Gulf must package sporting events to boost tourism

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Friday, May 06, 2011

Gulf News

Dubai The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) should increase efforts to capitalise on its major sporting events and turn them into a sustainable source of year-round tourism revenue, according to a top manager in the UAE sports industry.

“I don’t think enough is being done to package the sporting events with hotels and airlines to sell packages to these events,” said Maqbul Dudhia, head of sports business at Dubai Sports CityDubai Sports City. “Promoting Dubai as a destination around the sport is the challenge we need to enact.”

The UAE hosts major sports events in everything from the F1 to golf and Qatar has successfully bid to host the World Cup in 2022, so the region’s sports calendar is picking up.

A panel of sports industry representatives stressed the importance of using sports events to encourage fans to extend their stay beyond the seasonal games, they said during the Arabian Travel Market.

About 30,000 tourists per year come to Dubai to play golf and the number is expected to grow in future as professional games and Emirati pro golfers develop, said Chris May, General Manager of Dubai Golf.

The Dubai Desert Classic, for example, has an important impact on putting the region in the attention span of tourists who would want to play on the same golf course where Tiger Woods played, said May.

To encourage sports tourism, Dubai Sports CityDubai Sports City is working to bring international teams to train in Dubai, said Dudhia.

Qatar is developing “good relations” between its Olympic Committee and tourism authority to promote sports tourism in the country, said Hassan Abdullah Al Mohamedi, head of media for the Qatar Olympic Committee.

“Seventy per cent of hotels in Qatar depend on sports events,” he told Gulf News. Ahead of the World Cup it will host in 2022, Qatar has a budget of $100 billion to spend on infrastructure of which $4 billion will be spent on sports infrastructure alone, he said.

He emphasised the business aspect of the event and the importance of using sports to increase tourism and tourist spending.

Chris Foy, head of the 2012 Games Unit at Visit Britain said major sports events create a “legacy” or a “footprint” after the athletes leave.

By Deena Kamel Yousef?Staff Reporter

© Gulf News 2011. All rights reserved.