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World Cup was good for the region's hospitality trade

First analysis after the FIFA world cup shows that the month long finals tournament provided a welcome boost for the region's cafes and bars at a time when business is normally falling off for the summer.

The hype and hysteria of the World Cup finals may have ended for another four years but now the region is counting the takings after a month of televised soccer featuring the best teams in the world.

In many Middle Eastern bars and coffee houses it was standing room only long before the final and that has translated into income at a time when business is traditionally falling off for the summer.

Biggles Bar at Dubai’s Airport Hotel is a popular haunt for sports fans. Simon Moore is the hotel’s General manager and he reports that takings for June were 40% up.

Riyad Al Hajali, who’s part owner of the Al Jalssa internet café in the Computer Plaza in Bur Dubai reported overall takings up by 30%. He said the Brazilians drew the biggest crowds throughout the tournament, but not necessarily the biggest business. “For their matches,” he mused, “the crowds did not contain many spenders. Germany, England, France and Argentina were the best for us in terms of business. They always brought the best customers.”

Elsewhere, large corporations used the final itself as a public relations tool. Emirates Sky Cargo, for instance, took one of the banqueting halls at Deira’s Renaissance Hotel to host a private “World Cup Final” party for 200 of its agents. Jassim Saif, Cargo Sales Manager UAE for Emirates Skycargo, said, "Providing our key customers with an enjoyable opportunity to watch this thrilling match was our way of saying thank you to people who support us so well.”

Further into the Gulf, in Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, local time is an hour behind the UAE. This meant that the morning matches were starting at 0930. The World Cup spelled increased business there, too, but not on the scale of Dubai

Steve Plumley manages the Fiddlers Green Irish Pub, one of Bahrain’s most popular ex-pat drinking dens in the Diplomat Hotel. He says, “The tournament certainly improved our business. We are up around 15% on the month.” The final itself was a huge success for the ‘Fiddlers’. Says Plumley, “We were so packed that we put up extra screens in the hotel lobby to accommodate around 200 people who could not fit into the pub. The rest of the summer’s going to be an anticlimax after this.

“We’re doing a strawberries and cream promotion for Wimbledon but it’s doing nothing like the business of the world cup.”

Abu Dhabi seems to have been the only major centre where the match timings found a major conflict with the licensing laws. Pubs and bars were not allowed to open until their scheduled 12 noon opening time.

Linda Parker runs the Harvesters pub in the Sands Hotel and says, “We even offered not to sell alcohol before our regular opening time of 12 noon but the authorities would not budge. I’m sure it’s because our licence says we are a pub that serves food, rather than a café, but in any case we were not able to get it changed. The cafes did great business but we didn’t.”

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