By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Senior tourism official reveals how popular the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi will be this year
Approximately 135,000 visitors are expected to attend for upcoming Formula 1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, according to Saeed Al Saeed, destination marketing director at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi).
Speaking to Arabian Business, Al Saeed said that the event is “one of the key events in the UAE that draw mainly foreign attendees, having attracted over 1.4 million visitors to the capital over the past 11 years.”
“Last year, the event attracted around 135,000 attendees, about 80,000 of whom were foreign visitors,” he added. “We are expecting similar attendance in 2019. We currently do not have the exact figures, but they will likely be issued by the end of the year.”
Additionally, Al Saeed said that the event has a much wider impact on Abu Dhabi’s tourism sector, with hotels at full capacity and retail and F&B outlets receiving a “tremendous amount of customers” across all four days.
“Abu Dhabi has become a household name in the eyes of 490 million F1 fans worldwide thanks to the Grand Prix,” he added. “It is not simply about snapshots on a television screen, but also about the wider role the event plays in giving Abu Dhabi prominence.”
Prathyusha Gurrapu, head of research and advisory at Core ME, said that in addition to F1 fans, Abu Dhabi’s “surrounding cultural and entertainment destinations incentivise visitors to consider bringing their families along with them, who can take advantage of [Abu Dhabi’s] attractions and make the visit a sporting and leisure getaway for the period just before, during and just after the F1 event.”
According to statistics from DCT Abu Dhabi, the race – and the influx of people who came around its dates – led to total Abu Dhabi hotel revenue surging to AED 689 million in November 2018, compared to AED 483 million in October.
Average daily room rates also rose significantly, rising from AED 349 in October to AED 515 in November. Revenue per available room (RevPar) to AED 416 in November, up from AED 258 in October.
Occupancy rates stood at 83 percent, compared to 79 percent the month prior.
Gurrapu also noted that “no other F1 track around the world is in such close proximity to other large entertainment venues such as Warner Bros. theme park, Yas Waterworld, Ferrari World and the upcoming world’s widest flight chamber, tallest indoor climbing wall and Sea World.”
“While the scale of the F1 event continues to expand, the dependency on F1 as a focal event to feed the wider Abu Dhabi tourism ecosystem is expected to recede in the long term as other adjoining destinations and year-round tourism calendar strengthen Abu Dhabi’s global appeal to tourists,” she added.