Shortage of World Cup hotels for fans planning trips to Qatar

Qatar want to attract 1.2 million people to the World Cup but will struggle to accommodate many.

With ticket sales starting in January, fans are shocked when looking for a place to stay: Qatar already seems full.

The Associated Press’s extensive searches of major hotel chains and aggregation websites found only one property with availability for the entire tournament which runs from November 21 to December 18 .

Most of the rooms have already been booked en bloc by the World Cup organizers, in part to avoid price increases, but mainly to ensure availability for teams, FIFA officials, sponsors and media.

“If a team qualifies, people are now trying to find accommodation,” Ronan Evain, executive director of Football Supporters Europe, told the AP. “And at the moment there is nothing.”

Qatar’s Supreme Committee, which is in charge of planning the World Cup, provided the first details to the PA acknowledging the accommodation issues after weeks of questions.

Only around 90,000 rooms will be made available to the public via an Internet site. That’s roughly the same number of fans from the United States who had 2018 World Cup tickets, which was spread across Russia, and who had hotels available on the open market.

Yet the PA has learned that surveys and data modeling carried out by Qatari officials on the basis of trips to previous World Cups show that they now predict that 850,000 foreign visitors will need rooms. World Cup organizers also said more than 1.2 million visitors will come. The most recent data from the Qatar Tourism Authority indicates that there are 33,208 rooms in hotels and hotel apartments.

What Qatar boasts of being its main selling point – the most compact World Cup ever with all eight stadiums within a 30-mile radius of Doha – could prove to be a hindrance for visitors to or from Doha. can take long trips.

“It becomes a bit of a dystopian World Cup if the stadium could be anywhere in the world…” It’s certainly not the experience that the majority of fans are looking for. “

Despite the pressures on the hotel stock in Qatar, there will be no system in place to fairly distribute rooms among fans from participating nations or prevent them from being bought out en masse for the tournament as a whole.

“There will be no ballot,” the Supreme Committee told the PA. “Visitors will be able to book through the accommodation portal on a first come, first served basis.”

Further restricting availability, Qatar will not allow overnight stays for fans to make short trips and will free up rooms for others. No price was disclosed.

“As is common practice in many events around the world, minimum and maximum length of stay will be applied,” the Supreme Committee said. “It will be a minimum of two nights for the group stages, such as in Russia. Long stay bookings will be possible, and even more for visitors wishing to stay for the entire tournament.”

There will be 4,000 cabins on the cruise ships docking in Doha for the tournament. While camping in the wilderness had previously been touted as a way to find space for fans, this is now downplayed as an important option.

“The availability of camping will be a small percentage of the overall accommodation options in Qatar,” the Supreme Committee said. “We have always viewed the possibility of camping as an offering of traditional Qatari hospitality, and not as a solution to speculation about housing shortages.”

Flying inside and outside the country for every game might prove to be the only viable option for many fans.

“We could end up in a situation where, at least for the European teams and some of the Asian teams, the best option for the fans will be to go back and forth on match day, which would have a cost,” said Evain. “But it would also have a pretty extraordinary environmental footprint.”

Round-trip direct flights from London and Paris for the months of November and December currently exceed $ 1,000; from New York, it is more than double that price and from Sao Paulo even higher.

“If the focus remains on upscale accommodation and if flight prices stay where they are,” said Evain, “then there will be people who simply cannot afford to make it to the hotel. Qatar.

“We know that FIFA operates on the basis that there is this fantastic fan base somewhere in the world who is willing to pay a fortune to watch the World Cup. But previous tournaments don’t show it. has matches in each tournament that are not sold out. “

The group stage features 32 teams with matches over 12 days when Qatar plans 559,000 flights with a peak of 276,000 ticket holders around November 27-28 requiring around 128,000 rooms – more than the entire hotel base in the country. country for fans.

As soon as November 27, after researching the major travel portals, only three hotels could be booked on the open market on the Internet. The cheapest available rooms would cost $ 1,028, $ 1,431, or $ 5,276 per night.

The Supreme Committee pointed out that Moscow and St. Petersburg had not sold the hotels booked by the organizers, but they are larger cities than Qatar with many more rooms.

“No one is seriously arguing that Qatar should build a million hotel rooms,” Evain said. “There’s probably some sort of common ground and a solution, temporary housing or something, but at the moment it’s hard to see that happening.”

When trying to book for the entire tournament on the travel portals, the only room the PA could find on the open market was $ 1,056 a night at a four star hotel near the airport through Agoda.

The Accor, Hilton and Intercontinental chains, Marriott and Wyndham, which operate most of the major hotel brands, all show no rooms available during the World Cup at their 28 properties in and around Doha – the only oil-built areas. . desert nation rich in gas and gas.

The lifting of the economic, diplomatic and travel boycott of Doha by rivals in the Gulf opens up the possibility for fans to commute from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia or Dubai, both of which are around a 90-minute flight from the only airport in the Qatar.

“These are countries with an even worse human rights record than Qatar,” said Evain.

Some fans will also be put off by the anti-LGBTQ + laws of the Gulf countries. Even the choice to go to Qatar could put fans in a moral dilemma given the well-documented poor working conditions and human rights violations that have only been partially addressed by changes to the labor laws. after close scrutiny of the abuses and deaths of low wages. , largely a population of migrant workers building facilities for the World Cup, including hotels.

“It’s a dilemma that every fan will have to face,” said Evain.


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