Qatar residents will likely have the option of opening up their homes to fans visiting the country for the 2022 World Cup, tournament organizers said.
Speaking to reporters this week, Hassan Al Thawadi – secretary general of the Supreme Committee for Legacy and Delivery (SCDL), which is overseeing construction of World Cup stadiums and training facilities – said the rise of companies such as Airbnb is a tourism trend that the organization can’t ignore.
“It’s an option people want to have and it’s an option we’d like to provide,” he said.
Service providers such as Airbnb allow people to rent out their homes to paying guests.
The website has become a popular alternative to hotels, especially among price-conscious travelers and visitors looking for unique or less formal accommodation.
It’s not clear how such a system would work in Qatar, where most residents rent, rather than own, their homes.
Additionally, the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) strictly regulates the hospitality sector.
However, Airbnb has appeared to have already gained a foothold in Qatar.
According to its website, a couple looking for weekend lodging in mid-April has 46 options from which to choose in and around Doha.
Rentals range from US$28 per night for a shared studio room near TV Roundabout to $503 for a seaview apartment on the Pearl-Qatar.
QTA did not immediately respond to a question about if and how it regulates companies such as Airbnb.
If services like Airbnb are permitted, it could go a long way in helping Qatar meet the 60,000 visitor room requirement set by FIFA for the tournament.
The country currently has nearly 21,000 rooms in hotels and serviced apartments, according to the QTA. That is expected to rise to approximately 46,000 by 2022.
Organizers say desert camps, Airbnb rentals and cruise ships will be used to fill this gap.
Additionally, Qatar’s bid committee told FIFA in 2010 that it had secured the right to use thousands of homes – including 27,000 in Al Wakrah alone – during the tournament.
Past World Cups
Some fans who attended previous World Cups have also stayed in unconventional lodgings.
In Brazil, some residents renovated and rented out their homes to visitors for the 2014 World Cup.
Qatar is also looking at hosting some fans in camps, albeit in the desert rather than the suburbs.
However, several readers around the world reacted with sarcasm and derision after Doha News reported the plans earlier this month:
— King Thunder (@100poundsmuscle) March 21, 2016
This is fine. This is going great. https://t.co/4m7eYwylZT
— Josh Gee (@jgee) March 18, 2016
Al Thawadi defended the proposal yesterday and rejected suggestions that Qatar was scaling back the number of rooms it plans to have in place for the tournament:
“We’re very confident of achieving (FIFA’s) requirement,” he said.
“We’re trying to offer people the option. People go camping here … every weekend, I have a lot of friends – expats and locals – who are out camping, every weekend. It’s just a great experience. And it’s an experience we believe gives the flavor of Qatar, the flavor of the Arab world.”