FIFA World Cup in Qatar: Dubai wants to welcome ‘wealthy’ supporters

Located a stone’s throw from Qatar, Dubai offers to fill a possible housing shortage for the football World Cup held in the neighboring country, but the less fortunate fans risk being left on the sidelines after all.

Some 1.2 million visitors are expected from November 20 to December 18 in Qatar, a small but gas-rich state of 2.8 million inhabitants that promises an exceptional World Cup. Faced with a limited supply of accommodation options in Doha, Dubai has stepped in to attract some of the affluent football fans. Barely an hour away by plane is Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, the temple of luxury hotels, restaurants and shopping.

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The company Expat Sport, which bills itself as a leader in sports tourism in the Gulf, is based there and offers various packages to supporters of the World Cup, including a plane ticket to Doha. “This new audience will include people who have never ventured into this field before”, emphasizes to AFP Sue Holt, director of Expat Sport. The company offers packages to Dubai starting at $1,500 for four nights. According to her, reservations have already been made for customers from North America, Europe, China or India.

“Too expensive”

The company’s flagship offer includes several nights at a gigantic new hotel in the heart of an artificial island in the shape of a palm tree. However, whether in Doha or Dubai, many fans may be surprised by the prices of accommodation and restaurants, which are far from affordable. According to Ronan Evain, director of Football Supporters Europe, a large part of the Europeans who have bought tickets for matches risk “to cancel because they can’t afford that kind of budget” for housing. “In Brazil, in Russia, you can take a train, rent a car, stay overnight 200 kilometers away, just come to the day of the match, you can camp, rent an apartment for two. All that is not possible in Qatar “, he states. And Dubai is not “not necessarily more affordable”. “There is a really premium clientele that comes to the World Cups, but it’s not what fills the stadiums, it’s marginal.”he asserts.

Most fans are not people who can afford $5,000 a week cruises

Ronan Evain criticizes Fifa for having “play a role”by his complacency, in Qatar’s stubbornness not to “develop” and “review your model”. For Qatar is the organization of the World Cup “a matter of prestige” and is not intended for “paves the way for a total overhaul of the country’s tourism model”notes Robert Mogielnicki, a researcher at the Arab Gulf States Institute think tank. “What the Qataris do not want is to end up with an abundance of tourist infrastructure for a category of tourists who are unlikely to have a regular and constant presence in the country”explains this Golf expert to AFP.

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According to him, the emirate will probably continue to seek to attract tourists “from elite circles”. However, Qatari officials must find “a balance between immediate needs for the World Cup and long-term tourism goals”, says Robert Mogielnicki. But, the researcher notes, the regional trend is above all in the direction “luxury and high-end”among others in Saudi Arabia, which is now seeking to attract more tourists, other than Muslim pilgrims to Mecca.

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