How the World Cup is helping Qatar score as a MICE destination

Two event profs assess the extent to which the world’s biggest football tournament will boost business events in the region.

Qatar's success with hosting the World Cup will serve as the equaliser that stamps it as one of the top MICE destinations in this competitive sector.
Qatar's success with hosting the World Cup will serve as the equaliser that stamps it as one of the top MICE destinations in this competitive sector. Photo Credit: FIFA

The World Cup is in full swing in Qatar, with several stadiums across the country hosting various matches everyday simultaneously, while fan zones have been set up within Qatar and neighbouring destinations across the United Arab Emirates, such as Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

The tournament has a lot to live up to, following the success of Expo 2020 Dubai, the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region, which concluded earlier this year. With Qatar having also attracted controversy regarding its human rights record, to what extent is the World Cup highlighting Qatar’s potential for business events?

Qatar as a MICE all-rounder on global stage

Rebecca Amey, managing director, Jack Morton MENA

Photo Credit: FIFA

This World Cup is important on a global stage, not just for Qatar as the first Middle Eastern country to host the tournament, but also for the wider region to demonstrate what it is capable of with its entrepreneurial spirit and vision.

Through preparations and planning for the tournament, the MICE ecosystem has collaborated to make Qatar a destination worthy of higher consideration for MICE in the near future and longer-term. It has a proven ability to host a mega event and handle a large number of visitors, highlighted by the increased size of the main airport and visa flexibility.

The options for curated guest MICE programmes are endless, with newly-built or refurbished hotels, associated increased training in guest customer service levels, new or improved event venue options including architecturally advanced and eco-friendly stadia, conference and exhibition venues, and an increased number of leisure offerings for visitors. The newly opened port within Doha also enables cruise lines to offer the destination as a route.

In terms of partner suppliers there has been considerable upskilling of supply network services across AV, technology and print, an increased number of local suppliers and international networks setting up operations in Qatar, upskilling of promotional staff and general development of local industries and expertise to international standards.

With the football tournament, the Middle East region is showcasing how it is closely connected with neighbouring destinations in easy reach of one another, making it possible to spend time exploring and discovering different countries.

You can travel to Qatar for a match and then hop across to a neighbouring country on the same day. With fan festivals and World Cup activities and celebrations happening across the UAE, in Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the region is showing it is truly connected.

Strong MICE infrastructure to compete with the big boys

Natalie Crampton, founder and director, TEC

Photo Credit: FIFA

The tournament is definitely a boost from a MICE perspective – the spotlight is on Doha and the surrounding region. As long as everything goes to plan, and is well organised and the media is positive around the tournament, this puts the destination at the forefront of planners’ minds, which will hopefully increase business tourism in the region.

Qatar has been in the spotlight recently, however, for making snap decisions, such as alcohol not being allowed in the stadium. That has been difficult for all the teams and brands that have been working towards this, and it demonstrates that some factors can be out of our control.

The event is having a positive knock-on effect on neighbouring regions too – hotels are full, and many restaurants too until mid December, while attractions such as Dubai’s Museum of the Future are sold out until mid-December. For tourism it’s positive and this will hopefully translate into MICE business in these cities.

The airports around the region have also been upgraded or expanded to cope with the visitor footfall for the football and that can only also be a positive for the MICE industry.

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