Mega doubts as Dubai mall to open amid global crisis

DUBAI, November 4, 2008 (AFP) – The vast Dubai Mall shopping centre is finally set to open for business on Tuesday but the success of the 20-billion-dollar project is far from certain amid the global economic crisis.

The mall will be one of the world’s largest with 1,200 shops, four times as many as the new Westfield centre in London, but it will be a tough call for the owners to meet their target of 30 million visitors in the first year.

“The impact of the financial crisis is being felt everywhere and that includes the United Arab Emirates, where the appeal of shopping centres could suffer from restrictions imposed by banks on the use of credit cards,” said economist Eckart Woertz from the Dubai-based Gulf Research Centre.

In addition, “the purchasing power of the residents of Dubai and Abu Dhabi has dropped in the the past few years due to the surging cost of housing,” he told AFP.

Dubai Mall is at the bottom of the Burj Dubai — already the tallest building on earth at around 700 metres (765.5 yards) and still under construction.

The mall is scheduled to house branches of some of the world’s best known retail chains, such as Marks and Spencer, Galeries Lafayette and even Bloomingdales, whic