Sports and Tourism: A Win-Win for National Growth?
-All right, everyone. Thank you so much for joining our panel on sports and tourism and sports tourism. I think we'll be talking about all three of those topics. I'm Simone Foxman. I'm a correspondent for Bloomberg TV. I'm based right here in Doha. I have had the pleasure of watching the last couple of years of preparation for the World Cup, probably one of the ultimate sports tourism events.
We're going to start off with that, but then we're going to go a bunch of different directions and talk about investment in sports, investment in sports tourism generally, and how tourists can be drawn to these sorts of things in the future. Again, I'll start off with Nasser Al Khater, who is the CEO of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC. There are a couple of different entities involved in this project.
I want to start with you because sports tourism, these big major events, whether it's the World Cup, the Olympics, they don't always necessarily make money, but there are other reasons to want to hold these big events. What metrics are you looking at to try and determine whether the World Cup is a success? Is it mentions of Qatar? Is it some other things? Give us your sense. -Thank you, Simone. Good morning, everybody. In relation to the returns of the World Cup, we've always known that there's no direct return, so it's an intangible return that we're looking at. The first and major one is brand value and also an increase in tourism. We hope that we can help our friends at the tourism, Berthold, to help them achieve their goals in terms of increasing tourism here in Qatar, but really, it's brand value, creating brand value for Qatar and making it a destination for tourism are the two major indicators of the success of the World Cup.
-Gregor, I want to talk to you, our economist on this panel, about the valuing the economic impact of these sorts of events, whether it's the Olympics or the World Cup generally, and also the value of the soft power result that comes from this, whether it's not just tourism, but also maybe a bigger presence on the global stage. How do you think about that? -Absolutely. I'm with Global Counsel. It's an advisory business. We advise mostly companies, investors on political and regulatory risks. We also do some work in sport.
Major sporting events are right at one end of the spectrum when it comes to risk and return, both for those tangible and intangible benefits. Huge opportunities, but obviously a great deal of investment is required. Nasser, obviously, is focused in exactly the right areas, building the brands. It's a unique moment.
The Qatar World Cup is a unique moment when Qatar will literally be the topic of conversation the world over. I suppose the question is, how do you really exploit that unique moment? Actually, I think when looking at previous major sporting events, the trick is to start early, to be really focused during the event itself and then actually to follow through. The example that we like to use as Germany in 2006 run a campaign called Land of Ideas. It's still running today and the legacy of that-- well, it's running in a sense today, but the legacy of that campaign is still being felt today. For me, that's the main thing. It is really following through and building on that unique moment and making sure that it has a durable impact and soft power is exactly what this is about.
It can benefit tourism, it can be beneficial in other areas as well. -Do you measure that in number of deals, value of deals, we are Bloomberg here trying to put a number on everything. -I don't have a number for you. The Germans certainly did try to do that. I have seen evaluations for similar events, the London Olympics in 2012, I suppose I'm a bit skeptical about attempts to put a number on it.
I think quite often the assumptions are heroic, but certainly Germany was focused on trade and investment rather than tourism. It's a very strong case that actually that delivered. -I want to turn to Jeffrey Goh who is the CEO of Star Alliance. A bunch of different airlines in your orbit. You see everything that's going on, essentially, with global tourism, leisure, business also as well traffic. What turns a destination from a one time destination place of interest to something where people are returning over and over again.
How quickly do you see that happening when you look at the data from the various airlines that you work with? -Sure. Thank you very much for that. I think it's happening already. Even pre-COVID, I think 30 to 40% of travelers or passengers are looking for experiences, and I think post-COVID, we're going to see more and more of that. A lot of the recovery today is driven by leisure travel. I think we'll see a transition into what we call the pleasure travel environment. From there, I think travel itself becomes-- or flight itself becomes one part of an end to end experience.
The destination has a big challenge to make sure that that experience is one that's memorable, and that you'll keep going back and again and again. In the case of sports tourism, if you see the way we look at it is not just those big events of Olympics and the World Cups. People travel in small groups to India for yoga, they travel in small groups to the Alps for skiing, and so on and so forth. I think those micro
as it was sports tourism is just as important as those big events for us. Destinations have a big challenge to make sure that the experiences are ones that are memorable. -What's the fastest rate you've seen a place go from people go there once to people go there all the time. -Oh, hard to tell. Hard to tell.
