Dubai cashes in on Qatar 2022 World Cup

Dubai cashes in on Qatar 2022 World Cup

Dubai cashes in on Qatar 2022 World Cup

A yacht that can be chartered to watch the World Cup while sailing around Dubai docks in Dubai Harbor on November 1, 2022, ahead of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament. Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP) (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP via Getty Images)

Giuseppe Cacace | Afp | Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Qatar is not the only country experiencing a massive tourism boom thanks to hosting the 2022 World Cup.

Neighboring United Arab Emirates is set to benefit from the surge too, with its glittering commercial capital Dubai set to see an estimated 1 million extra visitors over the course of the football tournament, according to the Dubai Sports Council.

Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, in August called Dubai “the great gateway” to the World Cup and predicted it would see more tourists than Qatar itself.

And the city is pulling out all the stops, capitalizing on its reputation as a hypermodern city more liberal and developed than Qatar and advertising the extravagant tourist attractions for which it has developed a reputation.

Dubai is known for over-the-top and strange experiences – such as an indoor ski slope complex in the desert, the world’s deepest man-made plunge pool, the world’s tallest building and the largest Ferris wheel. Specific World Cup-themed experiences have now been added, while taking advantage of the fact that Qatar, a small country of 3 million people, is struggling to accommodate all the expected tourists, many of whom will choose to stay overnight in Dubai for the matches instead.

Getty Images | A general view of the West Bay area ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on November 18, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.

Getty Images | Francois Nel

This has been made possible by ‘match day air shuttles’ operated by Qatar Airlines and Dubai-based low-cost carrier FlyDubai – allowing travelers to book same-day round-trip flights from Dubai or nearby Oman to attend a match in Qatar and return in less than 24 hours.

“Just an hour away from Qatar by plane, Dubai is a popular destination for global travelers,” Taufiq Rahim, a fellow at the Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government, told CNBC. “The tourism infrastructure and easy entry requirements make it a convenient base for World Cup fans.”

Qatar is expected to have delivered 45,000 hotel rooms in total by early November, according to Cushman & Wakefield Qatar, with tournament accommodation “supported by cruise ships, camping facilities, apartments and villas”. Dubai, meanwhile, as a city has more than 140,000 hotel rooms, according to hotel data firm STR.

Around the UAE’s various emirates, 43 fan zones have been set up to watch matches, with some of the largest – such as Budweiser’s official BudX Fan Zone in Dubai Harbor – large enough to host 10,000 fans daily with matches broadcast across a whopping 3,552 square meters large screens. There’s even a football-themed hotel on Dubai’s man-made Palm archipelago, where the most dedicated fans can stay while being shuttled in and out of Doha for daily matches.

A general view of the downtown area of ​​Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on December 8, 2021.

Satish Kumar | Reuters

A $20,000 per night match viewing experience

Dubai’s income does not only come from hotel stays and restaurants. Visitors to the emirate can charter superyachts running for tens of thousands of dollars a night to watch matches as they sail through the Persian Gulf.

Xclusive Yachts, the UAE’s largest private charter yacht company, offers its most lavish seaborne experience at $20,000 per night on a three-deck superyacht complete with sky deck, onboard bar, sky lounge, five staterooms and a Michelin-starred chef serving up gourmet meals.

“We expect more than 300% [rise] in yacht bookings in November and December, mainly due to visitors to the World Cup and Qatar also looking for leisure activities in Dubai, managing director Amit Patel told Doha News in October.

Akbar al-Baker (3rd-L), Qatar’s Minister of Tourism and CEO of Qatar Airways, holds a press conference on the preparations for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, in the capital Doha on May 26, 2022, while accompanied by Oman Air CEO Abdulaziz al -Raisi, AirDubai CEO Ghaith al-Ghaith and CEO of Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA), Captain Ibrahim Koshy.

Karim Jaafar | Afp | Getty Images

Air traffic is also on the rise – Dubai Airports announced in mid-November that as many as 120 shuttle flights will fly in and out of Dubai World Central Airport each day between the tournament’s start and end dates of 20 November and 18 December.

And on Monday, Flydubai chief executive Ghaith Al Ghaith said almost all of the airline’s matchday shuttle flights to Doha were at full capacity.

“This is a pattern that looks set to continue over the next couple of days and weeks,” Al Ghaith said.

Flydubai and Qatar Airways will jointly operate the match day shuttle flights between DWC and Doha. With the addition of flights from Dubai’s main airport, Dubai International (DXB), travelers can catch a flight every 30 to 50 minutes.

Demand for private jets is growing

But like everything in Dubai, there’s a luxury option if you’ve got the money to spend: private jet charter companies have seen a boom in business, with some fans willing to pay eye-watering sums to get to matches.

“We certainly see a big increase in traffic between Dubai and Doha in the coming month,” Oleg Kafarov, director of portfolio development and communications at Dubai-based private charter jet company Jetex, told CNBC.

Jetex offers two packages: a full private jet service priced at 240,000 UAE dirhams ($65,340) for up to 10 passengers, or individual seats priced at 29,000 dirhams ($7,895) each. The flight time between Dubai and Doha is approximately one hour.

Knight Frank sees growth in Dubai property prices of around 12% year-on-year

The company even decked out its VIP terminal at DWC airport as a World Cup fan zone, with a mini-soccer pitch and other themed decorations.

Despite the high prices, demand for private flights is significantly higher than this time last year, charter operators report, although the figures vary from company to company.

Ian Moore, chief commercial officer of private charter company VistaJet, says more than 70 of its executive jets to Qatar for matches are already booked.

“Obviously there are some waiting to see if their favorite team gets past the qualifying rounds,” Moore told Gulf News.

“We strongly encourage our clientele to book with us as early as possible, even with a private jet, given the restrictions and volume of flights that Doha expects, you need to be well organized and well structured.”

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