Dubai cashes in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

A yacht that can be rented to watch the World Cup as it sails through Dubai is docked in Dubai Port on November 1, 2022, ahead of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup football tournament. Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP) (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)

Giuseppe Caçace | Afp | Getty Images

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

The neighboring United Arab Emirates will also benefit from the surge, with the glitzy commercial capital of Dubai expected to receive an additional 1 million visitors during the football tournament, according to the Dubai Sports Council.

Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, called Dubai “the main gateway” to the World Cup in August 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 cutting-edge city more liberal and built-up than Qatar and promoting the extravagant tourist attractions for which it has earned a reputation.

Dubai is known for its over-the-top and bizarre experiences, such as the 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. It has now added specific World Cup themed experiences, while at the same time taking advantage of the fact that Qatar, a small country of 3 million people, is struggling to accommodate all its expected tourists and many of them will choose to stay in Dubai to stay for the matches.

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

Getty Images | Francois Nell

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 return flights from Dubai or nearby Oman to attend a match in Qatar and back in less than 24 hours.

“Just an hour’s flight from Qatar, Dubai is a well-known destination for travelers around the world,” Taufiq Rahim, a research associate at the Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government, told CNBC. “Its tourist infrastructure and clear entry requirements make it a convenient base for World Cup fans.”

Qatar is expected to complete a total of 45,000 hotel rooms 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 company STR.

43 fan zones have been set up around the various emirates of the UAE to watch matches, with some of the largest – such as Budweiser’s official BudX fan zone in the Port of Dubai – large enough to host 10,000 fans daily with matches being broadcasted. broadcast on huge screens of 3552 square meters . There’s even a football-themed hotel on Dubai’s man-made Palm archipelago that can accommodate the most devoted of fans while being shuttled to and from Doha for daily matches.

A general view of downtown in Dubai, United Arab Emirates December 8, 2021.

Satish Kumar | Reuters

A $20,000 per night viewing experience for games

Dubai’s income does not only come from hotel stays and restaurants. Visitors to the emirate can rent superyachts costing tens of thousands of dollars per night to watch matches as they cruise the Persian Gulf.

Xclusive Yachts, the UAE’s largest private charter yacht company, offers its most lavish experience at sea for $20,000 per night on a tri-deck superyacht complete with a skydeck, onboard bar, sky lounge, five cabins and a chef with a Michelin star serving gourmet meals.

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

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

Karim Jaafar | Afp | Getty Images

Air traffic is also skyrocketing – 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 start and end dates of November 20 and December 18.

And on Monday, Flydubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith said nearly all of the airline’s shuttle flights to Doha on match day were at full capacity.

“This is a pattern that looks set to continue in the coming days and weeks,” Al Ghaith said.

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

Demand for private jets is on the rise

But like everything in Dubai, there’s a luxury option if you’ve got the cash to spare: private jet charters have boomed, and some fans are willing to pay eye-watering sums to get to matches.

“We are definitely seeing a big increase in traffic between Dubai and Doha in the coming month,” Oleg Kafarov, portfolio development and communications director 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.

The company has even decked out its VIP terminal at DWC airport like a World Cup fan zone, with a five-a-side football pitch and other themed decorations.

Despite the high prices, the demand for private flights is significantly higher than around this time last year, charter companies report, although the figures differ from airline to airline.

Ian Moore, chief commercial officer of private charter company VistaJet, says more than 70 of its executive jet flights to Qatar for competitions have already been booked.

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

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

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