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 programme 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 programme is organised by the Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), an agency of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), and organisers 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.

HE Laila Mohammed Suhail, Chief Executive Officer of DFRE, said:

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.’

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,  and 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 organisation’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. 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.

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. 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.

Commenting on her experiences of the program, Najla said:

The program has re-fueled 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.