Qatar to address World Cup hotel shortage with cruise ships

QATAR The newly named host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup is making plans to solve at least part of an estimated 55,000-guestroom shortage by employing cruise ships to house spectators.

Qatar, which expects to have about 240 hotels open in time for the soccer tournament—more than double the existing capacity—is prepared to offset some of the lodging needs with cruise ships docked near Al Wakrah, Arabian Business reports.

“Cruise ships are good solutions… it makes sense,” says Jalil Mekouar, regional director and head of real estate advisory at Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels. “Qatar will face similar issues as other countries have been facing, in terms of what do you do with all the inventory once the event is over… This challenge will be amplified for Qatar as we are talking about a city-state, pretty much, and we are talking of a small place physically, which is not as large as South Africa.”

Tourism officials are aiming for at least 90,000 guestrooms in operation by the start of the 2022 tournament. Two-thirds of new inventory, about 55,000 guestrooms, are to be covered by 17 construction projects—3 of which will be completed by 2016.

Qatari officials plan to focus on adding hotel stock in the 3- and 4-star categories, which are underrepresented currently. As of the start of this year, Qatar had fewer than 4,000 guestrooms operational at those star levels, according to Qatar Tourism Authority. The 5-star hotel segment is slightly better represented, with about 4,000 guestrooms.

Qatar currently attracts about 1million visitors annually and aims to grow visitor numbers by 20% in the next five years, but the country is already suffering from guestroom oversupply. Qatar occupancy was 61% for the first half of this year, up from 59% year over year.