Qatar has been unable to attract the expected number of visitors in connection with the ongoing FIFA World Cup in the country, says a report prepared by the event organisers.
According to the report, the gas-rich Middle East state received just over 765,000 visitors during the first two weeks of the World Cup, far short of expectations that envisaged 1.2 million foreigners touring the country during the month-long event.
With the tournament already in quarterfinal stage showcasing only eight teams a huge surge in visitors now is unlikely.
Organisers had previously identified the peak period for international visitors to be Nov 24-28 during the busy group stage, when 32 teams were playing four matches every day.
Restrictions concerning alcohol consumption and the controversy generated by Qatar’s policy towards LGBTQ had already made headlines before the start of the event, which may have been the factors contributed to this trend.
Meanwhile, the Iranian opposition claim that the Qatari authorities had arrested several activists visiting the Kingdom at the behest of Tehran.
The Dec 7 report was prepared by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), which organizes 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.
It says 1.33 million match ticketholders were registered and 3.09 million tickets sold across the eight stadiums in Qatar for the tournament that ends on Dec 18.
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 percent boost to the country’s resident population of 3 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,” a Qatari official said.
More visitors are expected to flock to Qatar for popular matches and after the country lifted entry restrictions for nationals and residents of fellow Gulf States.
Previously, world soccer’s governing body 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 ahead of 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 advance through the tournament’s final three rounds.
Visitors to Qatar must obtain a Hayya identification card ahead of travel as it doubles as a mandatory entry visa during the tournament period. On Tuesday, Qatar dropped this requirement for Gulf Cooperation Council countries.