Capitalising on the global growing interest in wellness, hotels have developed various initiatives to maximise the experience of those who regard fitness as a priority.

Accentuating the address’ 360 degree approach to well-being, Jamie Wendt, director, fitness and wellness, Fairmont The Palm, listed innovations such as PAVIGYM, an interactive LED flooring system, as well as Aquaspin, an underwater cycling class and full moon yoga.

Additionally, guests enrolled in Fairmont Fit are presented with sportswear, personalised workouts and mapped runs.

In contrast, Eyad Hamed, resident manager, Iberotel Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort, unveiled that the hotel has dedicated sports and dive centres, enabling guests to get in touch with nature in Fujairah and experience more interactive holidays.

Understanding that even within the sports sector, there are a variety of needs, Christian Jesty, recreation manager, Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa, noted that the address boasts a fitness centre for those wanting to stay active, water sports for the more adventurous as well as seven swimming pools for all, with a focus on safety due to the high proportion of families visiting.

Meanwhile, located in the heart of Doha’s sport scene, Aspire Zone, Musa Al Nammari, director, business development, Mövenpick Hotel Al Aziziyah Doha, explained that the hotel has hosted top European football clubs during winter camps, including Paris Saint-Germain and FC Bayern Munich as well as athletes taking part in a broad range of competitions held in Qatar.

As a result of the property’s extensive experience in hosting sportspeople year-round, it is well prepared in anticipating the needs of such guests, including dietary requirements, security and other such services.

Since golf was first played in Dubai in the 1970s, its popularity has grown rapidly and now accounts for approximately 25 percent of total expenditure on sport in Dubai, as revealed by Deloitte, a clear indicator of the importance of the segment.

Mark Chapleski, president, Troon International, noted that overseas visitors make up between 10 – 12 percent of Dubai’s total golf capacity.

In terms of the sport, Chapleski illustrated that along with its accessibility from around the world, the region stands out due to its vast network of courses in close proximity which are connected to major hospitality brands, an ideal blend for attracting international golfers.

Moreover, Ray Stopforth, director, golf, Muscat Hills Golf and Country Club, added that the region also offers the opportunity to play 365 days a year, and is not restricted by seasonal changes.

Although the upcoming 250-key onsite InterContinental Hotel is not yet open, Muscat Hills Golf and Country Club has agreements in place with local hotels to lure in tourists.

STEPPING INTO THE GLOBAL ARENA

In addition to facilities such as tennis courts, a private beach for volleyball and a football pitch, Katrin Herz, general manager, Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, revealed that the hotel places great importance on the segment as many of its guests seek an active holiday, combining on- and off-site pursuits.

Identifying that this goes hand-in-hand with taking part in events, Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel was the start and finish line of this year’s Muscat Half Marathon, which also saw the property host several of the participants.

The correlation between the large-scale events and recreational activities is undeniable, with the tournaments and competitions providing a platform to showcase the best of the region.

The increase in sports events is not simply providing a boost in awareness, but also has an indirect impact on the development of core infrastructure, such as sports facilities, accommodation and public transport, including Doha Metro.

Stopforth described Dubai and Abu Dhabi as the front-runners because of their understanding that investing into sports activities creates high volume of spectators, both in attendance and through the media, which ultimately generates an interest in tourism.

While global events are capturing the attention of international visitors, the sports sector is still a relatively novel concept within the region.

Fehlbier argued that the love of sport needs to be nurtured from a young age, and when it becomes an innate part of local culture, tourists will naturally gravitate to the region.

Fehlbier elaborated that hosting global sports events such as the 2022 FIFA World Cup is a great step forward in placing Qatar on the sports map and concluded, “I can foresee Qatar turning into an instinctive destination for sports lovers.”

Al Nammari corroborated this viewpoint, adding, “The region is likely to be transformed into a world class sports hub and possibly host major sports events in the future.

This will not only promote sports culture, but will also support economic development in the region.” Al Nammari also explained that the segment also encompasses sports education and sports-related business, illustrating the possible value of the industry.

According to Harikrishnan, manager, Barracuda Beach is Resort, the shift has already begun.

“Since health consciousness is arising in the minds of the community, sports tourism will certainly carve a niche in the MENA region,” he explained.

All in all, while considering the vast options when it comes to both events and active sports tourism, as Roberta summarised, “The MENA region has tremendous potential for developing sports tourism [...].”