It's an event that's been nearly 12 years in the making, but it's finally (almost) here - the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Football fever is about to descend upon the Middle East as Qatar becomes the first country in the region to host the game's biggest global tournament. But while eyes may be fixed firmly on the nation that will host the matches, there's plenty of opportunity for neighbouring countries to get in on the excitement too - especially as many spectators and fans are looking beyond Qatar's borders - particularly to the UAE - for places to stay during the World Cup period.
In the last few weeks, global media has been abuzz about an apparent limited supply of accommodation in Qatar. One source claims that 80% of the 30,000 rooms available as of March this year were already booked by FIFA for teams, officials, and sponsors. According to Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, there will be up to 130,000 rooms in time for the World Cup.
There are more than one million visitors expected to attend the 2022 World Cup - a very respectable number, even if it is somewhat fewer than the two previous tournaments in Russia (2018) and Brazil (2014), both of which had a total attendance upwards of 3 million people. If there really is a lack of places to stay in Qatar, that leaves a considerable number of people in need of somewhere to stay in between matches... and Dubai certainly hasn't missed a beat in putting itself forward as the ideal destination for fans in need of hotel rooms.
Dubai will run 48 flights a day to Doha during the Football World Cup.
As a global hospitality hub and the recent host of a World Expo, which attracted 24.1 million visitors, 30.3% of whom came from overseas, Dubai certainly has plenty of accommodation to offer. There are typically six daily flights between Dubai and Doha, Qatar's capital, but during the World Cup that figure will be increased to a whopping 48 flights a day.
It only takes around 70 minutes to fly each way, making Dubai the perfect option for international fans who want a greater array of hotels to choose from. And, of course, it comes with the added boon of being able to soak up the emirate's unique atmosphere in between matches, including locally-organised, World Cup-related entertainment.
Dubai in particular will appeal to visitors; it has a well-known reputation as one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, and it has a wide range of hospitality options available to choose from. There will even be a football-themed hotel opening prior to the FIFA World Cup kick-off in November - the 533-key luxury resort, NH Dubai The Palm.
There's plenty on offer in terms of accommodation for all budgets in Dubai, with a solid selection of 3-5 star hotels that reflect the emirate's strong values of quality and customer service. The timing couldn't have been better, as many new 3 and 4-star hotels were opened to house guests for Expo 2020 when the event kicked off at the end of 2021, after being delayed due to the pandemic. The Expo site and surrounding hotels are also located close to Dubai World Central, the airport that will see the biggest number of Dubai-Doha flights throughout November and December.
So... how can the hospitality sector cash in on football fever?
Creating packages tailored to fans and spectators is a start. There's the potential for partnerships with airlines and ground transport companies, to provide a seamless connection for anyone travelling to and from Doha. Yasa is offering packages that combine five-star hotel stays with travel to Doha via JETEX private jets, for example.
Whatever a fan's budget may be though, convenience will definitely be an important consideration for guests who are planning to commute regularly to watch matches. Airport coaches or even car-on-demand discount codes will likely be appreciated to make the journey a little bit easier.
Convenience will be key when it comes to catering to the needs of a football fan.
It's important to consider the local community too.
Not everyone will travel to Doha to watch matches in person, but football enthusiasts will likely want to cheer on their favourite teams in the company of fellow fans. There's nothing quite like the atmosphere created by football fans as they support their team! Whether you operate a hotel, bar, restaurant or cafe, consider creating special offers, deals, and even entertainment around each match. Don't forget the big screens, if you can get them! This will draw in crowds keen to watch, drink, dine, celebrate and commiserate.
Whichever way you look at it, this is going to be an exciting time for Dubai, Qatar, and the Middle East as a whole. It's going to open up the region to new visitors who may not have considered coming here before, and once more proves that this is a part of the world that means business when it comes to big events that attract global attention.
And it can only mean good things for businesses and economies alike.
The year started out strong for Dubai's hospitality sector, and the FIFA World Cup is going to bring an unexpected - but definitely welcome - boost to end 2022 on a high note. It's got to be music to the ears of an industry that's bouncing back from the effects of the last few years. Add in the loosening of COVID-19 rules, and the future is looking exceptionally rosy.
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