Sports tourists have been flocking to the UAE in recent months and are expected to boost the local hospitality and events economy by millions of euros.
In addition to hosting the European DP World Tour Championship and the Rugby World 7s, the UAE topped the list of preferred destinations for those travelling to the region to catch the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, with daily shuttles provided from Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport.
Latest figures from Dubai Sports Council show the sports sector has added more than €2 billion to the economy, accounting for 2.3% of the emirate's annual GDP.
The DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates is one of the big money spinners. Fifty of the world’s best golfers battle it out to be crowned its number one player with a record prize of €9 million.
Around 65,000 spectators come to watch this four-day golf tournament with more than 18,000 of those being international visitors.
DP World Tour Championship, Head of Tourism Development Simon Cory-Wright said: “There was a recent study that said that the sports economy as a whole and Dubai is worth over $2 billion [€1.6 billion] and golf actually makes up one in every $6 [€5.50] spent on sport in Dubai. So, that's around a $350 [€330] million industry.”
According to the World Trade Organisation, the Middle East is becoming the fastest-growing sports tourism destination on the planet, with the market valued at an estimated €550 billion. The average traveller in Dubai spends around €4,500 on hotel stays, transport, shopping and exploring the city.
Dubai accommodates millions of visitors through its 5-star hotel facilities. The Jumeirah Beach Hotel has seen a surge in advanced bookings this autumn, making the most of world sporting events like the FIFA World Cup and the Dubai Iron Man.
Jason Harding, Manager Director of Jumeirah Beach Hotel & Wild Wadi, said: “When peak world events are going on, like the World Cup, we see a big spike in business and it's very easy to identify these guests because of the clothes they wear or they might be in the lap pools training for the event. When the World Cup was on, we also had FIFA World Cup lounges too and a spin-off from that was we had players from Europe coming out here for vacation.”
The sports tourism sector is also credited with the creation of around 100,000 jobs accounting for up to 4% of the total employment in Dubai. And with more than 400 competitive sports events here every year, 130 of those being international, this diverse and packed line-up is placing the UAE at the epicentre of global sports tourism.