Qatar FIFA World Cup
Come November 20, all roads and routes lead to Doha. Qatar has built a substantial hotel room capacity for the FIFA World Cup, and there's plenty more to come. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai: Hotels in Dubai and elsewhere in the UAE are already taking bookings from football fans flying into and out for the FIFA World Cup matches in Doha. And UAE and Gulf airlines are awaiting the bonanza the month-long sporting spectacle will mean for seat demand during the period.

But how’s the hotel sector in Doha doing? And more important, how many rooms would they have by the kick-off date on November 20?

The property consultancy Knight Frank does some number crunching. “Officially, around 30,000 keys had been delivered by the end of 2021, and we estimate that another 3,800 keys will have been delivered by the time the World Cup commences,” said Adam Stewart, Partner - Head of Qatar, Knight Frank.

That’s on the ground. Qatar has other plans too. “In addition, Qatar’s hotel capacity will be temporarily boosted by an additional 3,900 cabins in two luxury cruise ships moored off the coast - and a third is being planned,” said Stewart. “In addition, cabin-style rooms across 7 fan villages, designed to house the 1 million fans expected to descend on the State during the World Cup are also being rapidly assembled.”

Board the cruise ships
The MSC Poesia and the MSC World Europa will be permanently moored at Doha’s Grand Terminal, and 10 minutes by shuttle to the heart of Doha.

Hotel room rates in Doha

The FIFA website lists tour packages starting from $950 a person, and if the fan wants accommodation as well, then it’s another $230. The packages can go up to $4,950.

“By November, everyone would have a clear idea as to the hotel rates for stays in Doha,” said a travel industry source. “The premium on rates is building up nicely, and next 10-12 days will hold the key.

“If there’s too heavy a mark-up on Doha hotel stays, then Dubai and UAE properties would be the biggest beneficiary.”


And what of post-World Cup?

According to Knight Frank data, the build up is only starting for hotel sector in Qatar. The firm reckons that the hospitality market could grow by 89 per cent to more than 56,000 hotel keys by 2025, with the new investments touching $7 billion.

Beyond the World Cup reveals some incredible ambitions. The tourism and hospitality sector is expected to contribute 12% of GDP by 2030, making it worth about $55 billion, by which time tourist arrivals are forecast to be closing in on 7 million.

- Adam Stewart, Partner - Head of Qatar, Knight Frank
More attractions, more hotels
Qatar's planning new theme park attractions in Lusail, such as the Winter Wonderland and Aquatar on Qetaifan Island, which 'promises to deliver the world’s tallest waterslide'.

"The seeds of a vibrant tourism and hospitality market are starting to take shape," in the post FIFA World Cup scenario, according to Knight Frank.

Create 'all-inclusive packages'

Of the new additions, 76 per cent will be either 4- or 5 stars. That’s more or less in keeping with the current average, with 69 per cent of Qatar’s hotel rooms in these categories.

“One consideration for operators will be to actively target tourists looking for affordable, or budget-holidays, perhaps through the provision of all-inclusive packages which are already very popular in markets such as Spain, Greece, Turkey and the Caribbean,” said Faisal Durrani, Head of Research at Knight Frank. “While there is palpable excitement in Doha as the FIFA World Cup draws near, for the country’s hospitality sector the best is yet to come.

“With nearly 27,000 hotel keys expected to be delivered in the next 3 years, there will be a phenomenal change in Qatar’s hotel offering by the end of 2025. The near doubling in capacity to over 56,000 rooms will be in a post-World Cup environment and comes as the country prepares for an anticipated visitor influx following heightened interest in Qatar once the excitement of the World Cup subsides.”

Who's leading Qatar's hospitality charts?
The Marriott Group continues to 'fortify its position' as Qatar’s leading hotel operator, with about 8,800 rooms under management by 2025, up 152% on the current level, according to Knight Frank.

Accor and Hilton Hotels & Resorts will be the other two in the Top 3 league, 'controlling nearly 19,000 rooms, or a third of total hotel keys'.

'The big change however will be in the form of IHG slipping to fourth place, with about 3,500 rooms, from second place today,” according to the Knight Frank data.