In a build-up to the FIFA World Cup to be held in Qatar, hotels and other accommodation providers, including homestays across the UAE, are experiencing a massive surge in business. Industry experts expect to see a minimum increase of 20 percent in room rates, with many forecasting 100 percent occupancy during the FIFA World Cup to be held in Qatar. Experts also expect the football extravaganza to provide a huge boost to the hospitality industry in the country.
Varun Ahuja, Director of Sales at Aloft Dubai South, said that the demand for rooms during the World Cup has caused a surge in prices, with a 20 percent increase in average room rates. He also said that since the hotel was close to the airport, it had a strong pipeline of group and individual bookings. He further added that the hotel expects to see demand for accommodation spike in August and September this year.
The FIFA World Cup 2022, scheduled to be held in Qatar between November and December, is scheduled to attract millions of spectators from across the world. Due to its limited accommodation infrastructure, Qatar had earlier announced shuttle services from neighbouring regions to cater to the influx of visitors.
Qatar and Dubai will offer the Best of both Worlds
Many homestays and hotels in the region are expecting a full occupancy rate during the World Cup.
Saeed Al Zubaidi, CEO of Like Home by Dar Al Zain Vacation Homes Rental, stated that visitors prefer to stay in Dubai and travel to Qatar to attend the games, due to the close proximity of the two countries.
He also said that by following this schedule, visitors to the World Cup in Qatar would also be able to visit Dubai, providing them with the best of both worlds. He added that due to this reason, prices of holiday homes have also increased, and occupancy rates are expected to reach 100 percent. Mr. Zubaidi further added that his company was aiming to increase the number of properties under its management to maximize the potential offered by this opportunity.
Air Arabia and Flydubai, among other leading airlines in the UAE, have also announced shuttle services to Qatar for the duration of the World Cup. The proposed shuttle services will increase the number of flights between the two countries to over 60 a day. The shuttle services can only be availed by passengers with valid tickets to the World Cup matches. Passengers will also require a Hayya Card to access the stadium and avail the free transportation services provided to and from the stadiums via the Doha Metro.
In an announcement last week, FIFA revealed that 1.2 million tickets had already been sold for the World Cup so far, and the last batch of tickets would be available for sale till mid-day on August 16. The organizers said that some of the tickets had been reserved for sponsors and residents of Qatar.
Ahuja said that the steep demand for rooms in the UAE was because a large number of ticket holders were considering Dubai as a base from which to travel to Qatar, making use of the daily shuttle service to Doha that would be operational from the Al Maktoum International Airport.
Philippe d’Amat, General Manager of Al Habtoor Polo Resort Dubai, said that the resort expects that it will operate at full occupancy during the World Cup, and will include a sizeable mix of families and groups of bachelors. He also said that until now, the resort has witnessed more bachelor group bookings for the period, adding that the suites were proving to be very popular since they each boast a private pool.
Unique experiences in Qatar
Expat Sports, a sports tourism agency, has experienced a tremendous response in demand and bookings. The agency provides packages to football fans, which include daily flights to Qatar and free shuttle services to Dubai fan zones.
Sue Holt, Executive Director of Expat Sports, mentioned that even as their package went on sale last week, the agency has already secured a 150-member booking from the UK. She added that it was the first hotel experience specially curated for football fans and was a welcome addition to the hospitality landscape in Dubai.
The experience will witness the NH Dubai The Palm, converted into a hotspot for football fans. Visitors staying there will receive tickets and special discounts to fan zones based in Dubai, and can also participate in sports challenges and competitions for the duration of their stay.
Saeed Al Zubaidi stated that although some clients prefer the standard package offerings, many have also opted for customized packages with add-ons like pick up and drop, catering, sightseeing and more.
Ahuja added that ticket holders were on the lookout for affordability, convenience and comfort. He further said that bookings for standard packages with additions of lunch, dinner and shuttle services to the airport were proving popular.
Loyal football fans
So far, the biggest demand for bookings has been from countries which have a long association with football, with many choosing large group bookings.
Saeed Al Zubaidi observed that current inquiries and bookings were from dedicated fanbases like the US, Brazil, Germany, India and Argentina.
Similar trends have been reported by other agencies and operators in the region.
Ahuja said that his hotel had received confirmed bookings from fan groups and individuals from Latin America, Germany and the UK.
Sue Holt, the Executive Director of Expat Sports, said that a lot of initial interest has been from South American countries such as Brazil and Argentina. She also said that a large majority of bookings for the experience offered by her company was from groups of fans.