FIFA organisers and govt officials had blocked off 80% of the country’s hotel rooms
THOUSANDS of hotel rooms in Qatar that had previously been blocked off by FIFA 2022 World Cup organisers are being released to the general public for booking, even as some properties are still under construction less than two months before kickoff.
The accommodations had been held back by Qatar’s Supreme Committee and the FIFA governing body to give priority to the teams in the competition, sponsors and their guests, officials, royal guests, and fans who booked hospitality packages. Now, with the World Cup set to start on Nov 20, several thousand unallocated rooms are being released after a contractually agreed-upon deadline, according to a person familiar with the process.
Hotel executives have been saying that more rooms would become available in early October, easing the crunch. “The availability picture will become much, much broader,” Guy Hutchinson, president and CEO of Rotana Hotel Management Corp, said in an interview.
A spokesperson for Qatar said it is on track to provide 130,000 rooms for the tournament, and that more than 117,000 rooms are currently available. Lodging options include purpose-built housing, tents, Airbnb-style accommodations and at least two cruise ships with almost 4,000 cabins.
The country and its largely immigrant labour force have been working nonstop to get the country ready, including an overhaul of sewage systems to handle the 1.2 million fans estimated to come through for the monthlong event. The bulk of visitors will come in the first two weeks of the tournament, and many will fly in and out on the same day, staying in neighbouring countries like the United Arab Emirates. Qatar reopened a secondary airport to the public to handle a surge in flights.
The stadiums, mostly built from scratch, are done. But at least a half-dozen hotels, including five-star properties, are still under construction with the goal of completing work by Nov 1. Some plan to open all of their rooms and restaurants, while others will only have a portion of their rooms available in time for the tournament.
Some of the so-called fan villages — including rows and rows of quickly built housing resembling mobile homes or shipping containers visible from the air — are still being worked on.
The tournament’s official website still shows very limited availability in hotel rooms for the first few nights before any teams are eliminated.
More rooms, however, are available on hotels’ individual booking sites. The new Rixos Gulf Hotel Doha, for example, recently started taking bookings for the tournament. It opens the all-inclusive property Oct 23, with available rooms on its website starting at 3,570 Qatari riyals (RM4,563) and running up to 33,320 riyals a night for the most luxurious suite.
There are plenty of private homes — known as villas — available starting at 787 riyals per night, as well as apartments and properties that offer studios with hostel-like twin beds for 300 riyals a night. Tents and other spaces in fan villages are also available for between 407 to 1512 riyals per night, with a two-night minimum stay. — Bloomberg
- This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition