Looking on the bright side

Why there is still plenty of good news to celebrate in the leisure sector

Why there is still plenty of good news to celebrate in the leisure sector

Amid the rumours of development delays, canned projects and the associated job cuts in the leisure sector, it is easy to forget just how much the leisure industry in the Middle East has progressed over the past few years — and how much more it is set to grow in 2009.

Firstly, in the world of golf, 2009 will see Dubai host the 20th Dubai Desert Classic this week and the first Dubai World Championship in November, both part of The Race to Dubai.

This shrewd replacement of the European Tour Order of Merit by Leisurecorp and The European Tour ensures that Dubai will be receiving worldwide PR until the culmination of The Race to Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates this November.

This will increase the profile of the emirate as a golf destination, helping to increase golf tourists to Dubai, which has already been highlighted as a future golf hotspot by the Golf Travel Insight report from KPMG’s Golf Advisory Practice for EMA.

Today’s sneak preview by Leisurecorp of the last four holes at its Earth Course, where the Dubai World Championship will be played, has helped to reassure the global golf industry of the fact work is on track, but it should also be a reminder to those based in Dubai that the economic crisis has not necessarily impacted all its upcoming leisure projects.

In an interview with Dubailand SVP Mohammed Al Habbai in the February issue of Leisure Manager, for example, he speaks of the need to prioritise the continuing development of the F1-X theme park in Motor City.

Considering the fact that Abu Dhabi is set to hold its first Formula One Grand Prix in November, the timing of the launch of Dubai’s Formula One theme park could be crucial to its initial success.

Just as Leisurecorp chose to unveil the Earth Course this week, cleverly piggybacking off the fact that the golf industry’s media and key professionals have their eyes on Dubai because of the Desert Classic, it would surely be prudent for the F1-X to be up and running by the time the world’s biggest F1 fans flock to the Emirates for Abu Dhabi’s first Grand Prix.

Prioritising anchor projects and carefully scheduling launches so as to leverage off more established venues or events will be important in maximising the growth of the leisure industry in 2009.

Meanwhile for those leisure facilities already up and running, which by and large haven’t reported a drop in business so far this year, the key will be broadening the offering to both suit your pocket and that of your customer.

One of the initiatives being developed by the health club at InterContinental Dubai Festival City is a cost-effective running programme, revealed pool and health club manager Jonathan Evans.

With tightened budgets, running “is probably one of the cheapest sports to do next to football,” commented pool and health club manager Jonathan Evans.

So it’s time to think outside the box; new initiatives using existing facilities don’t have to cost you much. What extras can you offer your customers to keep them coming back even when the purse strings have been tightened?


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