x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Qatar urged to invest in new hotels

SPECIAL REPORT: Qatar needs more than the 10,000 hotel rooms it has for the expected influx of 300,000 World Cup fans in 2022. Plus, what happens when the tournament is over?

Qatar must invest billions of dollars to make up a shortfall of 55,000 hotel rooms it will need to accommodate hundreds of thousands of fans expected to flock to the emirate for the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

Data shows that Qatar has only about 10,000 rooms in classified hotels, nowhere near enough to cater to the 300,000-plus tourists who visited South Africa for this year's tournament.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup Bid Evaluation Report, released this week, claims there are 44,000 rooms in Qatar, a number understood to include residential accommodation that would be rented out for the event.

"We need to know the [permanent] supply that will be introduced," said Jalil Mekouar, the executive vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels for the MENA region.

Analysts believe temporary solutions are a better option than building an excess of new properties that risk becoming "white elephants" after the tournament.

"I think South Africa is a good example," said Mr Mekouar, adding that many South Africans temporarily turned their homes into bed and breakfast accommodation for visiting fans. "They didn't take a huge risk and they haven't had a problem with inventory after the World Cup."

Qatar says it will use temporary solutions such as cruise ships, with one project providing 6,000 rooms, according to the FIFA report.

Mr Mekouar said pre-fab properties could be cheaply assembled and dismantled afterwards.

Another solution would be to make use of existing facilities in nearby Gulf countries and rely on charter flights and existing airlines, he said.

"Definitely Dubai and the rest of the region will benefit," said Mr Mekouar. "It will put a positive light on the region for the next years and as we get closer to the event."

Marios Maratheftis at Standard Chartered agreed the event would be positive for the region, not just in terms of tourism but also in terms of construction contracts for regional firms.

rbundhun@thenational.ae