I think the world is full of really attractive places, and we are in a generation where access to information, information on demand, services at fingertips are so easily and readily available now that travelers are deciding really very quickly with all the information they have at hand to go wherever they want to go. That's something I think a new normal we got to get to as we become more digitalized, information becomes more accessible, and decisions are made on that basis too. -I want to talk a little bit about sporting culture as well, and hopefully bring in some of the panels we haven't heard from yet. We have a couple folks who are specialized in Africa and investing in Africa and building a sports culture there whether it's through players, whether it's through infrastructure more broadly. It's a growing continent, lots of people, young population, but not a ton of capital. How do you turn the potential perhaps for sports to make money into, I guess, durable driver of growth there.
Sandrine, I think maybe you can take this question. -Yes. I think the way that we've approached it at Tessa-- it's a sports marketing firm and investment firm, is that we recognize that education is certainly a part of the work that we do. Across the continent right now a lot of the ways that people see sports is as civic endeavor or a philanthropic effort.
It's really not seen as an economic driver, and so first and foremost, it's about educating everyone from the top down, from the bottom up that includes government, that includes business leaders in the community as well as the youth in and of themselves to help them understand, it's not just about wanting to be the next Kylian Mbappé. It's also that you could be a sports reporter or a sports lawyer. The work that we're doing doing is we're really trying to amplify the scope and the breadth of opportunities that exist and then also making sure that we match that up with our partners by showing tangible case studies. We're excited about the work we're doing.
-I want to ask on that, though, I've seen in the United States, for example, that's where I'm from so a lot of my background comes from there is that particularly around new stadiums and things like that, you have a ton of investment coming but the results really go towards big established corporations and not necessarily the average Joe or Jane down the street who has a little shop and wants to take part in that. Is there a best practices right way of doing this that you're trying to encourage in the communities you work with? -Absolutely. I think first and foremost, it's taking the mentality that the local partners and local community, first and foremost are partners. At the end of the day, what really, really matters is economics.
The money has to go to them. We have to see them as co-founders of projects that we have and then treat them as such. I think there's a startup called Buzzer, it's a sports media business, and what really made them stand out is that they recognize that, first and foremost, they need women to participate at the ownership level. In their pre-seed or in their seed round, they included a group of women who were experts in their field in order to make sure that they were diversifying their thought at the ownership level but because- -This is a group of women who are experts in the field, but not necessarily massive investors, is that what you're getting at? -Yes, but solely because on the global scale, women make less money than men. There's only a certain level of deals that we're able to participate in simply because we don't have the access to capital that men do.
This is an organization that was extremely intentional about making sure to encourage them, not even encourage, to make space for them to participate in their next round and their Series A where their minimums would normally be too high for them to participate in. I think it's that type of mentality that we really want to encourage and that we need to make sure that we're embedding as we look at local partners as we look at women as we look at the luminaries on the ground who are the experts and who are doing the work. They truly are the co-founders. -Kojo, I want you to weigh in as well because I know through Africa 10 you're really interested in investing as a foundation, investing in players, coaches development from the ground up. How do you think about this is the right player, this is the right coach that I've got to support through the ecosystem and really bring up they need me.
-Thanks. I think that sports is almost like a tool for development. I think that when you look at the West, as you said, in the US or the UK or Europe, people underestimate how many layers of sports there are. They look at the Premier League in England, they forget, there's four other divisions with lots of grassroots youth teams. -You look at the big bucks. The billions of dollars, the numbers.
Yes. -Even in the US, they spot a LeBron James at the age of 13, playing in an all-American, and they see the pathways to excellence. I think in Africa, we have an abundance of talents. I think the world focuses on Africa for its natural resources, but we believe at Africa 10 that our greatest resource is the human resource, we have the youngest population in the world, to everybody, but we don't have the investments in the grassroots developing the infrastructure in terms of identifying the talents, and nurturing them to have the pathway to excellence.
That's what we're trying to develop with Africa 10 because all the great athletes will tell you that they had the coaching, they had the training that allowed them to excel and we see an abundance of talents and want to help to give them that pathway to excel, and then through that, I think sports becomes a great unifier. As I said, soft power, it promotes the country and the people and that talent becomes the ambassadors of your country. There's a short guy called Lionel Messi and if you mentioned Argentina, his name comes up every other sentence. Same with Ronaldo. Coming from Africa, I always speak with people who tell me, "Oh, you're from Ghana. Do you Michael Essien?" Or, "You're from Nigeria. Do you know Jay-Jay Okocha?" These players become the ambassadors of the country and we want to develop more of that talent.
