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Abu Dhabi builds world-class sport tourism credentials

Abu Dhabi builds world-class sport tourism credentials

From hosting the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix to its new partnership with Manchester City, Abu Dhabi is utilising the power of sport to spread its name globally.

Investment in sport has been a foundation strategy to help Abu Dhabi meet its targets of attracting 2.3 million hotel guests a year by 2012 and 7.9 million staying in 80,000 hotel rooms by 2030.

The rapidly-growing emirate has a mandate to deliver a range of event products which build international awareness of the destination and enrich the lives of residents and visitors alike.

Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) has developed a strategy to utilise high-visibility sporting events to globally promote the emirate. It has proved effective in internationally highlighting the emirate’s pedigree as a world-class destination of distinction and a major events hub.

For example, last November’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was televised in more than 180 countries, reaching 600 million viewers. The Abu Dhabi Golf Championship 2010 – which celebrated its fifth anniversary this year – had a combined viewership of more than 400 million. These events bring significant gains both in terms of building awareness and exposing visitors to all that Abu Dhabi has to offer.

(The Abu Dhabi Golf Championship)

Also last month, Abu Dhabi signed on to become the Official Destination Partner of English Premier League side Manchester City Football Club (MCFC).

Through this Abu Dhabi’s name will touch a TV viewership of over 2 billion. Under the deal, which runs until the end of the 2013 Premier League season, Abu Dhabi’s brand will appear on perimeter boards around the City of Manchester Stadium at every home league and domestic cup game, ADTA has exclusive naming rights to the club’s Carrington, Trafford training ground and is the sole title sponsor of all pre-season tours.

Adding to that, Manchester City is looking forward to holding a series of events in Abu Dhabi following on from its recent successful ‘Our Country v Our City’ trip which saw the club spend time in the Gulf region.

Abu Dhabi Golf Club is home to the annual European Tour-backed Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and is managed by Troon Golf, one of the sport’s foremost luxury brands.

The Yas Island Links Championship Golf Course is the only one of its kind in the region

Abu Dhabi has also recently opened two new world-class golfing properties in the Gary Player-designed Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and the Kyle Phillips-designed Yas Links, as well as the newly-upgraded Palm Sports Resort Golf Course in the emirate’s Oasis City of Al Ain. 

These courses have already garnered strong interest internationally and continue to attract high-end tourists, which are of great interest to the emirate. For example, on average, golf visitors spend more than double than any other type of holiday maker, and notch up about US$26.1 billion a year on golf travel, 75 percent of which goes to the hotel, transportation and food and beverage sectors.

The emirate’s staging of the FIFA Club World Cup Abu Dhabi 2009 was also a major highlight last year and showcased its facilities to an international audience. The Zayed Sports City Stadium, which holds a capacity of 50,000, and the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, which holds more than 40,000, were key facilities for the FIFA Club World Cup Abu Dhabi 2009.

(The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit)

The Yas Marina Circuit, home of the Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, also plays host to some of the world’s top motor racing series year round including the GP2 Asia Series and Australia’s legendary motor racing series, the V8 Supercars. Top fuel dragsters recently made their Middle East debut at the International Drag Racing Festival and the world’s top sports car series, the FIA GT Championship, has also taken place.

Opportunities at Yas Marina Circuit extend well beyond the Grand Prix, with the Circuit being a state-of-the-art mixed-use venue that can be adapted to meet any event, exhibition or conference.

Enhanced infrastructure is a key legacy benefit of the staging of international sporting events.

The Abu Dhabi Golf Championship continues to go from strength-to-strength and has seen an increase in spectator numbers year-on-year, with close to 30,000 in attendance for the 2010 showpiece. In addition, the event’s popularity continues to grow with players on the Tour. This year it had one of the best fields to date, with eight of the world’s top 15 golfers playing.

The 2009 Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix catapulted the emirate onto the international stage last year and the 2010 event, taking place 14 November, will continue to build on that success. Last year, it attracted approximately 50,000 track-side spectators on race day. In addition, according to Deloitte, occupancy and average room rates hit the highest point during the three-day event on Saturday 31 October, coming in at 97.5% and US$606 respectively.

Abu Dhabi prides itself on its sponsorship partnerships with the private sector. The Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, staged every December, is a case in point. It brings together a whole host of supporters – private and public sector oriented.

(The Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge)

ADTA also supports the President of the UAE Cup, an annual series devoted to the racing of Arabian thoroughbreds which raises awareness of this distinct equestrian breed which places a huge role in the heritage and culture of the United Arab Emirates. Taking place throughout Europe and in the US this year, the series gives us a key platform to entertain guests and media.

‘Arabian tent’ style promotions are also held for visitors at races in France, Ireland, the UK, Russia and the US where they can engage with Abu Dhabi’s warm and rich heritage through a number of initiatives such as falconry and henna demonstrates and award-winning photographic displays.

(The Abu Dhabi Irish Guineas)

The sports tourist to Abu Dhabi may be described as someone travelling to the destination for the distinct purpose of engaging in activities and/or events. As part of the spectator experience for Abu Dhabi, its vibrant sports event calendar and diverse range of world-class facilities affords them a unique opportunity to capitalize on both segments.

Research has demonstrated that the sports visitor has a high yield profile and is highly likely to return as a leisure visitor.

For more information about Abu Dhabi’s sporting calendar visit