SL Tourism seeks to score with Football World Cup

Create awareness among football-playing nations that Sri Lanka is a destination during the extended breaks between games.Promotional activities will be carried out by the DMCs and via social media.2022 Qatar World Cup is scheduled to take place in the city of Doha from 20 November to 18 December.

Sri Lanka Tourism has commenced promotional activities in major footballing nations to position Sri Lanka as an alternate destination for football fans visiting Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. 

The promotional activities involving the tourism industry and Destination Management Companies (DMCs) are expected to gather momentum over the coming weeks.    

Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairman stated that Sri Lanka Tourism was in the process of identifying the primary originating markets of football fans who would be visiting Qatar for the World Cup while also considering match schedules to identify the most viable target markets for Sri Lanka. 

Work will then begin to create awareness in those football-playing nations regarding the possibility of using Sri Lanka as a destination during the extended breaks between games. Such promotional activities will be carried out by the DMCs and via social media.

Fernando stated they would provide football fans various options/packages to choose from based on their needs and also take steps to create the necessary domestic environment to provide them with the ideal atmosphere.

Elaborating further, he stated: “The Minister of Tourism has already spoken to FIFA officials regarding this a few weeks ago when they came to Sri Lanka for a project involving constructing a football stadium in the country.”

Fernando revealed that Sri Lanka Tourism was working closely with the Department of Immigration and Emigration in order to facilitate arrival visas for all football fans arriving in the country.

Since around 35 countries are eligible for the 90-day visa arrangement or the five-year multiple visit visa, he said they did not expect that providing visa permits to the football fans would prove to be an issue. 

“Tourist arrivals for the World Cup are expected to be in the millions and Dubai and Qatar don’t have sufficient capacity to accommodate such numbers. Furthermore, the kind of environment these football fans are looking for cannot be found in the region. There will be considerable gaps of around three to four days between games and Sri Lanka is only a four-hour flight from Qatar,” Fernando explained. 

This initiative was first revealed by Tourism Minister on 23 September during the public launch of the ‘Save the Sri Lankan Smile’ white label tourism promotional campaign. 

The Minister stated that he had spoken to the FIFA President and had offered Sri Lanka as an alternative destination to host the football fans, as Sri Lanka was an affordable option, in addition to being a mere four-hour flight away.

“I want the industry to get involved and I have told my staff to start discussions with SriLankan Airlines and Qatar Airways in order to implement this. There are only 40,000 rooms in Doha and they will be priced at high premiums. There are 60 flydubai flights per day from Dubai to Doha alone, but even Dubai will be expensive. Therefore, if there is a four-day gap between the games, football fans can stay in Sri Lanka for three nights,” he said.   

The 2022 Qatar World Cup is scheduled to take place in the city of Doha from 20 November to 18 December. The Qatar Supreme Committee, which is in charge of delivering the World Cup, expects 1.3 million fans to visit Qatar during the tournament – a figure equal to half the current overall population of the country. 

Given the expected influx of fans and tourists, there are concerns that Qatar may not be able to offer enough accommodation to visitors, especially those without tickets and wanting to experience the World Cup and the country’s culture in various areas away from the stadiums, including public spaces and fan zones. 

Consequently, steps have been taken to close off Qatar to all visitors other than football fans from 1 November to 23 December due to the lack of accommodation.