Bloomberg — Early indicators point to strong demand for tickets to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, despite criticism over holding the typically summertime tournament in November and concerns about the availability of accommodation.
About 1.5 million fans, a little more than half the population of Qatar, are expected to descend upon the tiny Gulf state during the event. The country has billed the close proximity of its eight stadiums as a perk for fans, even teasing the possibility of attending more than one game per day.
MATCH Hospitality, which sells club seats and other upscale ticket packages with match-day perks, said it’s on pace to “significantly exceed” the volume of sales it saw during Brazil’s World Cup in 2014. That event was the best-attended installment of the tournament in a quarter-century.
“Given the impact of Covid over the last two years, people are very keen and enthusiastic,” MATCH Executive Chairman Jaime Byrom said in an interview. He called the short distances between stadiums “a massive advantage.”
Zurich-based MATCH has an exclusive contract with FIFA to sell ticket-inclusive hospitality packages for the World Cup, including club suite offerings. Under the agreement, the firm has the right to sell about 15% of approximately 3 million tickets available for each World Cup.
“The key driver for international demand for the World Cup is the team allegiance factor -- people want to follow the team of their choice,” Byrom said. “You can imagine the advantage of being able to come to a single host city and from your hotel, from your base, be able to travel to and from your matches with relative ease.”
FIFA has said it’s seeing strong demand in general sales too, though its phased process obscures the total level of interest. More than 800,000 tickets were sold in its first stage of general ticket sales between January and March and some 17 million were requested, the soccer association said. A second sales phase began earlier this month, after the schedule of group-stage matches was determined.
The expected influx of foreign visitors has raised questions about whether the host country has enough hotel rooms and airplane seats to meet demand. A new hotel-booking portal that offers tickets at capped prices offers a limited selection of places to stay, and the cost of an economy seat on a flight from London to Doha during the tournament starts around $800.
Eight years ago in Brazil, MATCH sold commercial hospitality packages alone worth $670 million. Byrom said overall sales are tracking almost four months ahead of that event, even though they began much later due to the pandemic.
For Qatar, MATCH allowed customers a chance to book flights and accommodation well before the general public. The company is also offering hotel rooms in Dubai and Muscat in order to prepare for potentially limited inventory in Qatar.
Fans who are able to score private-suite tickets through the hospitality company will also be able to drink alcohol at the match -- a perk that may not be available to those who purchase tickets through general admission.
While organizers have stressed that Qatar isn’t a dry country, they haven’t yet made clear whether booze will be available inside stadiums. MATCH declined to offer more detail on rules drinking suite-goers must follow.