More than just a football tournament

The 2022 Qatar World Cup – the first ever to be held in the Middle East – is going to be a huge event for the country and for the wider region. With 5 billion people expected to tune into the tournament, it’s the perfect opportunity for the Middle East to show just how great a destination it is for tourists.

Beyond Qatar, to the east, lies Dubai. Dubai is famed for its facilities – and like Qatar – offers easy access, an innovative outlook, and a welcoming attitude to foreign visitors. With much effort going into diversifying the economy of the UAE away from oil, tourism has become a very big part of the future of the nation. In fact, Dubai ranks highest in foreign investment in tourism with $1.7 billion coming into the country in 2021.

Now, with a huge global audience lining up in November, Dubai, the wider UAE, and the Gulf as a whole are set to elevate their exposure further, showing how forward-thinking and committed to future growth they really are.

Back in business post-pandemic

With 7.28 million visitors in 2021, Dubai is well and truly recovering from the travel fallout of the global pandemic and is setting its sights on growing the sector further to pre-pandemic levels, where it ranked 4th in the world in most visited cities. With those sorts of numbers, there’s no question that the country is the region’s leader in tourism, and it’s very unlikely to be toppled from that spot – primarily because of the focus the UAE has on keeping it there.

At the end of 2021, Dubai announced that it would merge the Dubai Economy and Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing to help reach the goal of 25 million tourists to the city by 2025. With serious government backing, it now has a world-leading hospitality sector and is famous for its luxurious and extravagant array of hotels.

The World Cup will catalyse Dubai’s tourism growth

Companies across the UAE are waking up to the opportunity presented by the World Cup in Qatar in November this year. With airlines like Flydubai offering shuttle flights from Dubai to Doha, it’s clear that there will be a push to support tourism in the region, with Dubai as a key hub for that travel.

Tourists might only be able to secure tickets for one game, so many are considering longer trips in the area with travel based around the games they can attend. That’s illustrated by the predictions being made by Dubai hotels that they expect near full occupancy during the World Cup with bookings of 50-100 people at a time being made by fans.

It’s clear that Dubai has grown to be a world leader in tourism. And with economic recovery coming rapidly in the past year, businesses throughout the city are seeing the opportunities in the short term with the World Cup, and in the long term with the sustainable outlook that the government and people of the UAE have.

World Cup: Impact on SMEs

The benefits aren’t just for big airlines and hotel chains though, this influx of visitors to the UAE provides significant opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses – whether B2C or B2B.

The natural effect on the supply chain is that with more potential customers in a market – those tourist masses – the greater overall spending there will be. If you’re an ancillary service provider to the hospitality industry you should expect there to be more demand for your goods and services as a direct result of the increased uptake the wider industry will see.

When we say ancillary services, it’s literally anything that supports another part of the industry. For instance, you might be a cloud service provider giving SaaS platforms and apps a place to store their data and deliver their services to their customers. Now that there are hundreds of thousands of extra visitors to Dubai, app usage is going to spike.

Apps like Careem and the government backed Wojhati platform are hugely popular as a way to order food, taxis, and navigate Dubai – all things tourists will be doing en masse during the World Cup. That means the companies running them will need more resources available to make their app experiences seamless and consistent.

We can even take the example another step back: If you’re a digital marketing business whose goal it is to help boost the brand images of your customers, then now is the perfect time to capitalise on the increased eyeballs around Qatar and Dubai. There are of course no shortage of examples we can choose from – so simply ask yourself: How can I ensure my business is set up to capitalise once the World Cup kicks off?

The economic opportunities are clear

Whether it’s tourism, traditional hospitality, or any of the ancillary industries that support tourism or benefit from foreign visitors, the amount of foreign investment in Dubai shows just how much of a booming market tourism really is.

The $1.7 billion dollars of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2021 that we’ve already mentioned accounted for the creation of over 5,500 new jobs. The impact of this alone on the local economy, and on increased domestic spending, should not be underestimated. That investment also came into the country at a time of uncertainty when much of the world was still suffering under the economic hardship brought on by the pandemic.

So on top of an already very promising current economic playing field, we can now look forward to the spillover effects of the 1.2 million visitors from around the world who will soon be descending on Qatar.