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From the desert to the city: how is Dubai branding itself through sustainable sport events?

Kamilla Swart (Division of Engineering Management and Decision Sciences, College of Science and Engineering, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Doha, Qatar and School of Tourism and Hospitality, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa)
Asli Cazorla Milla (Department of Management, Marketing and Logistics, College of Business Administration, American University in the Emirates, Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Leonardo Jose Mataruna-Dos-Santos (Department of Sport Management, Faculty of Management, Canadian University of Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes

ISSN: 1755-4217

Article publication date: 8 March 2021

Issue publication date: 15 June 2021




The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of how the city of Dubai branded itself as a major event holder for sustainable sporting events in the Gulf Region.


The paper uses both academic and trade literature as well as key informant interviews to demonstrate how Dubai can sustain its position as a choice for sustainable sporting events. The study evaluates the use of a portfolio of major sport events for place event marketing of Dubai. Both primary and secondary data were used. The secondary data was collected from a range of event reports, media and journal articles. The primary data featured a qualitative design of key informant interviews with sport, tourism and event stakeholders in Dubai.


Dubai hosts a wide array of major international sport events, with many of them recurring annually. The key success factors that have positioned Dubai as a globally competitive sport destination are tourism attractiveness, good event management and the diversity of events hosted in the region. However, the sustainability aspects are considered to be a contemporary topic to promote these events and are sometimes neglected from the perspective of event organisation. Some of the challenges experienced in supporting such a wide portfolio of major sport events are examined.

Research limitations/implications

Insufficient key informant interviews were a major limitation for the data collection process. The key informant interviews were sent out to more than 30 key stakeholders however it was not possible to get their responses in time for our paper. A second limitation was the lack of first-hand observation on the sporting events’ sustainability practices. This study could be extended in future by incorporating a bigger set of primary data, event observations and a cross comparison between other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

Practical implications

It is recommended that empirical insights on social and commercial aspects of sustainability are sought in future studies. It is also recommended that investigations be conducted with the residents of Dubai concerning their perceptions of sustainability practices of sport events.

Social implications

The paper also highlighted the importance of key success factors that have helped to position Dubai as a globally competitive sustainable sport destination as well as some of the challenges experienced in supporting such a wide portfolio of major sport events.


This study takes a closer look at the challenges of communication as well as the sustainability of sport events in branding of Dubai.



Swart, K., Cazorla Milla, A. and Mataruna-Dos-Santos, L.J. (2021), "From the desert to the city: how is Dubai branding itself through sustainable sport events?", Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 34-48.



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