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Fun and games for everyone – even non-football fans

Fan Fest Brasilia Creative Commons/Portal da Copa
Fan zones – such as the FIFA Fan Fest in Brasilia at the 2014 World Cup – are an integral part of the experience for travelling supporters

How will the Emir state ramp up its hospitality and tourism offer to entertain football fans when they’re not watching matches?

What will the predicted 1.5 million football fans do in Qatar when they’re not at World Cup games? Nobody really knows.

According to the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, community festivals, national days and fan zones will all be laid on to entertain visitors, but nothing has yet been confirmed.

As the Supreme Committee was unavailable for comment it is difficult to paint a picture of what tourists can expect, especially as most participating events companies have signed non-disclosure agreements.

Demand for their services is high, however, with everyone from sponsors to shopping malls planning their own events. 

The scale of the task persuaded Dan Bolton, owner and director of Dubai-based Dan Bolton Creative Management Agency, to relocate to Doha, where he will be based for the foreseeable future.

Some of his core team have also flown in from Dubai and certain skillsets will have to be flown in from other regions, but he told AGBI: “We do want to employ as many people based in Qatar as possible, because they know the local culture, they know the landscape, they understand the local requirements.”

He added: “Qatar is a rich country, it’s got a fairly young population that is well educated and experienced and well travelled, and I think many people are looking to see how they can use the World Cup as a stepping stone and a platform to really showcase the country in a different way.

“I guess that comes with innovation and activations and experience. People want to experience things again. 

“The World Cup in and of itself is a massive experience, so we’re looking at how we can make it fun for all demographics – for families and for those who might not necessarily have enjoyed football previously.”

The anticipated influx of tourists is certainly expected to “boost hotel occupancy rates and revenue per available room, which will be instrumental to growth of the hospitality sector,” according to Ravvy Kaur, a senior manager at CBRE Middle East.

Garbis Iradian, chief economist for the MENA region and Central Asia at the Institute of International Finance, also believes that the “main impact of the FIFA World Cup will be on hospitality and other services”.

Qatar’s government predicts that more than 1.5 million new jobs will be created by the tournament, many of which will be in hospitality and tourism.

Meanwhile, global real estate consultancy Colliers International predicts an average 74 percent hotel occupancy rate in Doha for 2022, with the World Cup “a key driver in the final quarter of the year”. 

Exactly how many visitors will turn up is not yet known, however. At the time of writing, 800,000 match tickets had been sold from a total capacity of 3.1 million, according to FIFA.

However, 23.5 million ticket requests were received during the second phase of sales in April, with updated sales figures set to be released soon.

Theme Park, Amusement Park, Person
Football fans might be tempted to visit Gondolania Theme Park in Doha. Picture: Creative Commons

The fans who do make it to Qatar are expected to find it the most expensive World Cup in history. Football Supporters Europe has estimated that travelling supporters will have to pay $3,000 if they want to stay for three group stage matches.

Cabins within Fan Village start at $207 a night, while hotels begin at $387. At the time of writing, the cheapest options available were apartments at Barwa Barahat Al Janoub, southwest of Al Wakra City, starting at $84 a night.

Supporters wishing to drown their sorrows after defeat or celebrate victory will be able to buy alcohol in “designated areas” as well as hotel restaurants and bars, but a recent survey suggested that a pint of beer would cost roughly $12.50.

Well-heeled fans will have their pick of new luxury hotels including the Pullman Doha West Bay, Le Royal Méridien Doha, and the St Regis Marsa Arabia Island/The Pearl-Qatar, while the long list of restaurants opening soon includes an outpost of London’s SushiSamba in the new Waldorf Astoria in Lusail.

Theme parks, shops and leisure facilities are all under construction too.

Will this be enough to keep fans in Qatar, rather than opting to base themselves in the UAE or Bahrain, both of which have far more established tourism industries? Doha certainly hopes so.

At the end of last year, Qatar Tourism launched its largest international marketing campaign – part of a drive to become the fastest growing tourism destination in the Middle East.