A yacht, which can be hired to view the World Cup as it sails through Dubai, is docked in Dubai Harbor on November 1, 2022, ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022 football tournament in Qatar. Photo by Giuseppe CACACE/AFP) (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)
Giuseppe Cacace | AFP | Getty Images
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Qatar isn’t the only country experiencing a massive tourism boom thanks to hosting the 2022 World Cup.
Neighboring United Arab Emirates will also benefit from the wave, with the glittering commercial capital of Dubai expected to see an additional 1 million visitors over the course of the football tournament, according to Dubai Sports Council.
Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths in August called Dubai “the most important gateway” to the World Cup and predicted it would see more tourists than Qatar itself.
And the city pulls out all the stops, using its reputation as a hypermodern city, more liberal and developed than Qatar, and promoting the extravagant tourist attractions for which it has developed a reputation.
Dubai is known for over-the-top and offbeat experiences – like its indoor desert ski slope complex, the world’s deepest artificial plunge pool, the world’s tallest building and the largest Ferris wheel. Special World Cup experiences have now been added while also taking advantage of the fact that Qatar, a tiny country of 3 million people, is struggling to accommodate all of its expected tourists and many of them will instead choose to attend the games in to stay overnight in Dubai.
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 was made possible by Match Day Air Shuttles, operated by Qatar Airlines and Dubai-based low-cost airline FlyDubai, allowing travelers to book same-day return flights from Dubai or nearby Oman to attend a game to participate in Qatar Return in less than 24 hours.
“Dubai is just an hour’s flight from Qatar and is a well-known destination for travelers from around the world,” Taufiq Rahim, a research fellow at the Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government, told CNBC. “Its tourist infrastructure and uncomplicated entry requirements make it a convenient starting point for World Cup fans.”
According to Cushman & Wakefield Qatar, Qatar is expected to have delivered a total of 45,000 hotel rooms by early November, with tournament accommodation “bolstered by cruise ships, camping facilities, apartments and villas.” Dubai, on the other hand, has more than 140,000 hotel rooms as a city, according to hotel data company STR.
43 fan zones for watching matches have been set up across the UAE’s various emirates, with some of the largest – such as Budweiser’s official BudX fan zone in Dubai Port – being large enough to host 10,000 fans a day, with matches played on huge 3,552 square foot screens will be broadcast . Dubai’s artificial palm archipelago even has a football-themed hotel where the most dedicated supporters can stay while they’re shuttled back and forth to Doha for the daily games.
A general view of downtown in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 08, 2021.
Satish Kumar | Reuters
A gaming experience worth $20,000 a night
Dubai’s revenue doesn’t just come from hotel stays and restaurants. Visitors to the emirate can charter superyachts, costing tens of thousands of dollars a night, to watch games while sailing the Arabian Gulf.
Xclusive Yachts, the UAE’s largest private charter yacht company, offers its most opulent experience at sea for $20,000 per night on a three-deck superyacht, complete with a skydeck, onboard bar, skylounge, five cabins and a Michelin-starred chef , which serves gourmet dishes.
“We expect 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,” Managing Director Amit Patel told Doha News in October.
Akbar al-Baker (3rd-L), Qatar’s Minister of Tourism and CEO of Qatar Airways, attends a news conference on preparations for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 al, May 26, 2022 in the capital Doha, accompanied by Oman Air CEO Abdulaziz -Raisi, Ghaith al-Ghaith, CEO of flydubai and Captain Ibrahim Koshy, CEO of Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA).
Karim Jafar | AFP | Getty Images
Air travel is also skyrocketing – Dubai Airports announced in mid-November that a whopping 120 daily shuttle flights will be operating to and from Dubai World Central Airport between the start and end dates of the tournament, 20 November to 18 December.
And on Monday, Flydubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith said almost all of the airline’s matchday shuttle flights to Doha were busy.
“This is a pattern that is expected to continue over the next few days and weeks,” Al Ghaith said.
Flydubai and Qatar Airways will jointly operate the matchday shuttle flights between DWC and Doha. With additional flights from Dubai’s main airport, Dubai International (DXB), travelers can catch a flight every 30 to 50 minutes.
The demand for private jets is booming
But like everything in Dubai, if you have the wherewithal, there is a luxury option: private jet charter companies have boomed in business, and some fans are willing to pay staggering sums to get to the games.
“We certainly see a strong increase in air traffic between Dubai and Doha in the coming month,” Oleg Kafarov, director of portfolio development and communications at Dubai-based private 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 single seats priced at 29,000 dirhams ($7,895) each. The flight time between Dubai and Doha is approximately one hour.
The company even decorated its VIP terminal at DWC Airport as a World Cup fan zone with a mini soccer field and other themed decorations.
Despite the high prices, demand for private flights is significantly higher than this time last year, charter companies report, with figures varying from company to company.
More than 70 of its executive jet flights to Qatar are already booked for matches, according to Ian Moore, chief commercial officer of private charter company VistaJet.
“There are obviously some people waiting to see if their favorite team makes it through the qualifying rounds,” Moore told Gulf News.
“We strongly recommend our clientele to book with us as early as possible, even on a private jet, given the restrictions and the amount of flights Doha expects you need to be well organized and well structured.”