DUBAI // The emirates that are playing host to the world’s best young players during the Fifa U17 World Cup are counting on a major boost to their individual tourism industries.
Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah will provide temporary homes for the world’s best young players during the tournament, which starts on Thursday.
“It’s one of the most important sporting events worldwide,” said Khalid Motik, the director of tourism in RAK. “The UAE hosting this event draws the attention of the world to the country.
“For the individual emirates it also acts as a potential tourist destination.
“Fans of the teams will definitely come to the emirate and we have seen demand for hotel rooms increase, not only from the local market but from countries such as the UK and Italy as well.”
RAK will host Italy, Uruguay, the Ivory Coast and New Zealand.
Mr Motik said the emirate was preparing for about 60,000 visitors during the tournament, which runs until November 8.
“Not all fans will stay overnight,” he said. “We are close enough to drive from Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
“The distance is too small for them all to have hotel stays, but we expect them to see the matches. It helps us to have good teams.”
Mr Motik said organisers had asked the hosts to show players their emirates. The teams will be staying at the same hotel.
In the next 10 months, four new hotels – including the luxury Rixos and Ritz Carlton hotels – will open, adding 1,700 rooms to RAK.
Although Mr Motik was unsure how big the boost to the emirate’s tourism will be, he had no doubt it would have a “big economic impact”.
Ghazi Al Madani, the head of sports tourism at the Dubai Sports Council, agreed many tourists would be based in Abu Dhabi or Dubai.
But Mr Al Madani said the benefits of the cup would be felt “throughout the UAE”, with the event a “joint relationship between the cities”.
While there were no exact figures, he said that last year there were 4.7 million spectators across 377 sporting events in the emirate.
“Of the 4,000 athletes, each one brings with them their own fans from around the world,” Mr Al Madani said.
From next year there will be a dedicated team focusing on sports tourism in Dubai, from the World Parachuting Championships to the Dubai Rugby Sevens, the tennis championships and the Dubai World Cup horse racing.
Last year’s tennis attracted 116,000 fans, while the horse racing had 110,000 and the Race To Dubai golf tour brought about 80,000.
“More events coming year on year means this demand for tourism will only increase,” said Mr Al Madani.
Majid Al Marri, the Dubai Tourism Commerce and Marketing department’s director, said classifications would be introduced for youth hostels and university campus accommodation, even though there were already 600 hotels in the emirate.
“There is a need to raise the bar across the board to increase services and the level of quality in the hotel sector,” Mr Al Marri said.