Qatar to miss 1.2m World Cup visitor target as 765,000 arrive for first 17 days
- Peak period for international visitors passes with group stage
- Fewer fans avoid overcrowding or traffic issues in country
Qatar received just over 765,000 visitors during the first two weeks of the World Cup, according to an organisers’ report, falling short of the country’s expectations for an influx of 1.2 million during the month-long event.
A huge surge in visitors at this stage is unlikely with only eight teams staying on in Doha, and eight games left out of the 64 in the tournament that began on 20 November.
Organisers had previously identified the peak period for international visitors to be 24-28 November during the busy group stage, when 32 teams were playing four matches every day.
The 7 December report was prepared by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), which organises the tournament, and said that the first 17 days of the World Cup saw 765,859 international visitors, more than half of whom have now departed.
The report registered 1.33m match ticketholders and 3.09m tickets sold across the eight stadiums in Qatar for the tournament that ends on 18 December. A Qatari official, who did not wish to be named, confirmed the figures. The Supreme Committee did not respond to requests for comment.
The tournament in Qatar, the first to be held in the Middle East, is considered one of the most expensive in terms of tickets, hotels and alcohol, sales of which are restricted.
Fewer international visitors than originally forecast led to an unexpected glut of accommodation but has also averted major overcrowding or traffic headaches in Qatar, the smallest country by both population and area to host the World Cup.
The influx of visitors represents a 25% boost to the country’s resident population of three million, of which only about 10-12% are Qataris.
“With over a week of competition still to go, a wave of new visitors has started arriving from the nations that made it to the quarter-finals,” the Qatari official said.
More visitors are expected to flock to Qatar for popular matches after the country lifted entry restrictions for nationals and residents of fellow Gulf states. Cumulative stadium attendance at the first 52 matches was 2.65 million, the document said.
Previously, Fifa said that stadium attendance in Qatar had surpassed attendance at stadiums during a corresponding period at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
On Tuesday, hundreds of Moroccan fans flew into Qatar on special flights arranged before their team’s victory over Spain. It is expected that similar fights will be laid on to allow last-minute fans to fly in from overseas to watch their teams attempt to advance.
Visitors to Qatar must obtain a Hayya identification card prior to travel as it doubles as a mandatory entry visa during the tournament period. On Tuesday, Qatar dropped this requirement for Gulf Cooperation Council countries.