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Action Replay: Visiting Time

Tourism is big business in many countries, and sports tourism is a sizeable part of it, as witness the profits made by airlines, hotels and restaurants during major sporting events. The country with the biggest reliance on sport to boost its tourism and international reputation, however, must be the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which means mainly Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

This is partly a matter of providing sporting facilities for visitors (another tourist-oriented strategy there is the provision of museums and art galleries). There are a number of first-class golf courses, built and maintained at great expense in such an arid area. Or you can indulge in boating, water-skiing, even rock climbing and ice-skating. Cricket and rugby are popular among expat communities. And Manchester City brought the Premier League trophy to Abu Dhabi recently, so it could go on display for two days in the club shop (The club’s super-rich owner is half-brother to the UAE President).

But primarily the local elite are keen to attract top-class athletes and stage international competitions, thus enticing tourists and TV coverage. For instance, there have been top tennis tournaments, such as the Dubai Duty-Free Championships (prize this year of over $400,000 to the singles winners). There are also top golf tournaments and horse racing fixtures, including the $1m Dubai Gold Cup. Pakistan played England at cricket there earlier this year, and may play Australia in August/September.

And as we said, the tourism industry does very well out of all this. The 2013 Matchplay Championship Golf final will be hosted by the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai: it’s a hotel, and will be the world’s tallest when it opens later this year with its sixteen hundred rooms. On 2003 figures, one-fifth of the UAE population live below the poverty line.