Qatar will be remembered by football enthusiasts for a very long time. Perhaps, many followers of the beautiful game will agree that the Qatar 2022 World Cup sealed the argument of Lionel Messi being the greatest footballer of all time haven clinched the coveted FIFA World Cup trophy with the Argentine team in an enthralling, breathtaking yet exciting final against the Africans dominated French team. Although, the debate of the football GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) may be diminishing with the finals of the World Cup, the entire planning, execution and incredible infrastructures of the Qataris opens a new vista for tourists from all over the world to explore Qatar afterwards.
The recently concluded FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the very first of the global mundial to be hosted in the Middle East is arguably the best yet, with over USD220 Billion spent by the host country in providing world class infrastructures and facilities predominantly across the capital city, Doha. Over 1.7 million visitors from all corners of the world arrived Qatar for the month-long competition between November 20 and December 18, 2022.
I was visiting Qatar for the very first time and coincidentally, it was my first experience of the FIFA World Cup as well. What is clearly visible to all and sundry is the power of exceptional organisation, discipline and near perfect planning of the host country, of course made very much possible by the infusion of technology in every aspect. Everywhere in Doha, security is guaranteed round the clock. From the airport to the hotels and fan zones, to the sand dunes, the stadia, the metro and bus stations, the malls and marketplaces, the experience is always welcoming.
In just 12 years since the announcement of Qatar as the host of the FIFA World Cup 2022, Doha, the capital city where all the games took place wore an impressive, unimaginable new look akin to the fairytale stories in movies, but alas, in this case, this was perfect reality. Rewind back to 2010 when Qatar was granted the hosting rights of the FIFA World Cup, with a population of less than 2 million people then, the rich gulf country has no metro line, just one standard stadium in Doha, the Mall of Qatar which is the biggest mall in the country was not in existence ad merely 1.7 million tourists visited Qatar from January to December 2010.
Fast forward to 2022, visitors arrived Qatar with all travel process fully digitized and automated especially during the World Cup period. Arriving Hamad International Airport in Doha, Skytrax world’s best Airport 2022, there exists almost zero contact with humans and immigration as a simple passport reading platform and a gigantic photo session grant visitors direct access to the carousel and eventually into Doha. This is an excellent, technology driven initiative that allows for the smooth processing of large number of visitors into the State of Qatar in a timely manner. From the airport, travellers can access various locations in Doha through the metro line. The metro line opened in 2019 for public use started construction in 2013 with the first phase of 37 metro stations across the red, green and gold lines spanning about 75 kilometres.
The Doha metro is arguably the biggest visible development in the city in the last decade. Five of the eight FIFA World Cup stadia are directly linked to different metro stations while the other three requires a bus travel from the nearest metro station making fans travel during the mundial a seamless experience. Qatar’s newly constructed mall, which is the biggest in the country, the Mall of Qatar has a direct link to the Al Riffa metro as well as the Souq Waqif station which connects the Souq Waqif market, one of the oldest open and traditional markets in Doha giving travellers access and opportunity to modern and local shopping sprees. While the metro travel was free for all passengers with the Hayya Card during the World Cup, it is less than USD0.60 per trip for the standard class and the beautifully designed VIP section costs about USD2.75. The driverless Doha metro arrives each station every two minutes with the second phase expected to expand to about 111 kilometers with 100 stations in 2026.
In 2022, with Qatar’s population including hundreds of thousands of immigrants at about three million coupled with the massive infrastructures in the country that can cater for many more millions of people, there is no better time to open the country up for the influx of tourists. In order to welcome over six million tourists to Qatar by 2030, Qatar Tourism has launched, “Feel More in Qatar” campaign aimed at highlighting and positioning the gulf country as the ideal and premium destination for tourists. Here are the words of Qatar Tourism chairman and CEO of Qatar Airways Group, Akbar Al Baker, “With its rich and fascinating heritage, natural beauty and range of experiences to choose from, a visit to Qatar inspires positive emotional responses for all. Be it a couple on a short romantic getaway, or a family looking to spend quality time together, the country caters to all wants, needs and preferences, offering an array of truly authentic experiences that are genuinely unforgettable.”
It is time to definitely feel more in Qatar!