Abu Dhabi begins to see surge in bookings ahead of Fifa World Cup

Almost 9 in 10 rooms near city centre are full on the first night of the tournament, Booking.com shows, with more demand expected

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Hoteliers in Abu Dhabi are expecting a last-minute surge in bookings before the Fifa World Cup in Qatar.

The tournament is expected to attract at least 1.2 million visitors and neighbouring cities in the region are seeing an increase in hotel bookings from the thousands of fans who will use shuttle flights to travel in and out of Doha.

The National spoke to hospitality experts in the capital who said the month-long tournament will further bolster business during what is traditionally the busiest time of the year for the sector.

“We expect a surge in last-minute bookings as kick-off draws near,” said Simon Leigh, managing director, Premier Inn Mena, who have two hotels in the city ― Premier Inn Capital Centre and Premier Inn Abu Dhabi Airport.

We’re gearing up for one of the busiest periods in our Middle East history
Simon Leigh, managing director, Premier Inn Mena

“The World Cup, which falls during the peak travel season for inbound tourists, will be another boost for the tourism and hospitality sectors and will further establish the UAE and the wider region as a world-leading destination for visitors from across the globe.

“We’re gearing up for one of the busiest periods in our Middle East history.”

The tournament gets under way in Doha on November 20 and concludes on December 18.

Accommodation has been running out fast in Qatar in the run-up to the finals, which has led many fans to look to neighbouring countries for alternative places to stay.

According to Booking.com, 90 per cent of hotels within two miles of the Corniche are already unavailable on the first night of the tournament.

On the day of the cup final, more than 70 per cent of 3 to 5 star hotels in Abu Dhabi are also no longer available.

An online search for two adults to stay on November 20 shows only one space left at either of the 2 cheapest available hotel rooms, costing either Dh566 and Dh727, including taxes.

If you want to be within 2 miles of the city centre the cheapest available room listed is Dh916.

“Our hotels will be a hive of activity ― in terms of guests staying with us and people watching the games at our food and beverage outlets ― during the tournament,” Mr Leigh said.

Premier Inn's Simon Leigh expects to see a surge in last-minute bookings ahead of the World Cup. Photo: Premier Inn

“While the event itself is in Qatar, the UAE will be a key hub for fans, be they ticket-holders travelling on shuttle flights to the games or tourists and residents using the UAE as a base to soak up the atmosphere locally.

“Occupancy at both hotels is already high for the World Cup period. As always, there’s a big appetite for the Premier Inn Abu Dhabi International Airport hotel, where guests are booking accommodation before their flight or for when they arrive in the country.”

New markets

Other hotel groups were also expecting to enjoy a boost from the tournament, which is being held in the Middle East for the first time.

In some cases, fans were booking month-long stays at the same property for the duration of the tournament.

“We have noticed guests are booking for the entire World Cup month at our properties as they can easily shuttle back and forth into Qatar for the games while spending the remaining time exploring the city,” said Shaikha Al Nowais, corporate vice president of owner relationship management for the Rotana hotel group.

“Our Abu Dhabi hotels are recording significant demand for bookings in the final two months of the year with occupancy expected to reach the high 90s (in percentage).

“Rotana hotels in Qatar, UAE and the larger Middle East tourism hub are performing extremely well, with strong bookings during the World Cup season and beyond.”

Shaikha Al Nowais said Rotana hotels in Abu Dhabi will welcome guests who are staying for the duration of the World Cup. Photo: Rotana Hotels

The tournament has also led to hotels welcoming guests from new markets, as well as those from more familiar territories, she said.

“There has been an uptick in guests from new markets in Latin America, such as Brazil and Mexico,” Ms Al Nowais said. “Visitors are [also coming] from the UK, Germany, France and the rest of Europe.”

The Rotana group has 17 hotels in Abu Dhabi alone.

Football fans in the capital will also be able to cheer on their teams at a fanzone in Yas Links, which will have a capacity for up to 2,000.

The action will be beamed on to a giant LED screen, measuring 16 x 9 metres, making it one of the largest outdoor screens in the UAE.

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Updated: November 05, 2022, 12:52 PM