A large number of Indian fans are gearing up to travel to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup 2022, commencing Sunday, forking out big bucks for the event. With football being the second-most followed sport in India, tour and travel operators said they have been witnessing a strong demand for packages from the HNIs, corporate head honchos and millennial sport enthusiasts. Demand for private jets is also booming.

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: Referees and match officials take part in a training session

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: Referees and match officials take part in a training session | Photo Credit: MARKO DJURICA

Premium seats

Raghav Gupta, CEO and Founder, Fanatic Sports said that many Indian football fans are opting for premium hospitality packages, which includes premium seats, accommodation, access to lounge and meet and greet events. “Sports experiential tourism has been on a rise in recent years and football has been growing in popularity in India. Bookings for hospitality packages have come from all over the country even from cities such as Raipur, Surat and Ahmedabad besides the metros,” he added. Fanatic Sports is the joint exclusive sales agent of Match Hospitality in India for sale of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Official Hospitality Programme.

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: England team hold a welcome event with migrant workers from the Workers’ Cup - Al Wakrah SC Stadium, Al Wakrah, Qatar

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: England team hold a welcome event with migrant workers from the Workers’ Cup - Al Wakrah SC Stadium, Al Wakrah, Qatar | Photo Credit: MOLLY DARLINGTON

Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head, Holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd said, “Being closer to home for Indian travellers, we are seeing a trend of clubbing a visit to Qatar with the Middle East. From a MICE perspective, we have large groups of over 600 confirmed for the World Cup.”

Jet, set, go

Even as some fans cribbed about paying ₹72,000 for a to-and-fro airline ticket, at the other end many are opting for private jets. Captain Abhishek Sinha, Founder, Insta Charter, an air charter sourcing platform, said, “The demand for private charters is quite pumped- up driven by UHNIs from India for FIFA World Cup matches despite high ancillary costs.  Mostly these are for private jets of 13 seaters and above in the mid-size segment, as UHNIs are looking to travel to watch FIFA matches with family and friends.”

A Qatar Airlines Airbus A350

A Qatar Airlines Airbus A350 | Photo Credit: Regis Duvignau

Daniel D’Souza, President & Country Head - Holidays, SOTC Travel added that the company has been witnessing 15-20 per cent surge in demand for Qatar. “What is interesting is that customers who are travelling to Dubai are extending their holidays and visiting Qatar to attend the matches,” he added.

Booking experience

There was a mixed reaction from fans on the FIFA booking experience. Richy D Alexander, CEO of the Kochi-based Davidson PR & Communications, who started planning his Qatar trip in February itself, said it was seamless. “We got the tickets during the phase 2 ticket sales. It was easy to do the selection and allocation via the FIFA portal. Even getting the Hayya card (visa) was seamless. We even booked the flight tickets three months back,” he said.

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: England’s Harry Kane and Netherlands’ Virgil Van Dijk are pictured on buildings in West Bay ahead of the sporting event

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: England’s Harry Kane and Netherlands’ Virgil Van Dijk are pictured on buildings in West Bay ahead of the sporting event | Photo Credit: CARL RECINE

Not so happy was T. Matthew who complained how difficult the process was right from booking tickets, to getting a HAYYA card to getting an accommodation. “To get Hayya you first have to get a confirmed accommodation. To get accommodation you can only go through FIFA website and nothing is available. If available then the cost for a decent accommodation is ₹50,000 upwards per night,” he said, describing how his family almost cancelled their trip. “Someone I know is flying in from Dubai for a match and going back after the match. It is much cheaper, I believe,” he said. 

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: A General view of the Radisson Blu Hotel

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: A General view of the Radisson Blu Hotel | Photo Credit: Hamad I Mohammed

Fans have also begun grumbling about the restrictions at the venue. The ban on alcohol sales at match venues has especially sent spirits plummeting. “It might have been better to have watched it from the comforts of home in India,” said a fan.

Kerala in match mode
Wearing jerseys of their favorite teams, fans takes out country boat ride in the Kadalundipuzha at Malappuram,  heralding the FIFA World Cup beginning in Qatar on Sunday.

Wearing jerseys of their favorite teams, fans takes out country boat ride in the Kadalundipuzha at Malappuram, heralding the FIFA World Cup beginning in Qatar on Sunday. | Photo Credit: SAKEER HUSSAIN

Meanwhile, in football crazy Kerala, FIFA fervour has gripped the state. The Argentina Fans Whatsapp collective in Malappuram district is setting up a 500 sq ft screen to see the matches. The organisers are planning to conduct a month-long fans fest by organising a football tournament, food festival and cultural programmes in the presence of celebrities, said Salih Malappuram, admin of the collective.

(with inputs from V. Sajeev Kumar & Chitra Narayanan)

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