Dubai emerges as top destination for sports tourism

The sports sector’s contribution to Dubai’s economy exceeded Dhs9 billion

by Staff Reporter
Sports tourism on the rise in Dubai

The last few years have seen the sports sector emerging as a key growth driver for Dubai’s tourism industry and city’s development as a multi-faceted global destination.

The sports sector’s contribution to Dubai’s economy exceeded Dhs9 billion in 2021 alone.

The sector also generated 105,000 job opportunities, accounting for 3.8% of the total employment in Dubai.

In the year 2022, international sports events held in Dubai brought together more than 31,000 sportspersons and 713,000 fans from all over the world.

For the global sports fan, a visit to the emirate to attend international events is an opportunity to combine front-row experiences of world-class tournaments with the chance to enjoy Dubai’s luxury hospitality and tourism attractions, varied retail offerings and eclectic gastronomy and culture.

Leading golfing destination

Dubai was the cynosure of the global golfing fraternity, with some of the world’s biggest stars in the game contesting in the Dubai Desert Classic held from January 26-29, 2023.

Sports tourism on the rise in Dubai


Featuring a prizemoney of $8 million, the Dubai Desert Classic is regarded as a leading European Tour event.

Around 65,000 spectators watched the prestigious tournament, 18,000 of whom were international golf fans.

UK’s golfing legend Rory McIlroy won his third Dubai Desert Classic title this year, cementing his status as a legend of the game.

His nail-biting contest with Patrick Reed made the event one of the most followed marquee tournaments in the elite global golfing circuit. Other stars who took part in the competition included Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Fox, Tyrrell Hatton and Patrick Reed.

Over the last three decades, Dubai has grown in reputation as one of the world’s most sought-after golfing destinations.

As the host of major global tournaments, the city offers one of the best venues for ardent fans of the game to enjoy world-class contests.

Especially when the extreme winter weather makes golfing impossible in other parts of the world, Dubai’s immaculately designed greens and fairways set against the city’s stunning skyline give fans a picture-perfect ambience to enjoy the game.

Challenging courses designed by golfing greats like Sir Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie and Ernie Els are among the many venues that give fans exceptional golfing experiences.

Dubai: Horse racing destination

Dubai reminded the world why it is the globe’s biggest horse racing destination when the 2023 Dubai World Cup Carnival galloped to a spirited start at the Meydan Racecourse with an action-packed programme.

Sports tourism on the rise in Dubai

Horse Racing

The nine-week Carnival that began on January 6 features 21 group races for Thoroughbreds and Purebred Arabians, as well as 20 handicaps – 10 dirt and 10 turf – complementing the Pattern races.

The Carnival reaches its crescendo with the Super Saturday on March 4, the official dress rehearsal for the $30.5 million Dubai World Cup meeting, the world’s richest horse race, scheduled to be held on 25 March.

The highest-ranked racehorses and jockeys from around the world are participating in the 2023 Carnival.

Passionate fans of the sport from all four corners of the globe are visiting Dubai during its 2022-23 horse racing season to get up close and personal with some of the equestrian world’s biggest stars, apart from enjoying fine dining, luxury hospitality and exciting tourism activities in the city.


Cashing in on the popularity of cricket in the UAE, Dubai played host to another multi-stage tournament this winter, the DP World International League T20 (ILT20).

The six-team tournament held from January 13 to February 12 featured 34 matches, with each team playing the others twice before four playoff matches. Rated as the world’s second-most lucrative T20 league, ILT20 featured a strong roster of international cricketers including Sunil Narine, Joe Root, Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Trent Boult, Alex Hales, Sam Billings, Tom Curran and Moeen Ali.

With tickets starting from as low as Dhs10, cricket fans from across all sections of society were able to enjoy the games of the tournament, whose final was held at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

Expat cricket fans

The presence of a vast expatriate population that is passionate about cricket makes any global cricket tournament a special experience in Dubai.

With their enthusiasm for the game, fans in Dubai create a special atmosphere at cricket events.

