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Abu Dhabi - the new superstar of sport tourism

Abu Dhabi - the new superstar of sport tourism

As the FIFA Club World Club kicks off in Abu Dhabi this week, the eyes of the sporting world will once again be turning to the fast-growing emirate, and the style with which it setting a new benchmark for Sport Tourism.

Investment in sport has been a fundamental strategy to help it reach its targets of 2.3 million hotel guests a year by 2012 and 7.9 million staying in 80,000 hotel rooms by 2030.

World-class sporting events build international awareness of destination Abu Dhabi, the latest of which sees seven elite teams battling it out to decide who will be crowned World Club Champions – representing the host nation Al Wahda FC, Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma from South Korea, TP Mazembe from the Republic of Congo, Pachuca FC from Mexico, Internacional do Porto Alegre from Brazil, Papua New Guinea’s Hekari United and Internazionale Milano from Italy.

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

Games take place from 8-18 December at Zayed Sports City (capacity 50,000) and Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium (capacity more than 40,000).

The build-up to the event has already attracted large crowds at Football Village – an 11-day festival featuring football-themed events and activities on the Abu Dhabi Corniche.

To coincide with the FIFA Club World Club, World Mobi is launching – this definitive guide provides everything fans need to know to the burgeoning emirate, from football scores and entertainment info to booking hotels and ordering transfers.

During the South Africa World Cup, provided detailed information about to all host cities, including Durban ( ), Port Elizabeth ( ), and Johannesburg ( ).

Beyond football

The FIFA Club World Club is the latest in an illustrious line-up of sporting events held in Abu Dhabi this year.

This includes the second F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – a sell-out race won by Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel, who was crowned the youngest drivers champion in Formula One history.

(Sebastian Vettel at a press conference after winning the F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

During the same month, Abu Dhabi picked up a host of top titles at the World Travel Awards 2010 Grand Final. These included Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) being voted “World’s Leading Tourist Board”, national carrier Etihad Airways picking up “World’s Leading Airline”, and Emirates Palace scooping “World’s Leading Meetings & Conference Hotel”.

(World Travel Award winner, Emirates Palace, hosted the Laureus World Sport Awards 2010)

Abu Dhabi’s world-class credentials

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, 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)

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.

Sport tourism – the fastest growing sector of travel

Abu Dhabi also reinforced its Sport Tourism credentials by being a key exhibitor at this year’s World Sport Destination in Johannesburg. Co-hosted alongside the FIFA World Cup, WSDE provide a forum for top decision-makers within the industry to secure future business deals and source new contacts and markets, as well as gain invaluable insights from the advanced knowledge of market leaders.

(Faisal Abdulla Al Sheikh, Events Manager, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, exhibiting at the inaugural World Sport Destination Expo, Johannesburg 2010)

As well as the F1 Grand Prix, the Yas Marina Circuit 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. This year top fuel dragsters made their Middle East debut at the International Drag Racing Festival.

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.

(The Yas Marina Circuit at sunset)

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. 

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)

Growing importance of Abu Dhabi

Last month, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited Abu Dhabi for the first time since 1979 as part of a concerted attempt to boost British presence in the region. The royal couple were greeted by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and several UAE ministers.

Her first engagement was to pay her respects to the late ruler and UAE founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan whom she was a guest of for her first visit.

(The Queen and Prince Philip arrive at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi to pay their respects to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan)

“This visit by the head of the Church of England to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is reflective of the multi-faith dialogue and tolerance that is common to both the UAE and UK,” the British Embassy said.

The Queen also visited Emirates Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi, where she was welcomed H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai.

Following the meeting Sheik Al Maktoum said: “We have a firm desire to build better relations and expand cooperation at all levels based on the common future vision which is full of optimism and confidence.”

For her part, Queen Elizabeth expressed her delight at visiting the UAE for the second time, commending UAE’s leadership eagerness to develop and boost ties of friendship and cooperation between the two nations.

For more information about Abu Dhabi’s sporting and events calendar visit