-Let's pick up with that, the ambassadors of the country, because we have one here. Ibtihaj Muhammad, Olympic medalist fencing. You've gone on to turn that into a brand of modest clothing, that is frankly fantastic and you guys should all check it out online because it's really, really cool looking. Thinking about being a brand for your sport, a brand for your culture, how do you bring in groups of people who aren't necessarily associated with sport? Does that have to happen holistically or is just having the vision, having the option whether it's to travel places or to wear a hijab while competing? Is that enough to just see that and then say, "Oh, okay, I want to be involved." -Yes. Good morning. I think that there's a hope that, yes, my brand as an Olympic medalist can carry my company, but I realized that that's not realistic.
I founded Louella by Ibtihaj, a modest clothing company, because there was no one creating modest fashion at that time in 2014 in the US and providing that service for not just Muslim women, but any woman who's looking to dress modestly. We were filling a void and really creating things that are sustainable, that provide jobs in our communities. We only manufacture in Los Angeles and New York, which you don't really find much of in the US anymore. Everybody's manufacturing outside of home. It was just an opportunity to provide for a community that oftentimes is forgotten.
-What have you seen when you've talked to customers who've bought your clothing and then talked to them about participation in sporting events in particular? What was it that got them to go from just seeing people on TV or images on magazines to taking part themselves? -Sport is such a unique vehicle. It has the power that very little or very few other things has. I feel like it has the power to change communities and really bridge cultures. I know that I've been able to do that as a visibly Muslim woman in really combating and breaking down the stereotypes that people have about who we are, where we're from, what languages we speak. I feel like this is why having even the World Cup here in Qatar is such a big moment for Muslims globally.
This is an opportunity for us to really push back against these societal, I think, misconceptions. I love that the sport itself is really becoming like a driver when we think about global destinations and where people see themselves. -Berthold, take up that point because I don't know that people think of Doha necessarily as a destination for tourism, and how much is the cultural element something that plays into your strategy and getting people here, continuing this hospitality momentum. -There's multiple things to play in.
Obviously, the spotlight of FIFA for tourism is the springboard. It's only a question around, how do I amplify, but also how do I make Qatar more than football? Our brain is focused on more than football because we want people to see the country, experience the country. The second one is the interesting one around culture and how Qatar is positioned, especially also in the Middle East.
There's two fields we play in. One, we're capitalizing on Qatar Airways. The opportunity was the stopover traffic because so far when I look at the numbers, Qatar has been a transit airport. People arrive, people go. No one gets off.
That's one thing for us to change. In that space, especially one segment plays a key role around-- in our strategy we're calling it cultural enthusiast. People that are traveling to experience another country and immersed themself. That, of course, will mean, what's the history? What's the heritage of the country? Where Qatar is extremely strong if you think about the museums and what we have or the experience that the [?] brings, also things like cuisine, but also religion. That's one space, but is one of six that we're playing in. -Okay, one of the six.
We'll hopefully get to a few more of the six. Jeffrey, I want to see in terms of cultural tourism, what's successful? What do you see when you're looking at travelers moving around? -It's disparate, Simone. It's hard to define. I think, we have a spectrum of travelers that are looking for different things. To Berthold's point, it can be cuisine, it can be culture, it can be sports, there's just a vast array of attractions.
I think he's absolutely right that it is not just a sports event from a destination or tourism authorities' perspective it's about what becomes sustainable as an attraction in the destination. I think an interesting question here is, around the table, we've seen Olympics of the past, we've seen World Cups of the past, major sporting events, and we build the infrastructures surrounding that stadiums and everything else. The interesting question is what happens afterwards with those facilities? Do they become an attraction in and of themselves to continue the attraction that was there for the first place? I think in the economics world, we talk about CAPEX, your non-recurrent, and then your recurrent, what happens afterwards? -Nasser, answers the question, do you think that the stadiums themselves are going to be tourist attractions after the games? -That's an interesting topic.
White elephant is a term that we started to hear after the Athens Olympics. Expensive infrastructure have become expensive in themselves to operate. We've seen, unfortunately, in South Africa, we've seen in Brazil, that these have been abandoned. One of the key objectives that we had in 2010 when we won the rights to host the World Cup was to really design the legacy of the stadium prior to designing the stadium itself. Depending on the location of the stadium, and depending on what the communities needed at the time, we decided to build those into the stadiums.
