World Cup visitors fall short of Qatar’s expectations

People walk through Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Peter Byrn | PA Pictures | Getty Images

Qatar welcomed just over 765,000 visitors in the first two weeks of the World Cup, according to an organizers report obtained by Reuters, falling short of the country’s expectations of an influx of 1.2 million during the month-long event.

A large increase in attendance is unlikely at this point with just eight teams staying in Doha and eight missing out of the 64 games in the tournament that began on November 20.

Organizers had previously identified November 24-28 as the peak time for international visitors during the busy group stage, when 32 teams played four games a day.

The Dec. 7 report, prepared by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), which organizes the tournament, says 765,859 international visitors attended the first 17 days of the World Cup, more than half of whom have since departed.

The report recorded 1.33 million match ticket holders and 3.09 million tickets sold across the eight stadiums in Qatar for the tournament, which ends December 18.

A Qatari official, who asked not to be named, confirmed the figures. The SC did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

The tournament in Qatar, the first in the Middle East, is said to be one of the most expensive in terms of tickets, hotels and alcohol, the sale of which is restricted.

Fewer international visitors than originally forecast led to an unexpected oversupply of accommodation but also prevented major overcrowding or traffic problems in Qatar, the smallest country by population and area to host the World Cup.

The influx of visitors represents a 25% increase for the country’s population of 3 million, of which only around 10-12% are Qatari.

“After more than a week of competition, a wave of new visitors has arrived from the nations that made it to the quarter-finals,” the Qatar official told Reuters.

More visitors are expected to flock to Qatar for popular matches and after the country lifted entry restrictions for nationals and residents of other Gulf countries.

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The cumulative stadium attendance for the first 52 games was 2.65 million, the document said.

Earlier, world football’s governing body FIFA said that stadium attendances in Qatar exceeded stadium attendances during a corresponding period at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

On Tuesday, hundreds of Moroccan fans flew to Qatar on special flights arranged ahead of their side’s victory over Spain. Similar bouts are expected to be staged so fans can fly in from overseas at the last minute to see how their teams progress through the final three rounds of the tournament.

Visitors to Qatar must obtain a Hayya ID prior to travel, as this doubles as a mandatory entry visa during the tournament period. On Tuesday, Qatar dropped that requirement for Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

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