More than 1.2 million soccer fans are expected to attend the month-long Fifa World Cup in Qatar.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will emerge stronger on global tourism map following successful Expo 2020 Dubai and completion of ongoing Fifa World Cup in Qatar next month, analysts and experts say.

In a recent research note S&P Global Ratings said GCC economies are set to get an extra boost from this month's Fifa 2022 World Cup as more than 1.2 million fans are expected to attend the event, increasing Qatar's population by about 1.5x.

“This paves the way for Qatar to enjoy potential near-term economic gains but also highlights the logistical challenges of managing the event, which will likely lead to positive spillover effects for the rest of the region,” according to the rating agency.

Economic experts said back-to-back mega international events as well as major sporting events will not only spur economic activities in the region, but also diversify the region from oil-based income.

Akber Khan, senior director at Doha-based Al Rayan Investment, said mega events such as Expo 2020 Dubai and Fifa World Cup will help deversify regional economies by promoting tourism in GCC countries.

"For hydrocarbon-rich Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar, hosting global cultural, sporting and entertainment events bolsters their non-oil economies. The aim is to drive up tourism and support hospitality, travel and retail," Khan told Khaleej Times.

"For Dubai, this is a critical part of the economy and it has even been able to convert tourists to home owners," he said.

Analysts and experts said Dubai is expected to be a major beneficiary of Fifa World Cup as Qatar is unable to handle influx of soccer fans because of its limited capacity for the mega event. They said Dubai is an international tourism hub and can take the maximum advantage because of its close proximity to Doha.

“We expect Dubai to be the main beneficiary outside of Qatar, given its geographical proximity and its already well-established tourism offering, airline connections, and multiple-entry tourist visas for World Cup ticket holders,” S&P Global Ratings said.

It further said Dubai Expo 2020 boosted international visibility of the emirate due to which hotel room prices soared by 43 per cent year-on-year basis from January to August 2022 and occupancy rates improved significantly — 71 per cent in the same period versus 61 per cent a year ago.

“We expect occupancy to remain high in the second half of 2022 and particularly during the World Cup when we expect Dubai's hotels to be close to full capacity,” the rating agency said.

Kuwaiti photographer Abdullah M. Alshayji is excited to watch first World Cup in the Middle East and enjoy the stunning stadiums fan-zones and activities created for this mega event.

"I'm supporting all arabic teams, its a dream to bring the World Cup trophy closer to home and see our Arabic countries prosper and succeed," Alshayji said.

"I will try to capture the atmosphere without interfering, capture the real emotions of fans and look for the less distraction angles," he said.

In reply to a question how events like Expo 2020 and Fifa World Cup can drive tourism in GCC, he said the GCC emerges as one of the popular tourism destinations after these mega events.

"I think worldwide fans of the expo or world cup are compelled to visit GCC when an opportunity like this arise, it gives them a motive to explore GCC unique cultures and experiences," he said.

Essa Al Jamali, a Qatari photographer, is also keen to enjoy the first world cup in the region.

"I'm super excited for the world cup, which we all wait for every four years. But, this time it is very special and unique as it is happening for the first time in the Middle East and in an Arab World, in my home country Qatar. We have been waiting for it for the last 12 years since the historic award to host the tournament, and it’s time now to celebrate and enjoy," he said.

"I’m surely supporting my country Qatar, but also hope Argentina win the cup to make it a historic moment for the legend Messi who I respect a lot.

"In addition, I also support all our Arab teams in the tournament and hope we see a great achievement of at least one of them to reach far in the tournament," he said.

He said events like Expo 2020 and Fifa World Cup can drive tourism in GCC.

"Such events will definitely open the door for everyone around the world to explore our region and understand new cultures and hospitalities," he said.

Another Qatari photographer Hussain Alsada is happy to cover the soccerball mega event in his home country.

"I am definitely excited for the world cup season as it is happening in an Arab Gulf country for the first time ever. What makes it special is the ease of navigating between the match sites and events, as the distance is very close and you can attend more than one match in a day," he said.

"With no doubt, I definitely support Qatar national team. I also support any team that entertains us with a great match," he said.

He said it is very important to promote events like Expo 2020 and Fifa World Cup to attract worldwide tousists.

"It is very important to promote such events. We are fully aware that tourism in the Gulf countries is increasing, developing and flourishing. Photographing and documenting such events play a major role in conveying the true and appropriate image to the world," he said.

Abdulrahman Abel, another Qatari photographer, also termed the Fifa World Cup a great success for the region and said it will help promote the tourism in coming years.

“It was a long 12 year anticipation time and we witnessed the development and growth of Qatar's infrastructure to host this worldwide awaited event. I definitely support Qatar in this world cup, and I hope we can achieve great results,” he said.

“Hosting such worldwide events in the GCC can help spread the exposure and culture of our countries. It also helps to reflect and show the country’s diversity while hosting these events,” he said.

In reply to a question, he said there are plenty of spots to visit while in Qatar.

“Some of the greatest are the old traditional ‘Souq Waqif’, Lusail Boulevard and Qatar metro stations.


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