Posted on September 01, 2014

The Qatar winner of the coveted DSS Apprenticeship Program 2014, Najla Al-Thani from Stenden University, has returned home after successfully completing a two-week internship program held in Dubai, where she represented her country alongside 16 other students from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The award-winning destination marketing internship program is organized by the Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), an agency of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), and organizers of Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS). The program successfully concluded its 9th edition in Dubai recently, offering the brightest students from the region the opportunity to share their creative ideas on engaging new audiences from their respective markets to visit the iconic summer festival, DSS.

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“We are proud to have concluded yet another successful edition of the DSS Apprenticeship Program in Dubai. On behalf of the entire team at DFRE, I would like to congratulate all the students on completing this internship, which we hope has contributed towards their all-round professional and personal development. All of the 17 interns have worked very hard towards proposing innovative strategies and fresh ideas towards the development of DFRE’s annual calendar of festivals and campaigns. We would like to thank them for their sincere efforts and wish them every success in the future,” said H.E. Laila Mohammed Suhail, Chief Executive Officer, DFRE.

As part of their busy itinerary in Dubai, the winning interns participated in several interactive sessions with senior officials of key business and media giants including MBC Group, who offered them an exclusive tour of their state-of-the-art studio facility located in their headquarters based in Dubai Media City. During the program, they also met with top representatives from the city’s prominent home-grown establishments such as Emirates, Dubai Airports, Emirates Flight Catering, Dubai FDI and Majid Al Futtaim Group amongst others.

The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Facebook’s MEA regional office in Dubai was a key highlight of their agenda in the emirate. An exclusive tour of Facebook’s office located in Dubai Internet City was followed by a series of stimulating, thought-provoking and informative talks led by the organization’s top regional executives including Jonathan Labin, Head of Sales – MEA. The students had the opportunity to learn about Facebook’s global strategy and focus, regional growth story, and its significance to marketers and advertisers in reaching out to the masses.

The trip to Modhesh World, the region’s most popular edutainment destination, turned out to be a refreshing break for all the interns as they took home lasting memories of the 15th anniversary celebrations of the family hot spot located at the Dubai World Trade Centre. The experience also offered them a taste of working in the leisure industry, with hands-on activities designed to expose them to interacting with residents and visitors of all ages and nationalities.

A visit to Dubai’s signature landmarks such as Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, Ski Dubai, the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East located within Mall of the Emirates, and the chance to enjoy a classic desert safari – one of the most popular attractions that visitors from around the world look forward to in the emirate – rounded up the students’ two-week long trip in Dubai. At the end of the two-week program, the 17 interns were required to work on team presentations in which they were assigned the task of auditing DFRE’s existing portfolio of festivals – which includes DSS, Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), Ramadan in Dubai, Eid in Dubai and others – to conceptualize a new brand that would reinforce DFRE’s commitment to continue showcasing Dubai as the international destination of choice. 

The final team presentations were attended by senior executives ‎from DFRE, Dubai FDI and The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management (EAHM), who together applauded the efforts of all the students in developing comprehensive plans and thanked them for introducing fresh strategies that will be considered and implemented in future marketing campaigns for DFRE’s annual calendar of festivals.

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During their time in Dubai the students stayed at The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management (EAHM) – one of the world’s leading hospitality business management schools and part of Jumeirah Group, a luxury hotel company and a member of Dubai Holding. EAHM has served as a strategic partner of the program for the last three years, hosting the students at its state-of-the-art facilities and offering them a glimpse into the working of the city’s hospitality industry – one of the lynchpins of Dubai’s tourism success story – through a stimulating series of onsite training sessions.

Commenting on her experiences of the program, Najla said, “The program has re-fuelled my passion for tourism. I can’t wait to go back home and apply the lessons I have learned here in Dubai. It was a truly enriching and encouraging experience.”

The 9th edition of the DSS Apprenticeship Program hosted its largest-ever group of 17 students this year, each representing a key market from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with three first-time market participants including Yemen, Tunisia and Libya. The program has enjoyed significant growth over the last eight years, expanding from two participating markets in 2006 to 17 markets in this year’s edition. More than 100 universities were invited to participate this year, which is a step forward in DFRE’s broader strategy to take the program global by 2015, when it will reach its 10-year milestone. 

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