From Doha to Dubai, a luxury World Cup and supporters on the sidelines

A photo taken on October 1, 2022 shows a general view of Katara Towers in Qatar’s coastal city of Lusail ahead of the World Cup in Qatar (Karim JAAFAR / AFP/Archives)

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 by plane is Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, the temple of luxury hotels, restaurants and shopping.

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.

A photo taken on June 28, 2022 shows the dining room at the Centara hotel in Doha, which will host fans during the World Cup in Qatar
A photo taken on June 28, 2022 shows the dining room at the Centara Hotel in Doha, which will host fans during the World Cup in Qatar (KARIM JAAFAR / AFP/Archives)

“This new audience will include people who have never ventured into this region before,” Sue Holt, director of Expat Sport, told AFP.

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 proportion of Europeans who have bought tickets for matches are at risk of “cancelling because they cannot afford this kind of budget” for accommodation.

A photo taken on June 28, 2022 shows a view of the complex
A photo taken on June 28, 2022 shows a view of the “West Bay” complex, from the Centara hotel in Doha, which will host supporters during the World Cup in Qatar (KARIM JAAFAR / AFP/Archives)

“In Brazil, in Russia, you can take a train, rent a car, stay overnight 200 kilometers away, come just for 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 necessarily more affordable”.

“There really is a premium clientele that comes to the World Cup, but it’s not what fills the stadiums, it’s marginal,” he insists.

Most followers “are not people who can afford $5,000-a-week cruises,” he says.

“Find a Balance”

Ronan Evain criticizes Fifa for “playing a role” through its complacency in Qatar’s stubbornness not to “evolve” and “review its model”.

For Qatar, the organization of the World Cup is “a matter of prestige” and does not intend to “open the way for a total revision of the country’s tourism model”, points out Robert Mogielnicki, researcher at the reflection center Arab Gulf States. Institute.

“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,” this Gulf expert explains to AFP.

A photo taken on September 14, 2022 shows sunbeds set up on a floating platform on a beach in the emirate of Dubai.
A photo taken on September 14, 2022 shows deck chairs set up on a floating platform on a beach in the emirate of Dubai (Karim SAHIB/AFP/Archives)

According to him, the emirate will probably continue to seek to attract tourists “from elite circles”.

But Qatari officials must find “a balance between the immediate needs associated with the World Cup and long-term tourism goals”, said Robert Mogielnicki.

But, the researcher notes, the regional trend is mainly towards “luxury and high-end”, including in Saudi Arabia, which is now seeking to attract more tourists other than Muslim pilgrims to Mecca.

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