We actually went to these different towns or cities here Qatar to see what the neighborhood needed. We went house to house and we did surveys. I'll just give you an example. Al Janoub Stadium in the south, the communities there felt that they needed more leisure activities. They needed community centers, they needed wedding halls. They felt that they needed a hotel because Al-Wakrah which is the area where Al Janoub Stadium is in, started to become a business hub. They said, "We have guests that we have to put all the way to Doha, they have to travel 25, 30 minutes to do minutes there."
We took this all into account. Another important point was schools. They felt like they didn't have enough international schools. These were all built into the blueprint. Some things were built by us, and some things we were looking for investors to build.
Some of the clubs turned into football clubs. A lot of the premier clubs here in Qatar have very old facilities, and they're in congested areas, congested neighborhoods. These were planned to go to the clubs and then the old clubs were going to be demolished to regentrify the areas and the locations that they're in.
-I'm so sorry to cut you off there. How many stadiums in the long-run are there going to be, say 2024, true-like stadiums for professional sports teams to play? -Two of the stadiums are going to house three sports teams. Al-Bayt Stadium, Al Janoub Stadium and Al Thumama Stadium. These will be professional sports teams headquarters. -Okay. There are eight stadiums. I guess Al Khalifa remains a stadium. -The national stadium, yes.
It's been the national stadium since the 1976. Lusail Stadium is interesting. -For what it's worth, it is not anything more like 1976. It's quite cool inside. I went in September.
Sorry, go on Lusail Stadium. -Lusail Stadium is interesting because Lusail Stadium right now is either going to become a commercial administrative hub. We're looking at having clinics there. We're looking at having commercial space there. Another very cool idea with Lusail Stadium is to become a hydroponic farm.
If you look in the Philippines, they have the stepped rice fields. This is something that we're looking at. It's an interesting concept, but it's a bit unique, and we need to look at it in more detail. -That would be so interesting if we turned a stadium into something wildly different than necessarily what it was.
Sandrine, when you think about investing in infrastructure and local sporting, are these the sorts of things like what Nasser is saying, does those ring bells for you in terms of, "Well, the community needs X, Y, Z a clinic or whatever, whatever. We're going to incorporate that into our plan for the community." -Absolutely.
That is an inherent part of the sustainability that we take a look at is first and foremost, how does it serve the community? As we're looking at different models, in which to adopt to build our infrastructure across the continent, we're talking a look at things like IMG Academy and Saint James out of Virginia. These are all place that also integrate-- elite sports academies, but they also integrate public good. That means there may be a Pilate studio that is also embedded within the infrastructure.
There's a restaurant that the public can also access because then, first and foremost, it makes it a more bankable project because it creates additional streams of revenue, but then it also ensures that the local community is that much more invested in the success of the infrastructure and it makes it inherently sustainable. -Do you think that's a driving force when investors are looking at building this kind of stuff? Clearly, you are, but when you look across the pools of money, the pools of capital, is that something common that's getting looked at or is that something that just a small group of people are actually focusing on? -I think it's becoming more and more normalized because the African market can't be ignored. You have some of the biggest brands in sports who are now looking at participating in really significant ways. You have F1 who's going back to Africa after 30 years. You have UFC looking at the continent trying to host a mega even there as well in a very meaningful way, and at the same time, they also recognize, hopefully, that the way in which they participate and enter into the space has to be first and foremost beneficial to the local communities.
The work that we seek to do and that we seek others to do is to ensure that as people who are looking to participate in these markets, that they're taking that into consideration and exploring these additional options because it is about being creative. A market like the 54 countries in Africa which often have additional sub-markets in each country as well, it requires different things and we need people to be able to really look at the long term benefit and make sure that they're embedding the sustainability and thinking really creatively. -I want to change tacks a little bit here and move from sports culture to sports money. We have seen a couple big headlines in the news over the past year, but what I've been talking about recently with some folks is the success or lack thereof potentially of the LIV Tour.
If you guys aren't familiar, it's a competitor to the established golf leagues backed by Saudi Arabia, so thinking of this region a little bit, but the explicit idea is they are going to pay athletes who are involved in this enormous sums of money. I believe there was a tournament that awarded them $4 million as a prize pot, which is actually more than the Masters in the United States. Gregor, you're the economist here. This idea, is this enough to sustain a sports league in the long term? Is the money element enough to draw a sustainable, durable future? -Sure.
