Football fans could face housing shortage at World Cup in Qatar

The official tournament logo for the Qatar 2022 World Cup can be seen on the Doha Tower in Doha, Qatar on September 3, 2019. REUTERS / Naseem Zeitoun

  • Qatar aims to attract 1.2 million fans to World Cup
  • The organizers plan to offer up to 130,000 rooms
  • Not all hotel rooms are available to fans
  • Desert “fan villages” under study

DOHA, November 15 (Reuters) – On the outskirts of Doha, low-rise buildings are starting to take shape and will welcome many football fans who are due to descend on the Qatari capital next year for the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar, which has been in the spotlight for its treatment of migrant workers at construction sites, hopes the tournament will attract 1.2 million visitors, or about a third of its population.

But organizers told Reuters they expected to be able to offer up to 130,000 rooms, including hotels, which could leave thousands of fans scrambling for accommodation when matches begin next November.

And those hoping for city views may be disappointed. The Madinatna complex, capable of accommodating up to 27,000 fans sharing apartments, is surrounded by an 18-lane highway and a desert expanse 25 km from central Doha.

Organizers have announced only partial details of how and where they plan to find 130,000 rooms, saying the total stock of hotel rooms will be announced “in due course”.

“It’s really frustrating when the host country makes promises of available and affordable housing and then we get closer to a tournament and we see a shortage,” said Ronan Evian, executive director of Football Supporters Europe, a network of European football fans.

Qatar will have less than 50,000 hotel rooms ready by next November, according to estimates by Qatar Tourism, a government agency that sets strategy and regulates tourism. And not all hotel rooms will be available for fans, as many have been reserved for FIFA players and officials, hotel sources have said.

Two cruise ships, including one still under construction in France, and villas and shared apartments, including those in Madinatna, would provide at least 64,000 additional rooms, most of which would be managed by Accor (ACCP.PA), the largest European hotel operator.

A construction frenzy continues on the Madinatna (Our Town) site, due for completion in the spring, and over two dozen hotel sites.

Authorities have banned all hotels from accepting individual bookings from November until the tournament ends on December 23, according to a circular issued earlier this year.

Instead, the Qatar Supreme Committee for Delivery and Inheritance will handle the sales of almost all accommodation options in Qatar. The government has capped hotel rates specifically for the World Cup, but rates for other accommodation have yet to be set.

World Cup rates for all but two and three-star hotels are expected to exceed the most recently published average nightly rate of 438 riyals ($ 120).

The rush for secure housing has seen some furnished apartments and villas rented only to tenants accepting short-term leases. A rental agent for the furnished villas at the Grand Hyatt, for example, said all new leases are due to end in March 2022.

It drove up rental prices, which had been falling for years. Asking prices for apartments and villas have recently increased by 5-10%, according to a recent real estate market study by Cushman and Wakefield.


Qatar, the first Middle Eastern country to host the event, is already subject to media scrutiny over the plight of migrant workers, who, along with other foreigners, make up the bulk of the population.

He introduced a series of labor reforms over the past year that raised the minimum wage and the rules, officials say, are designed to protect workers from heat stress.

Previous World Cups have been held in several cities in big countries like Brazil or Russia, but Qatar is about the size of Jamaica and its eight World Cup stadiums are clustered around its one big city, Doha.

A spokesperson for the Supreme Committee said in a statement to Reuters that they would “use all available accommodation options” in the country.

One proposal has been desert “fan villages” that welcome visitors in Bedouin-style tents or under the stars in the balmy Gulf autumn.

The spokesperson for the Supreme Committee said the concept was still being finalized. It was not immediately clear how the sewage, water and food in the desert villages would be treated.

Qatar Tourism has launched a “vacation home” program allowing residents of Doha to apply for licenses to rent their homes on platforms like AirBnB or VRBO.

Organizers have marketed a “Host a Fan” campaign ahead of the FIFA Arab Cup in Doha in December, which will serve as a test of Qatar’s readiness for next year.

But the call for Qataris to open their homes raised eyebrows in some in the conservative Muslim country and organizers did not say how many households have registered.

If those plans don’t come to fruition, fans may choose to commute from other Gulf Arab states, especially after a dispute between some of them and Qatar resolved in January, allowing for the resumption of flights between Doha and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Work is also underway to expand Qatar’s main airport and reopen an old airport, allowing more flights from neighboring cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates or the Omani capital Muscat.


World Cup officials played down the prospect of a lack of accommodation and said Qatar was only building what its market needed and avoiding “white elephants”.

“We don’t want to start building a lot of hotels, then after the tournament, when the peak goes down, there won’t be any (hotel use),” said Fatma Al-Nuaimi, spokesperson for organization 2022. Committee.

Aside from the football stadiums, Qatar have not specified any legacy plans for what will happen to the World Cup infrastructure after the tournament.

Resorts like Madinatna, which alone is putting 6,780 new apartments on the market, could risk a glut of supply in a housing market that has already been hit by the Gulf dispute that has seen Saudi Arabia and its allies impose an embargo in mid-2017.

“After the World Cup, we expect rents to drop again and the offer that was blocked for the event to be reintroduced to the market,” Johnny Archer, head of research for the event, told Reuters. Cushman and Wakefield.

($ 1 = 3.7504 rials)

Reporting by Andrew Mills; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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