Dubai braces for tourism bonanza since Qatar World Cup 18/09/2022
The United Arab Emirates did not qualify for the Qatar World Cup but they will still be winners if an overflow of supporters floods its hotels, restaurants and planes.
With little investment, the UAE, and in particular Dubai, stand to gain if, as expected, fans opt to stay in the tourism hotspot instead of smaller Gulf neighbor Qatar at the tournament. November-December.
Experts say high accommodation prices in the Qatari capital Doha and Dubai’s more permissive environment – including greater availability of alcohol – could attract fans.
Low-cost airline flydubai will operate at least 30 return flights a day to Doha, just an hour away, as part of a daily airlift of 160 shuttle services from resource-rich Gulf cities.
Dubai “has relatively relaxed social norms when it comes to certain aspects of culture, such as alcohol consumption and dress codes,” said James SwansonEconomist for the Middle East and North Africa at Capital Economics.
Any economic windfall, and the glory reflected from the first World Cup on Arab soil, will come less than two years after Doha and the United Arab Emirates were daggered over a regional blockade that isolated Qatar from its neighbors.
The Dubai Sports Council has estimated that around one million World Cup fans could arrive in the city. Given that Qatar is expecting a similar number, the prediction may be ambitious.
Nevertheless, Dubai is preparing with fan zones announced in parks, beaches and in the financial center, while hotels offer special packages. These offers include shuttle flights and transport to the airport and fan zones. The UAE is also offering multiple-entry visas at a nominal price of 100 dirhams ($27) for people with tickets to World Cup matches.
Visiting supporters won’t be the only World Cup commuters to Dubai. Firas Yassinea Franco-Lebanese resident of Dubai, booked a day trip to see France’s opening game after being “shocked” by the price of hotel rooms in Doha.
Yassin will arrive with his wife five hours before the clash against Denmark on November 26 and will leave a few hours after the final whistle having fulfilled his life’s dream of seeing ‘Les Bleus’ play live.
“I will visit the city, watch the game and then return home to Dubai,” the 34-year-old told AFP.
Expat Sport, which is licensed by FIFA to sell hospitality packages for matches in Doha, noted that “convenience” was a key factor in people choosing to stay in Dubai.
He cited “regular shuttle flights operating between the two cities and it’s only an hour flight”.
A hotel in Dubai, on the artificial island in the shape of a palm tree, will be entirely dedicated to football fans.
“We had an increase in bookings from Mexico, the UK, Europe and India,” Expat Sport said. “Nights pass quickly and we expect to be full at this rate.”
Hotel occupancy in the UAE this year is already more than 40% higher than in 2019, pre-Covid, with a “strong tourism performance” expected this winter, the Emir of Dubai and vice president of United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said.
In May, Dubai had 769 hotels with more than 140,000 rooms, a significant increase from the start of 2019, according to official figures.
Shuttle flights will also be operated from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman to relieve pressure on accommodation in Doha, a city of 2.4 million people.
But “compared to other Gulf states, Dubai already holds an edge as a major tourist destination,” Swanston said.
© Agence France-Presse