Mobility sector’s winning game plan for World Cup

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RIYADH: Regional ride-hailing apps, car rental platforms and airlines in Qatar are cashing in on FIFA World Cup opportunities by creating flexible mobility options for football fans traveling to the venues. 

The prospects seem brighter with a map in Qatar detailing the route that sports enthusiasts who live in neighboring countries can take to get to the World Cup if they wish to drive. 

However, those making day trips to the event will only be allowed to enter the country by private car if they have a Qatar-registered vehicle and will instead need to park at the Abu Samra border and travel by bus for the remaining 90 km. 

Taking advantage of the surge in tourism and the government’s restrictions on car travel, the mobility sector is offering inter- country car rides, shuttle flights, and car rentals via Saudia or Careem to avoid the hassle. 

What’s driving this move?

In an interview with Arab News, Careem’s Managing Director of mobility Bassel Al-Nahlaoui said customers can now book inter- country flights from Saudi Arabia to Doha for the FIFA World Cup 2022. 

Saudi residents can book more affordable and hassle-free rides to and from the Kingdom to Qatar. 

It will cost about SR1,000 ($266.10) for a taxi ride from Dammam or Al-Ahsa to Doha, Al-Nahlaoui said. 

In addition, customers can book a ride to Doha one day in advance for a car that accommodates up to three people. 

Taking advantage of the surge in tourism and the government’s restrictions on car travel, the mobility sector is offering inter-country car rides, shuttle flights, and car rentals via Saudia or Careem to avoid the hassle.

According to Al-Nahlaoui, passengers will need to change to a Qatari Careem car at one border. “There will be Careem staff at the borders to help passengers with the transition between the two borders, which makes it even more convenient,” he added. 

Although the car ride might take three to four hours, Al-Nahlaoui said that it is equivalent to the time it takes traveling by plane. “If you go to an airport, between airport security and the flight, it’s probably going to take you four hours from the same place,” he said. 

According to a car rental company in Qatar that did not want to reveal itself, there has been more demand for chauffeur-driven cars than self-driven rentals, so they have yet to experience much interest. 

The Qatari government’s public transportation company Mowasalat will provide 75,000 airport transfers per day from Hamad International Airport to the Doha city center, said a source familiar with the matter. 

“For a 10-minute drive, some suppliers are charging 500 Qatari riyals per transfer,” he said. 

He added that there is a shortage of airport transfers, and suppliers have to sell their full-day car and chauffeur rides for $1,500 for eight hours to get a transfer. 

To tackle the shortage, Careem has also collaborated with the Qatari government to accommodate the influx of tourists. As a result, anyone living in Qatar can also become a Careem captain for the duration of the World Cup, allowing them to use their private cars to help transport tourists and residents, Al-Nahlaoui said. 

“I think that is going to help manage the demand and help provide a lot of these people with additional income over that period,” he added. 

The ride-hailing company has more than doubled its fleet size in Qatar. “As you see, the demand is increasing every day as we get closer to the event, and customers are trying to solve some of their problems,” he said. 

Careem will offer customers a “zero-wait-time solution” with dedicated pickup lanes across all eight stadiums and the airport using a one-time password code as part of its World Cup initiative. 

By navigating a pickup point from the app and requesting a one-time password, passengers can take the first car available and provide the code to the captain instead of booking a car in advance. 

For tourists from Southeast Asia who do not know Careem, Grab or Alipay can also be used, which will be dispatched to Careem captains, making getting a ride more accessible and convenient. 

Flying past the action 

Akbar Al-Baker, Qatar Airways Group CEO, told Arab News that the airline has partnered with  flydubai, Kuwait Airways, Oman Air and Saudia to connect match ticket holders to Doha. 

He added that the airline would provide “match-day shuttle” flights for 24-hour experiences during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. 

Abdullah Al-Shahrani, Saudia’s general manager of media affairs and communications, told Arab News that the airline launched its shuttle flights as a convenient, affordable and logistically-free option for guests attending a one-day match in Doha. 

From Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, 780 scheduled, additional and shuttle flights will run to the Qatari capital at SR1,417, 

SR1,577 and SR1,037, respectively. “The airline has also increased the frequency of the scheduled flights,” he said.

Several of the airline’s flights from Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam are fully booked, according to Al-Shahrani. 

Saudia’s same-day shuttle service will target not only football fans but also tourists from around the world who will visit Qatar during the world cup. 

Saudia is also collaborating with the Saudi Tourism Authority on promoting attractive destinations in the Kingdom and with the Saudi Entertainment Authority on promoting Riyadh season activities, according to Al-Shahrani. 

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