Did you get an SMS from Dubai’s Crown Prince with an invitation to join the Dubai Fitness Challenge? Twitter feed went abuzz with excited SMS recipients reporting their good fortune, in fact over a million residents and tourists holding active UAE phone numbers did. A smart way to set the fitness ball in motion, and further enhance Dubai’s growing reputation as a hub for sports.
Over 30 days, until November 15, the city will push residents and visitors alike to try a new fitness regime or sport and thereby explore the city’s sparkling sports and fitness infrastructure in public spaces. This is not just a great nudge towards a healthy lifestyle, it is a perfect platform to present Dubai’s sporting credentials. So global event planners, iconic sporting event owners and even Mice planners can take note.
Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of Dubai tourism and Commerce Department (DTCM) said, “With the launch of the Dubai Fitness Challenge, we aim to become the most active city in the wold, motivating everyone across all ages and fitness levels to start with small steps that will benefit them and their families.” The message goes out to residents and visitors alike, indicating leisure and fitness blend seamlessly in Dubai and every individual is encouraged to go out and explore the many attractive options available.
Dubai is planning ambitious projects to bring fitness-led lifestyle to every corner of the city. An additional 234km of cycling track is planned for completion in the next four years, in total 500km of tracks will be ready by 2021.
The world took notice when Andre Agassi matched Roger Federer shot for shot on the custom-made tennis court on Burj Al Arab helipad. The match was a token towards propping up Dubai Tennis Championship, but largely played an important role in igniting the world’s imagination of Dubai. That was a decade back. According to a report by leading corporate consultants Deloitte, the current total expenditure in sport and related infrastructure in Dubai is estimated at $1.7b and the impact of sport on the economy stands at $670m.
The enterprising city has built on its sport credentials anchored around global sponsorships and events. Emirates, the city’s flagship carrier is a key sponsor at the highest level of global sporting events – in elite club football, cricket, tennis, Australian rules football, formula 1, horse racing, rugby and golf.
In its report on the economic impact of sport on Dubai, Deloitte revealed that over 1m spectators watch sports events in Dubai each year, with the highest individual attendance of over 100,000 at the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens over three days. The Dubai World Cup is the best attended single day of sport, attracting approximately 80,000 spectators each year.
The city is the home to the movers and shakers of the world of cricket by default, base of International Cricket Council’s headquarters that it is. And UAE is home to all of Pakistan games and several elite club short-format leagues in the sport, giving Dubai a sizeable chunk of international cricket action. The Asian Paralympic Committee moved its headquarters from Malaysia to the UAE, with offices in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Major sporting events bring in tourism dollars by planeloads. There are at least 300 sport events round the year that keeps international and regional interest in the emirate active, no one in the tourism industry is complaining of course. Dubai’s golf stakeholders position Dubai as one of the leading destinations for golf tourists offering world-class facilities, favourable weather conditions and a high profile having hosted notable international events. It is estimated that around 16,000 international visitors around 40,000 rounds of golf in Dubai each year.
Earlier, under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan, Crown Prince of Dubai, XDubai has been established to promote extreme sports in the emirate, including wingsuiting, flyboarding and events such as the Reebok Spartan Race. Sky Dive Dubai is already a big draw among tourists for their own show-all video of sky jumps and parachuting.
Seven top sporting events that the city hosts are Omega Dubai Desert Classic, Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, Dubai Tour, Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Dubai World Cup, DP World Tour Championship and Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens.
Global sports tourism industry is valued at $600 billion, and generates 25 per cent of all tourism receipts according to World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), with 76 per cent of all trips planned around a sporting event. Dubai has been made a breezy start towards living up to its potential as a sports hub in the region. For the rest of the Middle East, the field is wide open to build similar models of excellence around sports, and benefit from increased tourism interest.
For now, it is advantage Dubai.