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By its own government estimates, the country is almost 30,000 hotel rooms short of the FIFA-advised 60,000 needed to host a tournament. Although we anticipate that the authorities will continue to invest heavily in measures aimed at resolving these issues, it is likely to impact those looking to plan their trips from now.
To tackle the shortfall, Qatar recently appointed an international hotel firm to operate an additional 65,000 alternative lodging facilities such as apartments, shipping container rooms, luxury tents, and cruise liners. The company is also in the process of hiring up to 12,000 temporary workers for the event, who will also need additional lodging facilities. This issue is unique to Qatar because of the proximity of the venues to each other, which are usually spread much further apart.
In anticipation, the authorities have said visit visas will be subject to proof of accommodation bookings. And with 80% of the current hotel capacity already block-booked by FIFA for official guests, on current indications there is highly likely to be a shortage of affordable and suitable accommodation options at the moment. Qatar says it is expecting 1.2 million visitors over the duration of the tournament, which is almost half of the country’s population and would likely put significant pressure on accommodation operators.
We anticipate that travellers will face several associated complications because of the number of non-traditional accommodation facilities in use. This includes the need for transportation, laundry, food, and staff capacity outside of traditional hospitality assets. International media reports have suggested that the hotel operator has already started re-deploying buses and delivery trucks from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in preparation for the event. We have not seen any evidence that this firm has carried out similar operations before and are sceptical that this will pass without any issues.
We assess this will heighten the risk of delays, cancellations and rejected visa applications for those wishing to book a visit without a ticket for the games. It is also likely to be problematic for businesses that will look to send large delegations and require them to stay at a single site. This will be of particular concern, considering that an unknown number of visitors are probably planning to drive across the land border with Saudi Arabia; we are not aware of rules requiring Saudi nationals to pre-book accommodation in order to cross the land border.
Still, we anticipate that the authorities will ensure there are enough rooms to accommodate visitors by November. There have also been suggestions that other Gulf cities could act as overflow destinations; Qatar Airways recently announced an agreement with regional carriers for up to 160 shuttle flights a day from nearby cities. We are continuing to monitor developments there and will update our assessment as the proposed plans start to take shape.
Image: New high-rise office buildings and hotels in Qatar, some of them still under construction. NADINE RUPP/Getty Images
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