Qatar’s special green goal as World Cup fans prepare to set off from Dubai

DUBAI, Sept 7 (Reuters) – The first ever soccer World Cup in the Middle East promises a hotel boom in Dubai in November, with thousands of fans expected to descend on the Gulf city due to limited accommodations in host nation neighboring Qatar. .

But the environmental costs of flying these visitors 400 km (249 miles) on match days, overwhelmingly by plane, are raising further doubts about Qatar’s pledge last year to host its first carbon-neutral World Cup.

While more than one million football fans are expected to attend the tournament, Qatar only had 30,000 hotel rooms as of March. More are due to be added before the tournament kicks off on November 20, but much more will be occupied by football teams, their supporting staff and World Cup officials.

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“We expect traffic to be very large and very busy to and from the World Cup,” said Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths, predicting that many fans would choose to stay in Dubai, where there are about five times as many hotel rooms – and easy access to alcohol.

State-owned Qatar Airways helped organize shuttle service operated by regional airlines in and out of Doha on match days from Gulf cities, including at least 60 daily flights to and from Dubai.

That raises questions about the organizers’ initial pledge to make the event carbon-neutral, as they said a large part of it is centered around the capital, Doha, where fans fly into and stay in one airport, rather than spread across it. Many cities like the previous tournaments.

A June 2021 report by Qatari regulators and FIFA’s governing body, which covers activities related to the tournament from 2011 to 2023, said the World Cup was expected to produce 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, with travel being the largest contributor at 52%. Mainly to international flights.

This was produced before transportation services between Qatar and other Gulf countries were revealed this year.

“The sheer volume of shuttle flights from neighboring countries undermines the organizers’ claim that having so many stadiums concentrated in a small geographic area will help reduce emissions related to air travel,” said Khaled Diab, Director of Communications at Carbon Market Watch.

“(This) would extend the credibility of the championship logo for flexible carbon neutrality to the starting point.”

A spokesperson for the World Cup organizer said its shuttle service enables “efficient direct flights to and from the FIFA World Cup in Qatar”, which it says is “much more carbon-efficient than stop-over flights”.

“From the beginning of our plan… our goal has always been to welcome fans from the Gulf Cooperation Council,” she said.

“As such, our greenhouse gas footprint included the percentage of fans traveling from the GCC region to attend matches. The estimate was based on the number of travelers, distance and mode of transportation.”

“After the tournament, we will update the carbon footprint based on the actual data.”

space ease

To ease the pressure on hotels, Qatar is building temporary accommodation on the outskirts of Doha, while cruise ships dock off the coast to provide accommodations for World Cup fans.

But hotels in Dubai, the Gulf’s most popular tourist destination, have already announced strong bookings in the fourth quarter, particularly during the four-week soccer tournament.

“We are seeing huge demand for the World Cup,” said Paul Bridger, chief operating officer of Rove Hotels, a locally owned hotel brand that operates nine mid-range hotels across Dubai.

Bridger said bookings in the fourth quarter, which overlaps with Dubai’s peak winter tourism season from October to February, were four times what they were in 2019, the year before the pandemic.

In an effort to attract football fans, Qatar’s neighbors, including the United Arab Emirates – of which Dubai is a part – and Saudi Arabia will offer entry visas to World Cup card holders.

Monther Darwish, managing director of luxury five-star Palazzo Versace in Dubai, said he expects the 215-room hotel to be fully booked from October to December, with many guests moving between Dubai and Doha throughout the World Cup.

The managing director of DC Aviation Al Futtaim, Holger Ostheimer, said inquiries about charter flights from Dubai to Doha increased three to four times.

Climate advocates have already raised doubts about the tournament being carbon-neutral, despite organizers announcing a series of initiatives to reach that goal. Read more

This includes the stadium’s solar-powered air conditioning, the use of shipping containers as building materials and the purchase of credits to offset emissions, a measure that organizers said should be acknowledged, not criticized.

But Greenpeace program director Julian Jreissati said the tournament would not be carbon-neutral even before the shuttle flights were organized. “The problem with compensation is, basically, it doesn’t work,” he said.

(This story corrects the number of Rove hotels in paragraph 17)

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(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell, Bushra Shakhshir and Abd al-Hadi al-Ramahi). Additional reporting by Andrew Mills in Doha. Written by Alexander Cornwell. Editing by Jean Harvey

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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