ABU DHABI // The Volvo Ocean Race generated almost Dh160 million and attracted 120,000 visitors when it sailed into Abu Dhabi for two weeks in January.
Hosting the gruelling round-the-world yacht race's first Middle East stopover also helped to boost the capital's international profile, with officials believing more tourists will now be inclined to visit.
"Through our Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team we have taken Abu Dhabi's name to the high seas," said Faisal Al Sheikh, events manager with Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi).
"Through tactical and highly engaging on-ground activation across the five continents the race visits, we have touched many travellers and media with our Arabian charm, which we believe will translate into visits over the coming years."
The mid-race report, carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers on behalf of the Volvo Ocean Race, found that 89 per cent of all visitors to Abu Dhabi's purpose-built race village would recommend the emirate as a tourist destination.
"Abu Dhabi was a successful stopover. We were really pleased with it. It was our first time in the region and we were really pleased with the look of the village and the footfall. It was chalked down as a success," said Jon Bramley, communications director for the Volvo Ocean Race.
Azzam, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team's yacht, finished in fifth place overall out of the six competing boats when the 39,000 nautical mile race, which started in Alicante in November 2011 and visited nine host ports, ended in Ireland earlier this month.
The two-week festival at the purpose-built race village on the Corniche began with the UK band Coldplay performing on New Year's Eve. Daily activities included sailing lessons for children, live music and competitions.
Of the 120,000 visitors, 43.5 per cent came from Abu Dhabi while 31.4 per cent lived in other emirates. People travelling from Europe contributed the largest number of international visitors, with 17.3 per cent. North Americans came second with 4.3 per cent.
"For us, the positive aspect was that the majority of visitors were from outside the emirate," Mr Al Sheikh said.
TCA Abu Dhabi said it is still studying the outcome of the stopover, which brought in Dh158.6m, and it is also looking at what lessons were learnt and what could be improved.
"For us, having more time to plan and go to market with holiday packages, travel options and event updates will be critical in swelling visitor numbers.
"We also learned that the marine stakeholders were outstanding and that many different Abu Dhabi entities and players could work together seamlessly as one. It was also the first global sailing event in Abu Dhabi so many challenges were new, and yet these were overcome," said Mr Al Sheikh.
If Abu Dhabi is chosen as a host port for the 2014-15 race, Mr Al Sheikh said it would aim to increase the number of foreign visitors.
This would be accomplished by announcing its activation plan earlier and agreeing packages with key stakeholders he said. "It would give us a longer runway to promote and attract international guests," Mr Al Sheikh said.
TCA Abu Dhabi said it was reviewing the entire project. Cities vying for a host port must submit their intention by September and the winning ports will be announced in December.