In early March 2012 the Dubai Sports Council (DSC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM). The agreement formalised the longstanding collaborative relationship between the government’s tourism and sports development arms, and is expected to result in increased cooperation between the two entities and private sector players in the foreseeable future. The MoU also highlights Dubai’s status as a centre for sporting events of all kinds and at all levels.
Over the past decade the emirate has hosted a substantial number of international-level competitions in a variety of sports, including football, tennis, sailing, swimming, and horse and auto racing. With the number of high-level sporting events hosted locally expected to increase over the coming decade, the sports tourism segment is looking forward to increased revenues for years to come, and the possibility of hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics has even been mooted.
LEADING LIGHT: The DSC, which was created by royal decree in late November 2005, has a mandate to develop a comprehensive national sporting community in Dubai. In addition to serving as the government’s sports marketing arm and working to boost the emirate’s reputation as a centre for sports in the region, the organisation manages a network of sports clubs and teams at all levels, and works closely with many of Dubai’s sports teams. It also hosts an international sports conference each year. The DSC has worked closely with the DTCM for years, though the recent MoU signals a new level of cooperation. “We have been involved in organising some of the best sports events on the international calendar,” Ahmed Saad Al Sharif, the secretary general of the DSC, told local press at the MoU signing ceremony. “And now [with] the DTCM as our partner, these events will get a much higher profile.”
FAR-REACHING NETWORK: Indeed, expanding the DSC’s promotional and marketing capacity is considered to be one of the major benefits of the MoU. In the first half of 2012 more than 5m tourists visited the emirate, according to a DTCM report, up by around 10% from the same period a year prior. The growing number of visitors is largely a result of DTCM’s marketing efforts in a number of key foreign markets. In 2012 the organisation planned to attend more than 25 major travel and tourism exhibitions worldwide and maintains permanent offices in nearly 20 key foreign markets, including South Africa, the US, India and China. Under the MoU, the DTCM will emphasise Dubai’s status as a centre for sporting events and help the DSC coordinate bids to host major events in the future. Dubai’s sports infrastructure, much of which was constructed during the mid-2000s real estate boom, has been a major contributor to its success as a sports destination.
While Dubai is becoming a regional destination for sports tourism, it faces some competition nearby. Abu Dhabi, for example, has hosted major international sporting events in recent years, perhaps most notably the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Formula One. Qatar, meanwhile, has made a series of major investments in sports infrastructure, and will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup – the first Middle Eastern country to do so. Qatar’s capital, Doha, was accepted as an Applicant City to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, though the International Olympic Committee rejected bid in May 2012. Dubai and Qatar are both bidding for the 2024 Olympics.
RECENT EVENTS: Dubai’s sporting events calendar is already filling up. The Dubai World Cup, an annual equestrian event with a purse of $10m, is billed as “the Richest Horse Race in the World”, and attracts wealthy visitors from all over the globe. Other major events include the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship, sponsored by Dubai Duty Free; the Dubai Desert Classic, a European Tour golf tournament; and the Dubai Rugby Sevens tourney, a Sevens World Series event. In late 2012 and 2013 Dubai is scheduled to host the ACC Elite Trophy (cricket); the MENA Golf Tour; the Dubai Marathon and the World Swimming Championship, among others. Together, these events are expected to play a major role in attracting new and returning visitors to Dubai.
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