With the world’s biggest football tournament kicking off in a little more than 15 weeks, fans from around the world have been securing flights to the Gulf state, with confirmed flight bookings in November and December increasing since the beginning of the year.
About 1.5 million fans, a little more than half the population of Qatar, are expected to descend upon the country and it looks like travellers from the Middle East will dominate the Doha stands.
According to the latest data from digital travel marketing company Sojern, flight tickets issued in the region are up 4,145 per cent for travel to Qatar during the tournament, compared to bookings in January 2022.
Not only is the Middle East hosting the tournament, but airlines including flydubai and Air Arabia have opened dozens of match-day shuttle flights between the UAE and Doha, making travel in the region during the World Cup easier than ever.
Not to be left behind, European fans will also be jetting into Qatar, as flight bookings from the continent are the second highest, at just under 3,000 per week. That’s an increase of more than 400 per cent compared with January figures.
Travellers from across Asia Pacific are also ready to head to the sporting event with bookings from the region now outpacing all others as the fastest growing when it comes to reserving tickets to Qatar. Confirmed flight seats are up more than 6,000 per cent compared to early 2022 levels, with the majority of reservations for travel to Doha coming from India.
And with the easing of Australia’s final Covid-19 related travel restrictions earlier this summer, football fans from Down Under are now more easily able to travel for the tournament. The country has jumped up eight places in the most recent rankings of confirmed ticket sales, moving from 14 in January and April, to number six in the rankings for flight bookings to Qatar.
Reservations from the US to Qatar are up by 500 per cent in July for travel during the event, making the destination the fourth inbound market followed by Africa, Latin America and Canada, respectively.
November 21 busiest day for travel to Qatar from the UAE
Football fans flying from the UAE to Qatar can expect airports to be busiest on the opening day of the World Cup.
Confirmed flight tickets from Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi to Qatar jump 18 per cent for November 21, the opening day of the World Cup. Senegal take on the Netherlands for the first match, while the host country will face Ecuador later in the day after a lavish opening ceremony at Al Bayt Stadium.
Group B — which includes England, the US, Wales and Iran — also have fixtures on the same day.
Other busy dates for travel between the UAE and Qatar include the days directly before and after the opening ceremony, with bookings up eight and seven per cent, respectively.
There’s another spike a few days later on November 25. The nine per cent rise on this day coincides with the second round of Group A and B fixtures, including England going up against the US.
November 29 also looks like a busier day for travel between the UAE and Qatar with flight bookings jumping 9 per cent. This coincides with the third match day for the same groups and fixtures, including England taking on Wales.
Traveller numbers up across the GCC during Qatar World Cup
The majority of travellers flying to Qatar will spend less than a day in the city. Sojern’s Lodging Data shows that 40 per cent of visitors will be in Doha for up to one day — this data includes visitors using match day shuttle flights to and from the UAE.
Two to three-day stays in Doha are popular with 30 per cent of travellers, while 17 per cent will spend up to a week in the country. Some travellers are opting for an extended stay with 10 per cent of travellers flying to Qatar during the tournament opting to stay in the country upwards of 15 days.
There will also be an increase in visitor numbers to neighbouring countries in November and December. Sojern found that flight bookings to the GCC are up during the World Cup, with “Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates all showing significant year on year percentage increases”.