Can I maybe just start by picking up where Sandrine- -Please do. Yes. --left off? Because it's linked to this question of money in sport. I actually think the question of when it comes to sustainability and local communities, can you rely on investors to fully take into account those additional benefits? The answer is quite simply, no you can't, or at least up to a point. Major sporting events of all kinds impose on communities to some degree. They also leave legacies and benefits for local communities to some degree. You really need investors and administrators working in partnership with governments at different levels and communities if that equation is to be got right.
Actually, it's becoming politically more difficult. I'll just use one small example, which is, we just had the Beijing winter Olympics. When Beijing was competing for that, the major competitor was Oslo.
They had a referendum on whether they actually wanted to bid for it. It's a natural home for the winter Olympics. They can get a hundred thousand people to attend a cross country skiing competition without any problem at all. They voted against it because they thought it was too much of an imposition in terms of sustainability and overcrowding and the rest of it, despite the fact that the infrastructure was there. That whole package has to come together and it's political and its commercial.
To flip to your question, the LIV Tour. This is a really interesting example. We are seeing the extremes of the commercialization of sport. Another example recently is the 5 billion acquisition of Chelsea football club, which takes us into a different league.
I think the LIV Tour does that as well. I think there has to be a bit of a branding dimension to that that comes from that. I think it tells us something about the ambitions of the investors in the LIV Tour to really push the boundaries of commercialization in every direction possible. I actually think there might be a tourism dimension to it because actually golf is interesting in that it's one of those few sports where you can combine tourism attending a major event with participation in the sport itself. People quite often want to have a few rounds of golf while they're there. That lends itself to actually providing a package of accommodation and the rest of it.
It's one of those few sports, there are a few others where you can really provide the whole package. That works from an investor and commercial perspective. The $2 billion that the Saudis have committed to it, is that a good investment? I just don't know. It's certainly pushing the boundaries of commercialization and it's a highly risky and speculative venture.
-A couple points there. I want to break this down. We'll come back to tourism in just a second, but, ibtihaj, I want to ask your opinion because I guess one of the thoughts around this league and I'm focusing on this league just cause I think it's a great example of money in sports in a completely novel way. As an athlete, if you could have won an enormous pot of money but you would lose all your sponsors maybe lose some of the fans, is that a trade off that you would've taken? -Well, you're asking someone who comes from a very, very small sport, so the short answer is yes, sign me up. I'm ready to get out there, so LIV if you're listening, I don't play golf, but I would. I think that it's really interesting concept.
Saudi is definitely a disruptor right now in the golf world. I was really interested in it just as an athlete to see huge names like Tiger Woods, the rumor has it that he turned down eight or nine figures sum to play, which is insane. -It was crazy, and Phil Mickelson, I think there was several hundred million dollars. Dustin Johnson.
That was a huge attraction for them, but go on. -The way that I look at sport is really more so as an opportunity to change lives. If you have Saudi putting all this money into golf, I'm thinking of it from the perspective of-- and to Sandrine's point, are youth being involved in sport? Is it going to make golf more interesting for kids to get involved? What are these different nations doing to provide access and the availability of a sport like golf? In the US we know that you find golf, fencing, even ice hockey in communities that have high tax brackets, but it's the nonprofits, the NGOs that are really providing the space, the resources for kids from disadvantaged and underserved communities to play.
Which is why I love this initiative that you see even here in Qatar with GA for good and just really encouraging the youth to not only think about sport, but also just health and fitness. -Kojo, when you're thinking about players that you speak to, obviously the desire to make money in sports, I think for any good kid on a little league or something like that is going to say, "Yes, I'm someday I'm going to make millions," but the reality is they don't. Most of them probably don't. How do you balance this idea of massive money payouts for players with the desire to get everybody involved? -Yes, I mean I think just to follow on that, I think sports has a dual role as you say. Of course, the small percentage that become the superstars and make millions or billions, that's their luck, but as she said, the vast majority still get so many benefits from sports. You learn about discipline, dedication, health and wellness, teamwork, and these are life tools that can develop your life.
That's why the more you get the young people to embrace and play these sports, they learn all these valuable life lessons that drive them forward. I think just to follow on some of the points they've been saying, I think people find change in life difficult but change is something that always happens. I think if you go back in football, I grew up in the UK when the Italian League was the biggest league.
Paul Gascoigne moved to Italy, it was the biggest league, and then through money and commercialization the Premier League has become the bigger league. It was simply driven by commercialization, marketing and it's arguably the biggest export of the UK. It's funny when Nasser just mentioned that Qatar was awarded the world cup in 2010.
