Many yacht racing promoters count tourism and travel organisations amongst their biggest supporters. Cities bid to host events and in return get to raise awareness about a destination and perhaps also a bump in tourism numbers. As the start of the Volvo Ocean Race approaches, some host ports are doing a better job than others of promoting their destination’s Volvo Ocean Race travel packages.
Leading the race is Abu Dhabi. This is perhaps no surprise, given that the tie-up between the team and the venue is so close. The official Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing website features a prominent ‘Plan your trip’ link, though the ‘last mile’ to booking tickets is still left to the consumer to work out via the Visit Abu Dhabi website. This may change as the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) is working with international tour operators, hotels, airlines and other stakeholders to develop compelling New Year-Volvo Ocean Race packages to the emirate.
Other stopovers have little or no information for visitors looking to travel to a Volvo Ocean Race port. There is a holding page at www.galwayvolvooceanrace.com and a splash page at www.volvooceanracemiami.org and in other host-ports like Sanya and Capetown, third party travel operators rank at the top of Google for searches like “Volvo Ocean Race travel packages.”
The Volvo Ocean Race does allow cities to build marine infrastructure with long-term benefits. Boston’s Fan Pier which hosted a stopover for the last edition will host the Extreme Sailing Series over the 4th of July Weekend and Abu Dhabi’s plans to build a 55,000m² ‘Destination Village’ will be of long term benefit as a sailing center to locals and visitors alike.
The village is being built on the Abu Dhabi Corniche breakwater, adjacent to the Heritage Village and overlooking Abu Dhabi’s city skyline.
The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) has appointed Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) to manage development of the site.
TDIC will dredge this section of the Corniche lagoon to allow entry of the 4.5 metre keeled state-of-the-art race yachts and build permanent yacht pontoons. Infrastructure work is due for completion this September. Temporary structure build will run until December when the final phase of installing more than 130 Volvo Ocean Race team gear, hospitality and equipment containers will take place.
His Excellency Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General, ADTA and Managing Director, TDIC said:
“This will ensure that our hosting leaves a lasting legacy for the emirate and will also boost our long-term ambitions to be recognised as a compelling winter sailing and watersports destination. It will be the place to be at the beginning of 2012 and will be marked by a sensational New Year’s Eve celebration It will also allow visitors to connect with our rich maritime heritage as well as the history of the Volvo Ocean Race and to discover more about sailing as a healthy pastime and sport.”
ADTA is planning an entertainment programme for the two-week stop-over including concerts, a welcoming ceremony for the first arriving yacht, in-port races, pro-am races, city receptions and top-class evening events taking place throughout the city.
The authority is progressing a full-scale stopover sailing programme in conjunction with local stakeholders, which will draw on the near 40 years experience of the Volvo Ocean Race. It will boast entry-level sailing academies for those looking to attempt their first tack and jibe all the way through to traditional dhow racing demonstrations.
It’s not just about tourists though. There is an opportunity to grow the sport in the region. Al Muhairi says:
“This, we hope, will be the start of a renaissance in the uptake of sailing locally. The sea is in our blood and we want to encourage residents, nationals and expatriates alike, to get out onto the water.”
ADTA is working closely with a number of governmental and commercial bodies to successfully stage the Middle East’s first hosting of the Volvo Ocean Race, including Abu Dhabi Sailing & Yacht Club, the Official Host Yacht Club and key partner in the roll-out of the stopover and the junior sailing initiatives; and the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club, the Technical Headquarters, which will be home to the team areas, media center, photographer centre and the international television broadcast compound.