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Flight searches to Qatar soar from South Korea and Australia

Qatar 2022 Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed
Qatar 2022 visitors from countries around the world see their flags lining Lusail Boulevard
  • Influx of tourists from all continents delivers windfall for hospitality
  • Average increase in hotel room rates around 1,000 percent
  • Qatar businesses poised to monitor visitor figures after World Cup

Searches for travel to Qatar from nations competing in the World Cup surged in November as fans raced to reserve last-minute flights and accommodation in the tournament’s host country. 

Enquiries for Qatar on travel aggregator website Wego from internet users in South Korea were up 168 percent in November versus the same period of 2021, while searches from Tunisia and Australia rose 135 and 117 percent respectively year-on-year. 

Qatar is hosting 64 matches over 29 days in the 32-team tournament and is the first Middle East country to stage the event.

“The World Cup has [had] a great impact in reviving tourism at the end of the year,” said Mamoun Hmedan, Wego’s chief commercial officer and managing director for the Middle East, North Africa and India. 

Searches from Croatia regarding Qatar were 81 percent higher this November versus 2021, while those from the Netherlands jumped 50 percent. Searches from Portugal rose 62 percent, France was up 40 percent, and those from Germany, Spain and the UK were around one-third higher than a year earlier. 

Saudi Arabia, which claimed a shock 2-1 victory over two-time champions Argentina, also saw a 64 percent jump in searches for travel to the host nation. 

The group stage’s 48 matches attracted an aggregate attendance of 2.45 million, equating to 96 percent occupancy – the second highest in the tournament’s history – according to Fifa. 

Soccer’s governing body said 1 million fans visited the official fan park in Doha during the first 14 days since opening on November 19. Such numbers are likely to have been swelled by multiple visits from a significant amount of fans. 

The influx of tourists has delivered a huge windfall for Qatar’s tourism and hospitality sectors, with the average increase in hotel room rates around 1,000 percent, according to research firm AB Bernstein.

The Movenpick Doha and Grand Hyatt Doha are charging mark-ups of more than 2,000 percent on their normal room rate.

Qatar had a hotel capacity of 30,467 rooms as of June 30, data from the country’s tourism authority shows. Of these, 14,198 were five-star, 6,097 were four-star and 2,357 were one-, two- or three-star. 

Wyndham Hotels, which claims to be the world’s largest hotel franchising company, has five hotels in Qatar, including the Wyndham Grand Doha West Bay Beach, which opened in early October. 

The hotel’s occupancy has been around 90 percent, while revenue per available room (RevPar) – a key industry metric – is above $600, Dimitris Manikis, president of Wyndham Hotels, told AGBI. 

Hotel occupancy after the World Cup

He added: “Qatar has a unique opportunity to showcase itself as a destination to the world through the World Cup. They can make tourism one of their key industries.”

“When we were planning our openings, we were thinking what are we going to do the day after the tournament ends? How do we position our hotels in Qatar? How do we bring a new line of customers to enjoy what Qatar has to offer? That is the big challenge everybody’s going to face.”

In response to these uncertainties, Wyndham is targeting people who come to work and stay in Qatar for an extended period. Its two biggest Doha hotels feature hotel apartments. 

“People can actually live in the hotel. It’s not just a 19-square-metre hotel room with a shower and a bed,” Manikis said, noting that attractive locations, such as those close to the beach, mall or business district, will be key to maintaining occupancy levels post-World Cup. 

“Do I have all the answers? Absolutely not,” he added. “The trajectory of all these amazing places that hosted events – you have some success stories and you have some failures.

“Let’s hope that Qatar has a plan for day two after the World Cup and how they’re going to showcase themselves to the world and attract more customers. That’s something we’re going to monitor very closely.”

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