It seems to me so a long ago and the world was saying, "There's no way. How can Qatar have the world cup?" and here we are 12 years later, we're all coming and this is Qatar's opportunity to shine. I think change is inevitable and for all we know in a few years time we're looking at this LIV League and it's become the norm in golf.
I think these things are always cycle and they'll keep occurring. -Yes, Jeffrey, go ahead. There you go. -Just curious as I think on the comments here of your first question of sports money. In our world at least we are seeing disruptions happening, in the travel world. In particular, the last two years when we've seen more digitalization, more automation happening.
A question of interest to us is with technology now coming on board a lot more. Teams and Zoom. One of the concerns or one of the headwinds we're facing is will travel return to the way in which it was because of technology disruption? I just wonder from a technologies perspective is there a disruption looking 15, 20 years from now from the dimension of eSports or is that going to be a supplement to the LIVs and everything else? Or is it going to eat away, chip away at the sports money dimension that you raised as your first question? I don't know what the answer is but I thought I'd place the question because I think that's perhaps something that 15, 20 years from here is going to be a fairly dominant theme for us.
-Maybe someone to take this is Berthold. I know eSports is part of your plan. -Yes. eSports of course is a hot topic and we are in multiple conversations around partnerships. The big question is for tourism, how do I make it not just another event, but how does it actually mobilize people to travel to the event? As we've been studying in the last 24 months, the topic is quite amazing when you see some of those tournaments and you have these, of course, obviously indoor sports halls filled with 10,000, 15,000 people watching what at the end of the day is happening in a computer and on a screen. There are super loyal fans that spend money to go to those events that are following their teams. This is an interesting one back to the golf thing that, obviously, they're also playing themself.
There are so many different leagues because there's so many different computer games you can play that you have to choose. Interesting is also, it surprised me, it's not just male nerds playing, it's actually quite a number of females in that space. It's not fully balanced, it's more of a 60/40, but it's an opportunity. We are mainly interested not just brands, again an intangible, but also physical as in does it actually mobilize people in this case? It's also a proximity thing.
Does it get people from the region that then would come to Qatar if we would put on something in this space? -I want to pick up on a thread that you mentioned there. I will say that as a woman I have not yet, this personal experience, gone into eSports. Wasn't allowed computer games when I was little, maybe that's part of it. Women on the sporting community, we saw some of record numbers for the FIFA World Cup and for women in 2019, over a billion viewers, I think was the estimate. There was a lack of ticketing success in terms of drawing people to these games and getting them in the stadium.
I'm curious, and anyone pick this up, but I think this is a controversial topic. Why is that? Why is that the case? Why can't people get excited about this? -I was there in 2019 and it didn't feel that way at all. I mean, it felt very sold out the three games that I went to. I'm surprised to hear you say that. -Yes, just numbers basis, I think there was some commentary on it, but correct me if I'm wrong because I am not the answer to this. I mean, maybe that was the first event in many that could be this way, but you don't see sponsors spending as much money in terms of investing in women's sports and in women's sports events for sure.
-I think that there's a tide that's shifting, that culture as you're doing, especially in the United States with the introduction of the name, image and likeness deals that is really allowing this entrance of children to make money in sports whether they're in high school or in college. Even with the US Women's National Football team, really pushing for pay equity in their sport. You're just seeing a lot more businesses really investing their money in women and in women's sports -Gregory, I want to get your view too because advising on sports and advising on just why isn't there the same-- is it going to get there? This kind of money, the numbers are going to get there at some point.
-My guess is it will, absolutely. I think it is a question of cultural change in just sporting competitions. Football has been around for a long time, but women's football has also been around for a long time but it's only been a real major focus of sporting competitions at the start of the 2019 World Cup. That is a more recent phenomenon. I think the fan base will develop very strongly.
It's already happening at league level. The women's league in England is very strong, attracting big crowds. That's going to build over time. We'll see it in European competition. I'm sure it's the same elsewhere as well and the commercialization of it is probably a bit different. There are different types of opportunities there. It attracts a different type of audience and sponsors will like that.
Yes, I think this is definitely going to become bigger and more commercial. -Can I also add something? I think that there's an immediate shift though that can happen in the minds of sponsors and people who run leagues. For example, what happens in the NBA, in the WNBA obviously a Brittney Griner who is in the horrific situation that she's in right now is never going to make as much money as a Lebron James, even though she has the same impact on the league.
