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

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

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Dubai (AFP) – A stone’s throw from Qatar, Dubai offers to fill a possible accommodation gap for the football World Cup held in its neighbourhood, but less fortunate fans risk being sidelined nonetheless.

Between 20 November and 18 December, 1.2 million visitors are expected in Qatar, a small but wealthy gas state with a population of 2.8 million that promises an extraordinary World Cup.

Faced with a limited supply of accommodation in Doha, Dubai has stepped in to attract some wealthy football fans.

Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is a mecca of luxury hotels, restaurants and shopping, barely an hour away by plane.

Expat Sport, which has established itself as a leader in sports tourism in the Gulf, is located here and offers World Cup fans a variety of packages, including airfare to Doha.

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

A photo taken on 28 June 2022 shows the dining room of the Centara Hotel in Doha, which will host fans during the World Cup in Qatar.
A photo taken on 28 June 2022 shows the dining room of the Centara Hotel in Doha, which will host fans during the World Cup in Qatar. KARIM JAAFAR AFP/Archive

The company offers packages to Dubai starting at $1,500 for four nights. According to him, reservations have already been made for customers from North America, Europe, China or India.

“Very expensive”

The company’s flagship offering includes a few nights at the huge new hotel in the heart of an artificial palm tree-shaped island.

But whether in Doha or Dubai, many fans may be surprised by the affordable accommodation and restaurant prices.

According to Ronan Evain, director of European Football Fans, the majority of Europeans who buy tickets for the matches are at risk of “canceling because they can’t afford this kind of budget” for accommodation.

“In Brazil, you can take the train in Russia, you can rent a car, you can go to accommodation 200 kilometers away, you can only come on game day, you can camp, you can rent a flat for two people. All this is not possible in Qatar,” he observes. And Dubai isn’t “necessarily more affordable”.

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

“There is a select clientele who really comes to the World Cups, but that’s not what fills the stats, it’s marginal,” he insists.

Most supporters joke that “they’re not the kind of people who can afford cruise ship cruises at $5,000 a week.”

“Finding a Balance”

Ronan Evain criticizes Fifa for complacently “playing a part” in Qatar’s stubbornness to “develop” and “revise its model”.

Robert Mogielnicki, a researcher at the Arabian Gulf States’ reflection centre, states that for Qatar, the organization of the World Cup is “a matter of prestige” and is not intended to “pave the way for a complete overhaul of the country’s tourism model”. institute.

“What Qataris do not want is to have an over-tourism infrastructure for a category of tourists in the country that does not have a regular and permanent presence in the country,” this Gulf expert explains to AFP.

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

A photo taken on September 14, 2022 shows lounge chairs lined up on a floating platform on a beach in the Emirate of Dubai.
A photo taken on September 14, 2022 shows lounge chairs lined up on a floating platform on a beach in the Emirate of Dubai. Karim SAHİB AFP/Archive

However, Robert Mogielnicki said Qatari authorities needed to find a “balance between the urgent needs associated with the World Cup and long-term tourism goals”.

However, the regional trend is mainly towards “luxury and high-end,” according to the researcher.

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