The economic impact of the FIFA World Cup will extend beyond Qatar
Next November, Qatar will become the first Arab state to host the prestigious FIFA World Cup. With a population of less than 3 million, it is the smallest host country to ever stage the event. Being a popular sport in the Middle East, football unites the region culturally and socially.
Although Doha has hosted other sporting events such as the IAAF World Athletics Championships, Asian Football Confederation Cup and World Men’s Handball Championship, and will hold the Asian Games in 2030, the FIFA World Cup is the biggest event high level to take place in the State of Qatar.
Hosting sporting events has been a new trend in the region in recent years and, according to PwC research, this sector promises to grow by 8.7% over the next three to five years. From Formula 1 races in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi to tennis tournaments in Dubai and international golf events in Abu Dhabi, the region is now heavily invested in sports.
As the event draws closer, it promises to have a broad impact as new opportunities arise for Qatar, other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and the surrounding region.
In Doha itself, new infrastructure built for major sporting events will have an immediate impact on the local economy. About eight air-cooled, zero carbon World Cup venues designed by world-renowned architects, fan zones, training sites and other outdoor spaces for tourists were built from scratch.
With over 1 million visitors expectedthe event will accelerate growth in various sectors such as travel and tourism, hospitality and infrastructure, and contribute to the achievement of Qatar’s National Vision 2030.
Khristo Ayad, a consultant at InStrat, an independent research and advisory platform in Doha, told Al-Monitor: “The high-visibility tournament will certainly be an important step in the country’s diversification journey towards a modern economy based on the knowledge that is not just open but integrated at the center of the community and the international system as a whole. »
In fact, he said, “Qatar’s investment and development drive to establish itself as a center for sport, diplomacy, culture and business had already begun before the award of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in 2010”.
Second, the World Cup would increase Doha’s soft power and add political clout, especially as more such events are in the works. Highlighting this advantage, Ayad said, “Qatar promoted their World Cup campaign as a show of Arab unity from the start, positioning the World Cup as an opportunity to build bridges between the Arab and Western world.[s].”
This would benefit the entire GCC, he added, “In terms of unique selling points for investment, tourism, business, etc., external views on the region would often have considered its assets of soft power as shared, or at least as complementary to each”. other. A successful World Cup in Qatar will have direct positive effects on the overall reputation of all Gulf countries. »
During this time, there would be a huge impact on the hotel and airline industries. Accommodation in Doha is expensive and difficult to find due to its small size, while luxury hotels there are mainly reserved for FIFA officials and players. Therefore, Qatar has chartered two cruise liners and requested that residents rent the space to visitors.
Caroline Rose, Power Vacuums program manager at the Newlines Institute in Washington, told Al-Monitor: “I believe this event, given the limited space reported, has overall heightened regional coordination efforts to accommodate such an influx. large number of tourists. It will also give a boost to the Qatari economy, with profits estimated at $17 billion.
With tens of thousands of football fans expected, mostly from Europe and South America, neighboring countries will become a base for the Qatar World Cup. Above all, the United Arab Emirates is a good option because Air Arabia and Fly Dubai operate 45 daily flights in Doha among themselves.
Ayad observed: “The World Cup is expected to see a significant number of international football fans using travel and accommodation packages not only for Doha but for other popular destinations like Dubai or Muscat. In short, the World Cup is very likely to significantly boost movement and business in the tourism sector beyond just the host country.
Varun AhujaSales Manager at Aloft Dubai South, said: “The upcoming Qatar World Cup has created a climate of optimism in the tourism sector, with an increase in hotel bookings across the UAE for the November period. and beyond.
Saudi Arabia could also see a spike in pilgrims due to the World Cup, and a 106% increase in occupancy is expected in Mecca compared to 2021. Hotel occupancy in Bahrain may increase by 9 %, Kuwait by about 24% and Jordan will be 33% busier.
Even Iran expects a tourism boomand it has entered into a series of agreements with Qatar to welcome football fans.
By reaching an agreement to link the Doha Flight Information Region (FIR) with the Tehran FIR, Tehran hopes to increase tourist traffic to the coral island of Kish, a 40-minute flight from Doha, as well as to other islands and cities in the south of the province of Hormozgan. . Furthermore maritime tourist line will be inaugurated between the port of Bushehr in Iran and the port of Hamad in Qatar during the World Cup.
Interestingly, even as talks continue to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement, Iran and the United States will be play a game at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha.
From South Asia, Pakistan will provide security coverage for the event, and an agreement has been recently signed between Qatar and the Pakistani army after Doha asked for help. Approved by the Federal Cabinet, this arrangement would allow the government to provide troops.
However, Qatar’s economic turnover is difficult to predict at the moment as it is a gradual process.
In the short term, hosting a major sporting event boosts the construction and tourism sectors, but the results of foreign investment tend to be long term. Initially, it was calculated that the 2022 FIFA World Cup could make Qatar $20 billion, but that figure was revised to $17 billion recently.
In Ayad’s view, holding a global event accelerated progress. “While the actual event is undoubtedly an opportunity for Qatar to showcase itself on the world stage, the preparations over the past 12 years have accelerated efforts towards major infrastructure and political developments that would otherwise simply have need more time.”
Once the event is over, Nasser Al Khater, CEO of the FIFA tournament, expects “the country’s focus will shift from infrastructure development to tourism and will likely move in the direction of Russia after the 2018 World Cup.” Apparently Moscow had made a $14 billion more after hosting the event, but there was a long-term decline even before the covid pandemic hit. The experience of South Africa, another host country, was similar.
Nevertheless, Qatar are willing to take risks and like to be in the spotlight.
Ayad summed up: “World Cup-related investments have in turn elevated and consolidated the country’s position as an important hub. In Qatar, the event generated excitement, enthusiasm and national pride; it also put a very young nation with deep traditions under the magnifying glass. After all, the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be the first event of this global scale ever staged in the Arab world. »