Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

UFC promises big boost for Abu Dhabi businesses

As well as staging the major fight, the UFC has been promoting Abu Dhabi as a tourist destination to millions of fans

Fans have jetted in from all over the world, including Russian supporters of fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov. Pawan Singh / The National 
Fans have jetted in from all over the world, including Russian supporters of fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov. Pawan Singh / The National 

Businesses across Abu Dhabi anticipated a major boost to sales over the weekend as thousands of UFC fans flew into the capital.

Supporters from the world over descended on the city for the prize fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and his latest nemesis Dustin Poirier.

Millions of people are expected to tune in to watch the brutal, five-round bout live on TV.

Many hotels reported being fully booked due to the event, with more than half the 13,000 tickets sold for the fight going to fans from outside the UAE.

“Events, such as the UFC, attract a wide audience driving fans from all around the world to visit and enjoy the many attractions the UAE has to offer,” said Neal Jones, chief sales officer for Marriott International in the Middle East.

“They elevate the positioning of Abu Dhabi as an entertainment destination globally. This provides an impetus to inbound tourism and drives hotel occupancy.”

The highly-anticipated showdown between Nurmagomedov and Poirier is seen as one of the most exciting match-ups of the year for mixed martial arts fans.

Nurmagomedov, 30, from Russia, is the reigning UFC Lightweight Champion, while Poirier, 30, a professional fighter since 2009, is from the United States.

Earlier this year, the UFC announced a five-year deal with the Department of Culture and Tourism in which it will stage annual fights in Abu Dhabi until 2023.

In the lead up to the fight, UFC officials uploaded a series of video blogs to their YouTube account, which has 7.3 million subscribers, showing UFC president Dana White visiting a series of attractions in the capital.

“You know it’s crazy, people don’t imagine that you could do all this…in Abu Dhabi, all day, every day,” Mr White tells fans.

The footage shows him taking a boat trip to a luxury resort on Zaya Nurai island as well as jetskiing and driving supercars around the Yas Marina racing circuit. The videos were viewed more than 800,000 times in just four days.

Late last week, the hotel group Rotana said its bookings across Abu Dhabi were up by between 20 and 30 per cent compared to the same time last year.

It also said it expected a surge in last-minute bookings as well as increased revenues from food and drink sales.

Hotels on Yas Island, meanwhile, home to the new 13,000-capacity arena purpose-built for UFC events, reported 100 per cent occupancy this weekend.

A concert by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as public UFC weigh-ins and athlete workouts held in the run-up to the night, all helped in persuading many fans to travel to the UAE early.

“With the mixed martial arts champions headlining the fight night, the event has attracted the attention of enthusiasts around the world,” said Christian Baudat, area vice president for Rotana.

“The hosting of major sports events like this has a vital role in enhancing the country’s position as a leading tourism destination for entertainment which offers a diverse mix of activities and initiatives that will lead to an increase in overnight visitation and restaurant reservations.”

Richard Bleakley, general manager at Marriott Hotel Al Forsan in Abu Dhabi, said venues were increasingly effective at taking advantage of major special events.

“With key players in the sports sector coming to the capital and events of this magnitude driving the destination, hotel offers have to react and use this to better grab visitors’ attention,” he said.

“For instance, we have seen a lot of interest in our restaurant through partnerships with Time Out, What’s On and Zomato, who have all joined hands with the Department of Culture and Tourism for a successful Abu Dhabi showdown Week.

“In a way, large-scale events are changing the way hospitality organisations in the Middle East operate – encouraging a culture of unified campaigns which delivers a stronger message to the market.”

Updated: September 8, 2019 01:57 PM

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