World-2022 fever hits Dubai as it tries to attract supporters

A few weeks before the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, football fever is on the rise in neighboring Dubai, which hopes to attract some of its supporters.

The Gulf’s first tourist destination, just an hour’s flight from Doha, will open from 20 November to 18 December.

According to Qatari authorities, 160 flights a day travel between the host country and its neighbors, including more than 30 flights from Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates.

These charter flights are a godsend for the Emirates’ nearly 10 million residents, most of whom are expatriates like French team supporter Firas Yacine.

This young French-Lebanese living in Dubai did not hesitate to buy tickets to attend the first World Cup in the Middle East with his wife.

But cooled by Doha hotel room rates, they decided to return on 26 November, arriving five hours before the opening whistle and leaving just hours after the game ended. “I’m going to visit the city, watch the game and then go home,” he told AFP.

– tourist area –

Dubai officials hope the option will also appeal to football fans abroad.

Qatar plans to host between 1 and 1.2 million people during the World Cup, but some supporters fear the lack of accommodation on offer in Doha, alcohol restrictions, or this wealthy and small maintenance They complain about the lack of leisure activities in predominantly Muslim countries.

Not as rich in hydrocarbons as neighboring emirates, Dubai has established itself as a global tourist hub with countless hotels, bars, shopping centers and outsized attractions.

The Dubai Sports Council, a public body, said in a press release last week that it hoped “up to one million visitors” could leave their luggage with Emirates during the World Cup.

Authorities announced earlier this month that they would grant multiple-entry visas to match ticket holders.

Some supporters “will want to take this opportunity to visit both countries,” predicts Expat Sports, an Emirates-based tourism agency specializing in sporting events. “Dubai is known worldwide and will offer many football-related activities there,” she added in an email to AFP.

The emirate has announced the opening of several fanzones in parks, beaches or in Dubai’s financial center, which is famous for its many fine restaurants.

~“Decline in social standards”~

A hotel on the man-made island of The Palm will also be entirely dedicated to football fans.

Expat Sports said there is strong demand for bookings “from Mexico, the UK, Europe and India.” “I think the hotel will be fully booked at this rate.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, said Sunday that tourism revenues will jump to $5 billion in the first half of 2022, expecting “a strong performance this winter”. said there is.

Before the pandemic, Dubai alone had around 16 million tourists in 2019, compared with 5.51 million the following year and 7.3 million last year.

In addition to the “advantages of being a major tourist destination,” the emirate sets itself apart from other Gulf countries with “more flexible social standards regarding certain cultural aspects such as alcohol consumption and dress codes.” James Swanston of Capital Economics emphasizes.

In Qatar, alcohol sales are generally limited to one public store and about 30 hotel bars and restaurants.

Organizers tried to reassure fans last week by announcing that beer stalls would be open for several hours around the stadium and in Doha’s main FIFA fan zone.

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