The issue that the women are really fighting for is that there's a disproportionate allocation to women's salaries and there are in the WNBA as there are in the NBA. That's the issue. It's not that they're trying to make the same or that women are trying to-- in the case of US women's soccer team, they should be making much more just simply because they bring more revenue- -And they're much better. --and they're much better.
I think that it's really important that the decision makers of these leagues of these businesses and sponsors that they make that shift to make sure that they're at the very least at parity in terms of the amount that they're looking to contribute percentage wise even proportionate to-- for women than they are for men. -Nasser, I'm curious, is this something on your mind and Qatar's mind looking forward in terms of women in sports tourism, would you hold the FIFA Women's World Cup? Is that a future potential to grow on? -Actually, it's interesting that you ask that question because one of the plans right now is how do we maximize return on the stadiums that have been built? We're looking at a full spectrum of events to host here, especially FIFA World Cup, that goes into the Youth World Cups, and possibly the Women's World Cup. It was something that was discussed as a test event for the World Cup.
In November and December, we hosted the first-ever FIFA Arab Cup, and that was in replacement of the Confederations Cup, obviously, because you can't disrupt the league twice. Usually, the Confederations Cup, which is a test event happens in the summer so we needed to find a replacement that actually Women's World Cup and Youth World Cups were looked at. -Do you think you will hold one anytime soon? -Can you say that again? -Do you think you'll hold one anytime soon? There's a bidding process next time it comes around. -Look, we have five months until the World Cup.
I think right now we're all focusing on that. Future events, we'll think about later. -We like to break some news when we can, if that was in the cards, we would love, love, love, love, love to know. -I knew that what you are getting out. -Please jump in. Yes.
-I also just want to make sure that people understand this is not just an issue for women. Good things happen when athletes are paid. They're the core of the industry and we have the pleasure of working with the UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou, who is the best at what he does and his UFC contract is public knowledge worth approximately $600,000 and his boxing counterpart in his last fight, Tyson Furry made $33 million. There's a lot of shift that has to happen in the minds of people who run these leagues. It's incredibly important that athletes are compensated, just like anyone for any job is compensated appropriately for the value that they bring.
-I have a question. Do you think that in order to see that change in mixed martial arts, for example, would there need to be like the introduction of a new league kind of like LIV that may exist on the continent? -Absolutely. I think competition is good. It's great.
UFC runs and owns as you know that entire space effectively, and so it would be really exciting to see something like that. I would certainly encourage that. Also with leadership that has more diversity of thought.
It's incredibly important. -Kojo, weigh in on this, because you're working with players and such. Do you see the pathway for them being successful, for women being successful coming back to that.
For women being successful as just a ton more difficult, what challenges, I guess. How have you overcome some of that hurdles in the guise of your foundation? -Oh, I can't say that we've overcome it yet. It's an ongoing challenge globally. I think there are a few examples in sports where there is. I think tennis is a great example, where the women now get equal pay when you play the Grand Slams.
Serena or Osaka gets the same pay I think in most of the slams now as Rafael, Novak, or any of the winners. They've actually created complete equality. I think tennis is a sport that can be an example of the others. Then they've seen now through doing that the actual commercial power of these female athletes.
Serena started. You've got Naomi Osaka, and you have a whole wave of them coming. They've seen that I think, the ATP and WTA, et cetera, have seen that once they back these athletes and give them the right platform, they also have the same capacity for commercialization as the men.
I think as the other sports grow, going back to your point about women's soccer, I think that their chance for development is to create stronger personalities around the athletes. I think many people know women's soccer is growing, but they don't know the superstars as they would this quickly with their male counterparts. In the US before you had Mia Hamm was a global superstar.
Quite a few people would struggle off the top of their heads to name a lot of the big stars, so the sport is growing, but it's the personality-driven culture that really gets the fans behind that. I think you saw that recently in Formula 1, Netflix created this Formula 1 documentary, and suddenly, Formula 1 has rocketed in the US in particular, because they've got behind the stories and the personalities. I think the next generation of fans are all about that because they live in the social media era. They need to know who the people are, the stories behind the story, and that's what drives fan engagement and, of course, larger commercial opportunities.