Sports tourism on the rise in Dubai


With the global stars in the tournament having a massive following, the DP World International League T20 attracted cricket lovers from across the GCC and the subcontinent.

This year, Dubai also hosted the 22nd Dubai Marathon, the region’s oldest long-distance running race and one of the world’s fastest-distance races.

Held on February 12, the event brought together athletes from around the world to participate in the main marathon and associated races including the 10 km road race and 4 km Fun Run.

Dubai Marathon

Returning after a break of three years, the Dubai Marathon, organised by the Dubai Sports Council was held at a new venue, the Expo City Dubai, which provided a picturesque setting with its stunning architectural marvels and beautiful open areas.

Ethiopian Abdisa Tola won the professional men’s race on his marathon debut while his compatriot Dera Dida Yami won the professional women’s race.

Motorsports events in Dubai

Dubai also hosted the Hankook Dubai 24 Hours Fast Car Challenge this winter with the participation of more than 100 vehicles, top of which were Ferrari, Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, BMW, Ford and Renault.

Held from January 13-15, the 24-hour endurance race that has become a fixture of the Dubai Autodrome’s adrenaline-fuelled calendar featured over 80 entries in three categories including GT3, GTX and TCR.

Sports tourism on the rise in Dubai


Valentino Rossi, a seven-time MotoGP winner, took part in the event in his debut for the BMW M Team WRT.

Dubai Autodrome also hosted two other automobile races this winter including Dubai Kartdrome Oblate on January 21 and 22 and the Ferrari Asian Car Challenge from January 27 – 29 January.

Other major tournaments hosted by Dubai this winter included the Polo Silver Cup, featuring the world’s strongest polo teams and the 32nd Dubai International Basketball Championship from January 27 to February 5.

Community events

In addition to local and global sporting championships, Dubai organised a vast number of community running races this winter including the Ultimate Run on January 20, Dubai Creek Half Marathon Championship and Palm West Run on January 22, the Dubai Festival City Night Run on January 23, the EXPO City Run on January 24, the Business Bay Run on January 25 and the Dubai Harbor Run on January 29.

Wadi Bih Run

Hatta hosted the Wadi Bih Run on January 29, 2023, a race that took participants on a route set against the backdrop of spectacular mountain scenery.

Gov Games 2023

Dubai is currently hosting the 2023 edition of Gov Games, the high-energy team-building contest that is seeing major cities worldwide competing in physical and mental challenges designed to reinforce team spirit and collaboration.

Featuring a total prize money of Dhs3.6 million, this year’s Gov Games has introduced a new category called ‘Battle of the Cities’ as part of a move to expand the event globally.

The 2023 competition, which runs till March 5, features 82 all-male teams and 27 all- female teams in the ‘Government Entities’ category, 28 teams in the ‘Communities’ category and 27 international teams in the ‘Battle of the Cities’ category.

Sports infrastructure

Dubai’s sports facilities represent a key factor driving Dubai’s profile on the global sporting calendar. The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium has been voted for three years as the world’s ‘Best Venue’ by players on the ATP World Tour.

Sports tourism on the rise in Dubai


One of global cricket’s iconic stadiums, the Dubai International Cricket Stadium has played host to many cricketing mega events including the T20 World Cup, the Asia Cup and the IPL.

Dubai’s hospitality

Further, Dubai’s comprehensive hospitality, logistics and health infrastructure and its ability to create the safe environment necessary for the organisation of large tournaments make it an ideal venue for international sporting events.

Dubai’s prime location and superior facilities have also made it a preferred training base for international athletes and sporting stars.

Coaching academies

Dubai is home to state-of-the-art coaching academies across disciplines, which are grooming the international stars of the future. The city is home to over 400 academies that offer expert coaching in all kinds of sports, and more than 100 public and private sports clubs.

Dubai’s pleasant climate and award-winning facilities saw the city hosting training camps and friendly matches in 2022 for more than 120 international teams in different sports across swimming, synchronized swimming, modern pentathlon, cycling, tennis, football, badminton, cricket, rugby and golf.

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