The Fifa World Cup in Qatar has brought a bonanza for Dubai resident Daniela Mandacaru, 43, a management consultant from the UK.
She owns a holiday home in Business Bay and income from the property has surged 30 per cent for bookings during the four-week tournament, Ms Mandacaru says.
“The price was about Dh1,150 [$313] per night before the World Cup and it has gone up to about Dh1,500 to Dh1,750 per night during the tournament,” she says.
“The price is decided by the company that manages my property using a dynamic AI pricing software. I don’t need to worry about my apartment, which suits me very well considering my busy work schedule.”
Ms Mandacaru is one of many homeowners in the UAE who have seen a surge in demand for their short-term rentals as host country Qatar copes with an influx of visitors to the tournament and limited accommodation options.
The UAE, already a popular travel and tourism centre, is expected to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the mega sporting event, which begins on November 20, according to hospitality industry reports.
Thousands of fans are flocking to cities near Doha, such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Muscat, where they will stay while travelling to Doha for matches.
This has helped to reduce the pressure on Qatar’s limited stock of accommodation — which includes hotels, apartments, cruise ships and campsites.
Hotels in Qatar are fully booked in the lead-up to the tournament, according to a report by online travel agency Musafir.com.
Leading airlines in the UAE, including Air Arabia and flydubai, have announced shuttle services to Qatar, taking flights between the two countries to more than 60 a day. Multiple-entry tourist visas for fans attending the matches will also support the movement of visitors.
Watch: how people attending Qatar World Cup can apply for UAE's multiple-entry tourist visa
Ms Mandacaru’s holiday home is a two-bedroom apartment in Business Bay, on a high floor with a view of Burj Khalifa, offering access to amenities such as a pool, sauna and gym.
The property is near the Dubai Water Canal, where guests can go for walks, and is also close to shops and restaurants, she says.
“I bought the property for Dh2.4 million last January and it is mortgaged. Making it a holiday home is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made as it gives me a higher return as well as better flexibility compared with long-term rent,” she adds.
The bookings for stays during the World Cup came a few weeks in advance, says Ms Mandacaru.
Airbnb and Booking.com are the most popular platforms used by her holiday home management company. These platforms charge between 15 per cent and 20 per cent in commission, she adds.
Adam Nowak, managing director of holiday home company Ultimate Stay Vacation Homes Rental, says rates in the UAE have increased by 25 per cent to 50 per cent compared with the previous year because of the Fifa World Cup.
“Prices in November and December have increased up to three times compared with the low season,” he says.
“Rates for holiday homes are very seasonal. They are lowest in the summer and during Ramadan, high during October to March, very high on public holidays and extremely high during special events such as New Year’s Eve.”
Demand for holiday homes in the UAE is usually high during winter and the holiday season, but this year, due to the Fifa World Cup, the level has almost doubled, said Saeed Al Zubaidi, chief executive of Like Home by Dar Al Zain Vacation Homes.
“Currently, there is a shortage of holiday home supply and demand is more,” he says.
Frank Porter, another UAE-based short-term property letting management company, has increased prices for holiday homes in its inventory by 40 per cent during November and 85 per cent to 100 per cent during December compared with the normal winter prices, according to Anna Skigin, the company's chief executive and founder.
“Currently, we are seeing a lot of interest in City Walk and Downtown as well as Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence,” Ms Skigin says.
“This will grow to other areas as we close in on the dates. Properties are getting booked, but the biggest wave will be in the weeks right before the World Cup.”
About 5 per cent of Dar Al Zain Vacation Homes’ clients want properties near the airport, but there is high demand for furnished apartments closer to tourist areas, the Metro and shopping malls, according to Mr Al Zubaidi.
On average, a holiday home for eight to 10 people is priced between Dh2,000 and Dh5,000 per night, he says.
The average price varies from one area to another. For instance, in Jumeirah Village Circle, studios are available from Dh7,000 per night, whereas a one-bedroom apartment costs between Dh10,000 and Dh13,000 per night, given demand at the moment, Mr al Zubaidi adds.
Prices differ significantly depending on a unit's size, location, view, guest sleeping capacity, standard, time between booking and check-in, according to Mr Nowak from Ultimate Stay.
“It would be difficult to get any decent-sized apartment in a good location for less than Dh10,000 a week,” Mr Nowak says.
“Obviously, bigger units in the most prime locations and stunning views can sell for much more and Dh50,000 or more shouldn’t come as a surprise.”
Fifa World Cup 2022 fan zones in Dubai — in pictures
The average stay in holiday homes during the World Cup is about one week, according to Ms Skigin from Frank Porter.
The bigger the property, the longer the stay, Mr Nowak says. This is related to the difficult logistics and planning involved when travelling in larger groups.
While most visitors only want to be there for part of the tournament, there’s a limited group of hard-core fans who want to stay in the UAE for the whole event. But, that would be very pricey and it’s also not easy to buy match tickets, especially for fans coming from overseas, such as Europe, Mr Nowak adds.
“We have seen huge demand from foreign markets, with a 30 per cent increase in demand from countries such as Europe, the US and even China,” Mr Al Zubaidi, from Dar Al Zain Vacation Homes, says.
“We are seeing a sharp rise from the GCC as well.”
Visitors are mostly from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Russia, India, Pakistan, the UK and France, according to estimates by Ultimate Stay.
This is the usual mix for Dubai, but there’s a significant spike in the number of Russian tourists, Mr Nowak says.
“It’s a balanced mix of families and friends wanting to experience unforgettable moments together,” he adds.
While seasoned property owners are looking forward to the tournament, new owners are also signing up to open their properties for short-term rentals during the season because of the World Cup’s potential to generate more income, industry experts say.
Landlords receive major financial benefits as they receive 30 per cent more income on average and, in some cases, even up to 80 per cent to 90 per cent.
They also understand that they have greater control over the property and can sell at any point vacant on transfer and the unit is better maintained, Mr Nowak says.
Property owners in Dubai must apply for a holiday home permit from the Department of Economy and Tourism, register with the community, obtain special insurance and equip the unit to hotel standards, he says.
The regulator also encourages owners to apply smart home solutions such as smart locks, smart noise detection systems, as well as sustainability practices, Mr Nowak adds.
Property owners in Abu Dhabi can apply for a holiday home permit from the Department of Culture and Tourism.
The department signed a deal with Airbnb in February to promote the holiday home sector in the capital.
Under the agreement, Abu Dhabi’s tourism department and Airbnb will collaborate to help grow and develop the sector for visitors looking for alternatives to traditional hotels.