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Airbnb bookings for 2022 FIFA World Cup show spike in demand and yet hint of football fans commuting from Dubai

airbnb qatar doha football world cup (1)

The 2022 FIFA World Cup will take place in Qatar from November 20 to December 18, 2022. In the article below, we’ll look at the graph for the bookings already logged and see how it reflects key events of the tournament, from the arrival of competing teams to the first match, the start of that quarter-finals, and the final match. Yet, we’ll also see that the number of bookings is much lower than people not familiar with the region may think, for reasons such as a structural lack of short-term rentals for tourists in Qatar and rigorous religious norms that may drive football fans to stay in more liberal countries nearby such as Dubai and commute back-and-forth between Dubai and Qatar to watch games (There will be 30 daily return flights between Dubai and Doha.). 

The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be an unprecedented event, with the first ever tournament held in the Arab world. Due to its intense summer heat and short winter period (Qatar only has two seasons), these games are being played from mid-November until mid-December (November 20 to December 18, 2022).

Airbnb booking patterns for Doha and Qatar

Let’s have a look at the patterns of Airbnb bookings in Doha, Qatar’s capital city, and its surroundings. Qatar is a small country, and all football games will take place within a 90-minute drive from Doha. 

To create this graph, we used PriceLabs’s Market Dashboards product and zoomed in on the Airbnb bookings already recorded for stays between October 1, 2022, and January 14, 2023. The graph shows the total of bookings recorded, as well their length of stay.

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airbnb qatar football world cup 2022

What can we clearly see and explain on this graph?

Staff, journalists, and some fans start arriving on November 1

The number of Airbnb bookings starts increasing on November 1, 2022, when the football teams arrive in Qatar to start training in the official stadiums. While most football teams and their staff will stay at hotels in Doha, other staff members, journalists, and a few fans have picked a short-term rental option.

Bookings spike between the official beginning and of the World Cup 

The number of bookings is the highest between the date of the tournament kick-off (November 20) and the final match (December 18). 

Demand is not peaking for the first match, but the day after when larger nations are playing

Why is demand peaking right after November 20? The first match will be the local national team Qatar against Ecuador. Qatari do not need to book a stay, while Ecuador has a small population, two factors moderating demand. However, the following day, England, Wales, Netherlands, and USA are playing, which could explain the delayed spike.

Football fans may wait before booking until they know how far their national team is progressing

Note that the number of bookings is coming down as many teams will have been booted out of the world cup by December 9, when the quarter-finals start. It may be that fans of weaker teams do come for the first game of their national team but leave the region or will decide to book a stay in Qatar if events turn out well for their favorite team.

Tourists will celebrate New Year’s Eve in Dubai, not in Qatar

After the FIFA World Cup closes its doors, bookings collapse. There is no spike in bookings for New Year’s Eve, unlike in Dubai. It shows that Qatar is not an established travel destination outside of key global events such as the football world cup.

Traditional demand for airbnbs in Qatar is either for long stays or weekends. Yet, length-of-stay data may hint at football fans commuting to Qatar for one day or two to watch a game.

As for the length of stay, you can guess a few things from the graph:

  • Outside of the World Cup, the Qatar market is either for long stays (29 days and more) or for super short stays (1 to 2 nights)
  • Stays of 1 to 3 weeks increase their share during the World Cup, thanks to football fans, journalists, and team staff.
  • Yet, the number of 1-day and 2-day stays is also increasing, showing that many people will come to the country to see a football match and then leave.

The increase of 1-day and 2-day stays hints at what several local travel experts predict: Many football fans will stay in Qatar. A lot of them will be commuting from neighboring countries where they live (e.g. Saudi Arabia) or where they’ve booked accommodation for the length of the World Cup (e.g. in Duba).

Lack of supply and rigorous religious laws may get football fans to fly back and forth between Qatar and neighboring countries

Travel experts think that Qatar will have to welcome around 1 million fans for the 2022 World Cup. The country is still busy building and opening new hotel capacity to accommodate football fans, teams, and journalists. Yet, Dubai and the six other emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), alongside Saudi Arabia, are eager to capitalize on the expectation that Qatar will not have the hotel and short-term rental capacity to host all football fans.

Qatar is not an established tourist destination, unlike its shining neighbor Dubai. Expats who stay in long-term rentals make up more than 80% of the population. Leisure and business travelers may come for a few days to the country. This situation explains why the supply of short-term rentals is limited in Qatar. The shape of demand, local customs, and the lack of reasons to invest long-term in building short-term rentals are key factors. Investing money in condos in Dubai seems to make more sense.

Please, no alcohol and no sex at my short-term rental

Qatar’s laws are not liberal. Even if the country tries to bend its rules during the World Cup, celebrations may be muted. As a result, football fans may want to party in Dubai for a week and commute to Doha by plane to watch a match.

Why is Qatar not super attractive as a destination where to book a week-long World Cup celebration?

  • Alcohol consumption is officially forbidden. World Cup sponsor Budweiser will be allowed to serve beer near the stadium 3 hours before and 1 hour after the matches, but not during the matches.
  • Qatar currently requires most shops and restaurants in the country to close during Friday prayers.
  • Premarital, unmarried, and gay relationships are banned in Qatar, even if the authorities say that they may turn a blind eye on the matter for the duration of the World Cup
  • Local entertainment is limited, especially compared with Dubai and Abu Dhabi. 

Regional and international footfall may commute by plane to watch matches

This first-ever football world cup in the Arab world will attract regional travelers, from Saudi Arabia to Iran, and Egypt to Lebanon. Just like international football who will be staying in Dubai and other nearby emirates, many of them will be taking the plane to watch a game and maybe stay a night.

Regional airlines have ramped up their daily commuting services from and to Qatar’s Doha International Airport. For instance:

  • FlyDubai will operate 30 daily return flights between Doha and Dubai,
  • Oman Air will rotate 24 flights between Doha and Muscat,
  • Saudia will operate 20 flights from Riyadh and Jeddah,
  • Kuwait Airways will rotate 10 flights between Doha and Kuwait City.

Such a commuting pattern may help forecast more 1 or 1-day stays in Qatar during the World Cup 2022, as national football teams progress through the competition. Now, when it comes to environmental considerations, between air-conditioned stadiums and plane-commuting fans, this World Cup will probably be far from fulfilling its claims of being a carbon-neutral event. Not sure that many people believed in it anyway.

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Rental Scale-Up

Thibault is the founder of Rental Scale-Up. He owns vacation rentals in St. Barths and Bali. He also leads innovative projects for companies within the vacation rental industry. Feel free to reach out to Thibaut Masson on Linkedin.

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