting than ever.

Diverse and vibrant, the dining options in Dubai have helped place the city on the global culinary stage, and its breadth of food offerings – whether they are Michelin Star restaurants or homegrown gems – continually draws the attention of travellers from across the world.

How does the annual Dubai Food Festival (DFF) set itself apart in showcasing the city’s culinary diversity, and what broader trends in culinary tourism does it align with?

A world-renowned city that tops many travellers’ must-visit lists, Dubai’s ingenuity is mirrored by its food.

The annual Dubai Food Festival (DFF) is a culmination and celebration of this extraordinary spectrum of experiences – from dishes that start at Dhs10 to fine dining and every foodie experience in between. We just wrapped up its 11th edition, which concluded on May 12. It brought the city together by offering gastronomic experiences at accessible price points, activations, events and special menus for residents and visitors, with more than 700 restaurants participating this year.

For visitors, sampling Dubai’s rich flavours is not only something to do while staying in the city; for an increasing number, it is the main reason they visit the emirate.

The global culinary tourism market was valued at $946.4bn in 2023 and is projected to reach $3,515.1bn by 2032, and this concept of culinary tourism goes far beyond the traditional idea of sightseeing. Rather, it is driven by a passion for immersive dining, gastronomy exploration, and the growing trend of travellers seeking more authentic experiences.

Image: DFRE

What has made the festival appealing to visitors over the years?

DFF has always been a thrilling opportunity for visitors to experience the top-rated restaurants in the city, including some of the 90 destinations named in the Michelin Guide Dubai and those in The 2024 Middle East and North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

Furthermore, the city’s greatest landmarks and attractions can be witnessed from the hundreds of restaurants which sit in prime locations at places such as Souk Al Bahar which overlooks the Dubai Fountains, Souk Madinat’s 50-plus eateries which take in Burj Al Arab Jumeirah views, and beachfront restaurants where authentic Emirati flavours can be enjoyed with sea views and a community spirit.

As well as offering existing visitors plenty of reasons to return, DFF experiences shared online and on social platforms help us pique the interest of would-be travellers watching the festival unfold on their screens. As hundreds of thousands of people tuck into culinary experiences across the city, they eagerly share these unique experiences online.

We know that social media is a vital tool in shaping travel-related decisions today with 75 per cent of travellers seeking inspiration from social platforms – and what is more visually appealing than mouthwatering cuisine being enjoyed in an iconic setting?

What is the significance of events like DFF in spotlighting the city’s diverse culinary scene?

As Dubai continues to establish itself as a leading global gastronomic hub – in line with its broader vision to double the size of its economy by 2033 and solidify its position as one of the world’s best cities to live, work and visit – DFF serves as an important platform to showcase Dubai’s culinary excellence.

Every edition of the food festival has provided an extraordinary opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in the city’s heritage and discover the diverse culinary landscape of Dubai.

Through emotive, authentic, diverse and value-driven culinary experiences, food enthusiasts can engage with the city’s rich blend of flavours in experiences that truly encapsulate the essence of Dubai. This will ensure they keep coming back for more – year after year.

You might also like


Scroll To Top