Sign up for IQ Index
The latest industry news to your inbox.
Click the interactive map below to explore 60+ market reports
An online directory of 530+ arenas is here
The UAE is seeing the results of the opening of two new venues, as the leisure and entertainment sector are projected to grow by almost 10% annually through 2027, according to global live entertainment discovery platform Fever.
Opened in June 2019, the ASM Global-owned Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai, holds up to 17,000 people. Just over a year later, Abu Dhabi’s 18,000-capacity Etihad Arena on the Yas Bay waterfront opened, operated by state-owned Flash Entertainment.
Mark Jan Kar, the general manager of the Coca-Cola Arena, is excited about the momentum being generated in what’s becoming a prominent destination for international acts. “We could probably fill 52 weeks of the year with Arabic and Asian content, but that’s not our strategy,” he explains. “With a large expatriate population as well, we want to present the city of Dubai with all types and genres of entertainment.”
“With a large expatriate population as well, we want to present the city of Dubai with all types and genres of entertainment.”
Jan Kar says the one constant that’s remained in the growth of the UAE’s live entertainment industry is last-minute ticket sales. “The Middle East has always been a last-minute market, where we’re used to seeing 60% of all tickets being sold in the last three to four days,” he says. “It’s a trend we’re continuing to understand, and rather than gearing up when a show is announced, we’re actually doing our prep a few days before the show.”
With a broad spread of Western, Arabic, and Asian events to look forward to this year, which includes performances by Simply Red, Trevor Noah, Shamma Hamdan, and Mithoon, the Coca-Cola Arena is in very healthy shape. However, Jan Kar admits that there’s still work to be done in terms of upgrading the venue and its global standing.
“Although it hasn’t been approved yet, the last 12 months have involved discussions over investing in our audio control package and upgrading the infrastructure as we dive deeper into the world of hosting live sports from the venue,” he explains. “One of our goals is to secure a sports franchise team over the next 12 to 18 months, and while I can’t go into too much detail, this particular team would base themselves out of Dubai and would be competing in European competitions.”
“The Middle East has always been a last-minute market, where we’re used to seeing 60% of all tickets being sold in the last three to four days”
Jan Kar also revealed plans to change the food & beverage system in the venue by implementing grab-and-go concession stands after bringing their catering in-house. Furthermore, proposals to expand the surrounding land with investments on road developments and additional parking are underway, given that the Coca-Cola Arena is situated at the heart of Dubai.
The multipurpose Etihad Arena – which features four 28m2 LED screens, an L-Acoustics PA, and the region’s first rollable StageRight stage – also offers an equally diverse 2023 line-up, with Guns N’ Roses, Amr Diab, Disney on Ice, and UFC 294 scheduled for the rest of the year.
Dubai also has TECOM Group’s two outdoor amphitheatres in Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City, capable of hosting up to 15,000 people. And on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi has the du Forum, an indoor events venue that seats up to 4,500.