Increased travel rates, few rooms: Ahead of Qatar kickoff, football fans have limited options

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Football fans have a reputation for going to extreme lengths to support their teams. But, even by their standards, are planning trips to This year’s World Cup in Qatar It has become an unprecedented adventure.

Flight rates that are two or three times higher than normal, hotel rooms that can run into the hundreds of dollars per night, and the possibility of the United Arab Emirates making its base for traveling between the two countries for matches – what a world The cup has been touted as the “most accessible”, turning into a nightmare for fans.

Qatar’s unique appeal as a host nation – all eight stadiums are located in and around the capital Doha within an hour of travel – has contributed to sales of 1.8 million tickets as of 29 June, with the last sales period starting 5 July. is getting started. And though India did not come close to qualifying for the tournament to be held from November 21 to December 18, the country is among the top-10 buyers of tickets.

“There were only two stadiums in Moscow in 2018 and yet, there were nights when the entire city was sold out,” says Akash Sharma, a Gurgaon-based business executive. Traveled to Russia to watch the World Cup. “Here, we are talking about a country smaller than Delhi-NCR which will host the entire tournament.”

Sharma spent Rs 1.3 lakh on a series of tickets that would give him access to seven matches in all rounds, from the group stage to the final. But they haven’t zeroed in on a single accommodation yet. And he’s not alone.

With a skewed demand-supply ratio, coupled with the fact that 80 per cent of the total housing inventory is being sold through a centralized system run by the organizing committee, finding a place to live is neither easy nor affordable.

In December, the Associated Press news agency reported that organizers had secured plenty of room for players and officials from the 32 teams, world football’s governing body FIFA, tournament sponsors and representatives from the international media.

This leaves very limited options for foreign fans. In a statement to The Indian Express, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy – in charge of organizing the World Cup – said, “The host country will deliver 1,30,000 rooms, which is equivalent to 3.6 million room nights for one million.” -plus fans are expected to travel for the tournament”, adding that “more options will be made available in due course”.

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Rates per night for a hotel or an apartment start at $80 for two people and go up to thousands of dollars, but with the country running short of rooms, organizers have been forced to look for creative solutions.

So, luxury cruise liners docked in the bay have been converted into hotels, with cabins for up to $800 per night. And tents, starting at a little over $200 per night, have been pitched as an alternative to camping in the desert.

All bookings made through the official platform require a minimum two night stay. Rooms are already sold out through popular hotel aggregators and homestay options, through websites like Airbnb, cost an average of around Rs 1.73 lakh per night.

The other option of staying with a relative or friend living in Qatar is not hassle free either. A person living in Qatar must register with the organizers and share details of their property agreements before allowing guests during the World Cup.

As a result, fans have had to take drastic measures. Mohit Daga, who runs an umbrella-making business in Kolkata, says he and his friends plan to stay in Dubai and take a six-hour road trip to Doha for matches. However, it depends on the visa and other requirements. “Given the sharp jump in flight rates, this is a more convenient option and also more economical,” says the 27-year-old supporter from Argentina.

A cursory look at flight rates during the World Cup shows that a round-trip from Delhi or Kolkata to Doha would cost up to Rs 1 lakh – almost three times the normal rates.

Inflated hotel and airline rates are just one part of the budget. As Arnab Chatterjee, a software consultant based in Dallas, USA, experienced in Russia four years ago, even spending on land often leaves a hole in the pocket. “The good thing is that internal travel will be minimal, given the close proximity between the locations,” says the 39-year-old. “However, as we experienced in Russia, from food to water, everything is a little more expensive during such incidents.”

Chatterjee will travel from Dallas to Kolkata with his brother and 75-year-old father before heading to Doha to see Brazil in action. They have paid $350 per night for their stay and, with air tickets and other expenses, their spending on Qatar 2022 is more than double what they spent in Russia four years ago.

“In Russia, I spent Rs 4.5 lakh for two people,” he says. “This time, I think I will spend around Rs 10 lakh in total. Why am I doing this? Because, after watching the World Cup in Russia, my father and I decided to go for all the editions considering it was such a great experience. Also, we missed watching Brazil in 2018, so we wanted to see them play. I want the logistics to be simplified by giving fans more options rather than having a centralized system. ,

Many fans may feel that they will cost the biggest single-sport event. But organizers say it will remain accessible to all. “Qatar 2022 will indeed be the most accessible FIFA World Cup ever. And much more for the residents of India. Geographically, it is the closest FIFA World Cup to India – on India’s west coast and several nearby cities are within a 3-4 hour flight to Doha. And once fans reach Doha, they don’t need to plan any internal flights due to the compact hosting concept of the World Cup, which is played in eight stadiums, the two most distant of which are 75 km away. ,” said the Supreme Committee. Distribution and inheritance.

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