As we gear up for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 this November, anticipation is running high in the Middle East. It’s the first-ever football World Cup to be held in the region, so naturally there’s tremendous pressure to put on an unforgettable show.
Qatar is pulling out all stops – with several leisure and entertainment destinations launched in the run-up to the event. According to estimates, the World Cup is likely to attract over a million football fans from around the world and contribute around US$17 billion to the Qatari economy.
Flights from neighbouring countries – including the UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia – are expected to ferry fans from the region to the heart of the action. Dubai has already announced the launch of the first football-themed hotel on the Palm – NH Dubai The Palm – which will offer attractive hospitality packages and match tickets for football fans.
Given their proximity to Qatar, many GCC nations, including the UAE, Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are gearing up to support the surge in tourism later this year. Commercial airlines have announced additional flights to keep up with the demand. Equally, private charters are also vying for a slice of the pie. In fact, private aviation has emerged as a competitive option to transport fans with minimal delays from anywhere in the world to the heart of the action in Qatar to cheer on their dream team. Charter providers have access to light jets and commercial aircraft which can accommodate small- to large-sized groups ranging from 20-100 spectators travelling to these games.
Historically, private jets have ferried athletes and scores of fans to leading global sporting events. For example, the Super Bowl is touted to be the busiest weekend in the global private jet calendar. One of the world’s most prestigious tennis tournaments – Wimbledon – attracts many guests who prefer the privacy and exclusivity of a private jet. Closer to home, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is known to draw substantial private jet traffic to the UAE’s capital.
What makes private aviation such an attractive alternative? It’s the allure of ultimate convenience and flexibility. Even though private jets remain unaffordable for most, they served as a solution for travel during the pandemic. This has made the prospect of private aviation more real for many flyers who were once business or first class travellers on commercial flights, but have now switched to private charters.
Private aviation is also a great opportunity for companies looking to entertain and impress their HNWI corporate clients. Guests can take advantage of faster security clearances, customs and other formalities compared to the tedious processes that come with commercial flights. They can also enjoy the perks of a dedicated terminal for private flights and the relatively short distance between the FBO and the aircraft.
Perhaps the biggest draw of private aviation is the exclusivity and privacy they offer, especially during a time of heightened health and safety precautions over the course of the pandemic. Guests can travel with a small group of people, minimising unnecessary interactions and avoiding crowded airports entirely. Many guests also appreciate the fact that they can have customised meals, in addition to tailored onboard experiences.
Meanwhile, private charters are rapidly upgrading to accommodate requests – whether it is specialised entertainment for accompanying kids, allowances to bring pets on board or catering to specific dietary needs.
There is plenty of opportunity for regional and international charters to cash in on a captive audience looking for bespoke private aviation travel services for the upcoming World Cup.
According to the Knight Frank Wealth Report 2021, the population of global UHNWIs (those with personal wealth exceeding US$30 million) rose by 9.3 per cent in 2021. The report also forecasts a 25 per cent increase in the number of UHNWIs in the Middle East by 2025. Many well-heeled sports fans will be dreaming of sitting in the VIP box rooting for their favourite team – there’s a real opportunity here for private aviation to make this a reality for football fans.
Dmitriy Korshunov is the CEO of Delta World Charter