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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

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Qatar’s neighbors hope for World Cup tourism boom

Manonlookers The excitement for the World Cup is palpable in this gleaming metropolis by the bay. Hotels, pubs and tourist attractions are putting the finishing touches on fan areas with a capacity of up to 10,000. One of the national airlines has increased its flight schedule tenfold to cope with the influx of tourists. Transport authorities are arranging 700 taxis, dozens of buses and two ferries to transport fans around town. But not in the tournament hosts Qatar. It is located in Dubai, the commercial capital of the United Arab Emirates (United Arab Emirates), a distance of approximately 450 kilometers (280 miles).

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1.2 million fans are expected to travel to Qatar for the show, which begins on November 20. Not all will stay in Qatar, though. Some people can’t find an affordable place to sleep (or anywhere at all). Others are put off by crowds or restrictions on alcohol. As such, several neighbors stand to benefit from the cup – neighbors that Qatar was still in lockdown two years ago.

The biggest winner will be Dubai, the most popular destination in the Gulf. Even at the last minute, it still had plenty of room available. Alcohol flows in hotels and restaurants. Tourists can also buy their own spirits without a license, and Qatar’s only liquor store is only open to residents with an official license.

Under normal circumstances, the UAE’s low-cost airline Flydubai operates three flights a day to the Qatari capital Doha. On matchdays in the group stage, that number will jump to around 30, with Qatar Airways offering a further 15 flights. Abu Dhabi Airlines, United Arab EmiratesHundreds of additional services are also planned in the capital and the nearby emirate of Sharjah.

this United Arab Emirates It’s not the only country expecting a tourism boom. Saudi Arabia, which only started welcoming tourists in 2019, plans to host tens of thousands of foreign fans. Ticket holders will receive a free visa for two months. Tourism Minister Ahmed al-Khateeb said there will be 240 weekly flights between Saudi Arabia and Qatar during the World Cup, compared to the usual six. Even sleepy Oman, which shuns mass-market tourism, expects its hotels to be busy.

Saudi Arabia qualified for the cup, with its citizens buying more tickets than Qataris and Americans of any other nation. Many planned to stay in the country’s eastern province, close to the Qatari border, and drive there to watch the game. Qatari officials said they had expanded the crossing at Abu Samra to handle 4,000 passengers an hour.

This was not possible a few years ago. In 2017 Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (along with Egypt) imposed an embargo on Qatar, cutting off travel and trade links. They demanded that Qatar sever ties with Islamic groups, downgrade ties with Iran and curtail its foreign policy independence across the board. Qatar refused to bow its head. The embargo ended abruptly last year, in part because blocking countries realized it was futile.

Although Qatar is the host, many fans will view the Cup as a pan-Gulf event. Some Qataris are quietly thinking that it would be better to bid for a shared tournament similar to 2026, when the United States, Canada and Mexico will co-host. Qatar is estimated to have spent more than $200 billion preparing. Its neighbors will spend a fraction of that, but gain instant prosperity.

Not all, though. Bahrain is the closest to Qatar, only 140 kilometers away. However, its rulers did not organize shuttle flights or fan areas. Deep family ties link many Qataris and Bahrainis, but their governments are wrangling political and territorial disputes that sometimes trump sports and self-interest.

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