Fifa's Infantino predicts Dubai and Abu Dhabi boost from World Cup in Qatar

Fans likely to stay in or visit UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia, says football chief

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Fifa president Gianni Infantino expects Abu Dhabi and Dubai to score a tourism boost when the World Cup in Qatar kicks off in November.

The head of the sport's governing body believes the logistical challenges of hosting 32 teams and hundreds of thousands of fans in one city will end up being a positive for the entire region.

Qatar, the smallest country to stage a World Cup tournament, will host 64 games in 28 days at eight stadiums in and around its capital Doha.

While this will allow fans to travel easily from game to game like never before – as some previous World Cups have been held across two host countries let alone a number of cities – it will place huge pressure on Doha's accommodation market.

Maybe somebody wants to make a day in Dubai or Abu Dubai or Muscat or Riyadh or Jeddah. That is certainly what we recommend
Gianni Infantino, Fifa

Infantino said this opens up an opportunity for fans to explore Middle East nations near Qatar.

"There will be accommodation for everyone who wants to stay in Qatar, but maybe somebody then wants to make a day in Dubai or Abu Dubai or Muscat or Riyadh or Jeddah or whatever in the region and they will have the opportunity to go and visit other countries throughout their stay in this region," he told Reuters in an interview.

"That is certainly what we also recommend, because I think one of the biggest experiences in this particular World Cup ... is an opportunity for people to come to a country and a part of the world that they maybe do not know."

Infantino was in Doha on Friday for the World Cup draw.

UAE a staging post for many fans

About 1.5 million visitors are expected to descend on Doha for the tournament, which gets under way on November 21.

But with only about 130,000 rooms provided by hotels, cruise liners anchored off Doha and desert camp sites, the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia will provide attractive alternative destinations for fans. Flight tickets have already surged in price but are predicted to drop, to an extent, as charter flights become available.

Travellers from most GCC nations can reach Qatar’s Hamad International Airport in about an hour.

“The UAE as a global hub will have every opportunity to capitalise on strong visitor numbers who wish to use the emirates as their base for the tournament games,” David Garner, Mena region commercial vice president of Minor Hotels, which owns the Anantara and Avani brands, told The National in February.

“There’s an expectation that many football fans heading to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will use Dubai either as a staging post or as a pre or post-visit option due to Dubai’s excellent visitor options and attractions,” said Stuart Birkwood, general manager of Radisson Red Dubai in Silicon Oasis.

“With the more varied visitor activities available to football fans here in Dubai compared to Qatar, we have heard that many fans will use Dubai as a base between, before or even after games they’ll attend in Qatar.”

Doha hotel and bar prices capped

World Cup organisers have capped room rates for the influx of visitors, with a three-star hotel stay set at a maximum of $120 a night (Dh440).

Reuters said that as with previous tournaments, the price of alcohol will also be discounted, with a pint of beer set to be cut to about $6.55 (Dh24) at fan zones, about half of what many would typically pay in hotel bars in the region.

Despite attempts to keep prices down, visiting the World Cup this year is expected to be an attractive option mainly for those with deep pockets.

Infantino said bringing together so many nationalities in one place will be crucial to the success of the 22nd World Cup.

"I believe that having so many nationalities and people coming together and mingling will be really beneficial, and will also move and elevate the World Cup into a big, big social gathering," the Fifa president said.

Updated: April 06, 2022, 7:46 AM