More than a quarter of football fans in the UAE are planning to visit Qatar to watch games in person when the World Cup kicks off in Doha in November.
A further 12 per cent are planning to watch games at a hotel, restaurant or bar, while 8 per cent of those with an interest in the World Cup are hoping to visit one of the UAE’s dedicated fan zones for a match.
In September, pollsters YouGov asked around 1,000 people who live in the UAE about their plans for the tournament.
The results gave an insight into the business boom likely to be generated from the tournament, which starts on November 20 when the hosts take on Ecuador.
“The UAE has a large football community, so I think over 25 per cent of people wanting to attend is a good percentage,” said Alan Holt, managing director of Expat Sport in Dubai, the exclusive sales agent of official World Cup hospitality packages.
“This has certainly been reflected in the bookings we've had so far.
“These have been over 50 times higher than the number of people we have ever taken from here to large international sporting events since we launched in 2009.”
The biggest demand from the UAE has come for quarter-final matches, and for “follow your team” packages that offer supporters deals to watch all three group stage matches with shuttle flights from the emirates.
In Qatar, organisers recently announced that a dedicated fan support centre would open at the Ali bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena from October 1 until January 23 to assist World Cup visitors.
Dedicated fan zones to watch games on the big screen have been announced for Dubai Media City, DIFC, Ibn Battuta in Jebel Ali, Jumeirah Beach Residence, Meydan and Jumeirah Emirates Towers, and are likely to be popular during the month-long event.
However, the YouGov poll showed the majority of respondents, 70 per cent, planned to watch games from the comfort of home.
Similar trends were reported in Saudi Arabia, where a similar amount of people were polled. A third of respondents there said they were planning to make the short journey across the border to watch games live in Doha.
“We have had a significant number of our clients who have booked for the group games and asked us to recontact them with availability for the latter stages, if their team qualifies,” said Mr Holt.
“We have started to get general enquiries from people in the UAE already but our actual bookings have broadly been from either hard-core football fans or corporates wanting to entertain their clients.
“I would expect the percentage to be higher in Saudi simply due to them qualifying and people wanting to support their national team.”
Dubai accommodation demand
In the UAE, property agents said long-term rental accommodation had been taken off the market during the Qatar World Cup to cater for those looking for short-term lets.
Due to limited accommodation in Doha, many supporters are planning to base themselves in the UAE during the tournament and then fly in for matches.
“The Qatar World Cup has had a huge impact on the short-term availability of property as so many have been taken off the market to cater for people coming to this region for the duration of the tournament,” said Mark Castley, Luxury Properties' chief operating officer.
“This accommodation has been booked out for the tournament, so there may be a slight dip in the market as those properties reserved for the World Cup come back on to the market once it is all over.
“Even without that, supply is low and that will be a factor on pricing. Demand is continuing to build and it is likely that will outweigh supply,” he said.