x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Dubai hotels pitch for football fans

Football to kick off the summer blues as Emirate's beach resorts set up venues to take advantage of world's top sports event, hoping it will give a boost to traditionally slow season.

Hotels in Dubai hope to have a ball during the FIFA World Cup and ease the summer slowdown by cashing in on football fever. Beach resorts in the emirate are setting up airconditioned "stadiums" to draw in the crowds for the month-long tournament as temperatures rise.

Barasti, the popular entertainment venue on the beach at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi hotel in Dubai, is building a five-storey, 20-tonne dome-shaped venue. It will open on Thursday, in time for the big kick-off a day later. The airconditioned dome will accommodate 1,200 fans and broadcast the matches on a 12-metre wide screen. Entry to the venue is free. "Obviously the World Cup is a huge opportunity," said Derryn French, a spokeswoman at the Mina Seyahi Complex. "It's an extra revenue generator for Barasti and Mina Seyahi, whereas summer has traditionally been a quiet time for us."

The hotel is also considering leaving the structure in place beyond the tournament. "Because it's airconditioned we are looking at extending it up until Ramadan but haven't decided yet," Ms French said. Barasti already has a number of corporate packages booked for the World Cup and hopes the dome will help it stand out as hotels compete for customers. "We wanted to do something that was different," Ms French said.

The 2006 World Cup final in which Italy beat France was the most watched sporting event of the year, with 600 million viewers worldwide tuning in for the game, research by Initiative shows. The entire tournament attracted an audience of 5.9 billion across 54 countries, up 14 per cent on global viewer numbers for the 2002 World Cup. Madinat Jumeirah is also planning to capitalise on the event, setting up a venue "themed like a football stadium". It has a private VIP lounge with capacity for up to 50 guests and a public area with free access for up to 350 people, the Jumeirah Group said.

The Jumeirah Beach Hotel plans to broadcast the matches in a "football arena" that is being set up in the conference centre. Entry to the venue will be free but guests will have to buy vouchers, Dh100 each for adults and Dh50 for guests between the ages of 10 and 17, on arrival. The vouchers will be for food and beverages. The hotel is also setting up a VIP lounge as part of the venue, which will be able to host groups of up to eight people. For access to the lounge, guests will pay up to Dh8,750 each.

Fans will be handed a "season's ticket" to watch all the games of the tournament, as well as food and some beverages. To watch the final from the lounge will cost Dh1,000 a person. The Hilton Dubai Jumeirah plans to broadcast the matches at its Wavebreaker beach bar and restaurant, and is promoting a World Cup food and beverage menu, with dishes from some of the popular qualifying countries. "The FIFA World Cup is perhaps the most important sporting event this year," said Lionel Kurtz, the assistant food and beverage manager at Hilton Dubai Jumeirah.

rbundhun@thenational.ae