Flight bookings to Qatar boom for World Cup, especially from Dubai

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Stadium Preview - Al Thumama Stadium, Doha, Qatar - September 22, 2022 General view inside the stadium ahead of the World Cup REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous

DUBAI, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Flight bookings to Qatar are booming for the soccer World Cup being held in November and December, with particularly strong demand from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as fans work round a shortage of accommodation in Doha, a study showed on Tuesday.

Flight bookings to Qatar from the UAE and nine other countries have risen ten-fold compared with before the pandemic, travel analysis group Forward Keys said,

From the UAE, they have rocketed 103 times compared with 2016 - the last year before the UAE joined other Arab countries in a boycott of Qatar that halted direct flights. The boycott ended in early 2021.

Forward booking for trips between Nov. 14 and Dec. 24 vs 2019*, including day trips and stays of two nights or more

"The UAE's strong showing is explained by a shortage of accommodation in Qatar," ForwardKeys said, adding many fans were expected to stay in Dubai.

The strong demand comes despite the requirement to present a negative COVID-19 test to enter Qatar.

Air travel across the Gulf is set to benefit, with flight bookings to the region 16% ahead of 2019, and for the early stages of the World Cup 61% ahead, ForwardKeys said.

Fans will also travel to other destinations in the region, with the number of visitors spending at least two nights in Qatar then at least two in another Gulf country rising sixteen times compared with before the pandemic.

U.S. tourists make up 26% of such visitors, with Canadians second at 10% and Britons third at 9%.

"Dubai is the biggest beneficiary of this trend by far, capturing 65% of onward visits," ForwardKeys said.

Forward booking for trips between Nov. 14 and Dec. 24 vs 2019, as of Sept 29, including stays of two nights or more in both places

Qatar Tourism reported 31,123 hotel rooms in the country at the end of the first quarter.

FIFA, world soccer's governing body, has booked 80% of available rooms for players, guests and officials during the tournament, Qatar's World Cup organisers said. FIFA is expected to release rooms it will not need into the market over the next few weeks.

Dubai has 115,000 hotel rooms and 25,000 rental apartments, travel data firm OAG said last week.

Qatar Airways and flydubai, working together, will operate some 54 flights a day between Dubai and Qatar, versus just six scheduled previously, OAG said.

Reporting by Yousef Saba; Editing by Mark Potter

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