Oman is aiming to make the Qatar World Cup a home win after announcing grand plans for a sprawling football festival to run throughout the showpiece tournament.
The sultanate is set to capitalise on a massive Middle East tourism boom during the event by screening every minute of the drama live at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) Gardens as part of a drive to draw in travelling supporters.
More than 1.5 million people are set to flock to Qatar for the sporting spectacle, with the country's Middle East neighbours also expected to reap the rewards of a sharp increase in visitors to the region.
Oman hopes to be an ideal base for the competition, offering short-haul flights to the host country as well as bringing a carnival World Cup atmosphere to its own streets.
“With the Football Fan Festival as the main attraction of the programme, we intend to bring the excitement and atmosphere of the World Cup to local and visiting fans while also showcasing all Oman has to offer — its unique history, heritage, beauty and renowned hospitality,” said Azzan Qasim Al Busaidi, undersecretary of the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism and head of the steering committee overseeing the Oman World Cup Programme.
The fan festival will feature live music, games and food stalls, allowing fans to cheer on their nations in style.
The entrance fee will be two Omani Rial (Dh19) per person, with under 5s going free, and the fan zone will include 4,000 car parking spaces.
Pay a flying visit
Football fans who hold a Hayya card — which that acts as a visa and fan ID for the tournament — and their immediate family members will be eligible for a free 60-day multi-entry visa to Oman.
Oman Air will operate match day flights between Muscat and Doha from November 21 to December 3 for stays of no more than 24 hours. Prices start at OR99 (Dh945) for economy class and OR305 (Dh2,900) for business class.
Thousands of hotel rooms will be available during the tournament.
Room rates for a one-night stay at the five-star Grand Hyatt Muscat on November 20 — the opening day of the World Cup — currently start at OR56 (Dh534).
The World Cup will be key to Oman efforts to bolster tourist numbers which, as in many parts of the world, were hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Heritage and Tourism said there will be more than 50 events in Oman in the coming months that are expected to attract more than 300,000 people.