-I just want to wrap up with one point because we are running out of time here and I want to throw this to Geoffrey. There's still health fears. We've just been through a pandemic. This is not only a concern for folks who are on planes but also one for folks who are sitting in stadiums, crammed next to lots of people. I wanted to understand from this group, do you think that that is affected equally? You talked, Geoffrey, earlier about leisure pleasure travel coming back. To what extent do you think that's durable and how quickly can it continue to pick up pace, particularly if we go into the fall and see folks stuck inside and another wave, potentially, of coronavirus? -That's a great question. A question that has been hanging around for the last couple of weeks.
Well, I want to say, maybe six months ago, probably the industry wasn't as optimistic given the omicron variant at the time, and that impacted not just travelers' concerns but, obviously, the reactions of governments. There's a great history about what governments can learn from each other in the international order of how we become more organized with this sort of crises and pandemics. I think, where we stand right now, it's looking good for next several months. I think there's a lot of demand, there's a spike in there, pleasure included, I think business is also coming back gradually, but I think the conversation that's dominating this right now is the headwinds that we're facing, the headwinds of different sorts, in a way. One is, obviously, we know the cost of fuel largely because of the war that's happening in Russia and Ukraine.
Interest rates that are going up, that's going to hit pockets of consumers, the disposable income, discretionary spend. The concern for fourth quarter, first quarter of next year of recession, again, that's going to hit consumers' pockets on discretionary spend. -This is a very cynical list of things, I have to say. -Yes, but that's been dominating a lot of the economic conversations last couple of days.
Then, don't forget, as we think about big events like the World Cup coming up, we've got some infrastructural bottlenecks in the travel system today, at least in many parts of the world. That's the experiences through the airport system, the processing of passengers. We've got airports that have become zoos, they'd make zoos very proud, where queues go for five hours before they can get to the gate because shortage of staff, shortage of resources. However fast you can implement technology automation solutions, it won't come in time for a next half a year to address things like getting passengers through airports. Not about Qatar, Hamad Airport, you are fine down here receiving passengers. It's those leaving Manchester, London, Amsterdam-Schiphol.
I think that's an immediate concern that we need to look out for, particularly for events like the big ones that are coming up, but there are some headwinds in the next couple of months. -There's a question in the back. -Hi. First of all, Simone, thanks for organizing this event.
I work for Julius Baer. We manage wealth for client with a particular interest in sports, education and sustainability. I actually don't have question, but I wanted to share a couple of thoughts, maybe one for sports and the other one for the tourism authority. The first time I came to Qatar was in 2002. I remember very well the taxi driver who took me to the hotel. I asked him how far is the hotel and he said that building upside down.
The Sheraton is the only hotel in Qatar by then [?] . When I see where Qatar is today it's [?] what the state of Qatar has gone through in terms of not only infrastructure, but business opportunities, events, et cetera. I have spent the last 12 years living in Qatar and therefore for the tourism authority, [?] . -I'm going to let-- I'm sorry, we are out of time.
I hope you guys will all stick around. Berthold, I'm going to let you give the last word very quickly. Your outlook here. -No, I fully recognize the problem that the gentleman described and we have identified the same.
That there are a lot of events happening and even we as Qatar Tourism, also only find out on the day. We have now set up a team. We have set up the whole digital social infrastructure. If you want to know, there's qatarcalender.com. There's the Visit Qatar mobile app, everything is connected. We've now built out for example feeds with Qatar Museums Authority that will electronically feed the events into our ecosystem.
Actually, later will come to the FIFA World Cup, the Hayya mobile app, the backbone is powered by tourism. Any information around Qatar, any event, we feed to them, but if we don't know because we don't find the event or people don't tell us, it's very hard to mind read. I haven't figured that one out yet. The other thing I hope if you're in a hotel you should have one of those 10 cards in your room with the events for the month.
No? Yes? I see no. Okay. They have been produced. They have been distributed. I don't know what happened, where they got lost, but everything goes digital. At the end of the day, it's digital displays, digital out of home, where we'll push more.
We have the infrastructure. We have a team. We have some budget. Not enough budget to solve that problem. For the big events, we've done, I think, a reasonable good job, like take the F1 last year. We got the message out locally, even though that was also six weeks before the event. For many other events, we still need to tighten up the system.
I have one wish on that one, is actually to give us the licensing authority for the events, so that there's a mandate to register then it would go in database. It would have solved this problem. I'm working on that, it's sitting at home with the council of ministers.
Once this is through, then there should be no reason that we don't know what's happening. -Thank you all so much. I'm sorry, we have to leave it there. I appreciate the wide ranging discussion from all of our participants. I hope all of you have a great rest of your Qatar Economic Forum. Thank you so much.