Doha : Qatar received only 765k visitors. The World Cup hosts expected 1.2 million fans to flock in during group stages.

Qatar received just over 765,000 visitors during the first two weeks of the World Cup, according to an organisers report obtained by Reuters, falling short of the country's expectations for an influx of 1.2 million during the month-long event.

A huge surge in visitors at this stage is unlikely with only eight teams staying on in Doha, and eight games left out of the 64 in the tournament that began on November 20.

Organisers had previously identified the peak period for international visitors to be November 24-28 during the busy group stage, when 32 teams were playing four matches every day.

The December 7 report was prepared by The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy [SC], which organises the tournament, and said the the first 17 days of World Cup saw 765,859 international visitors, more than half of whom have now departed.

The report registered 1.33 million match ticketholders and 3.09 and million tickets sold across the eight stadiums in Qatar for the tournament that ends on December 18.

A Qatari official, who did not wish to be named, confirmed the figures. The SC did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

The tournament in Qatar, the first to be held in the Middle East, is considered to be one of the most expensive in terms of tickets, hotels and alcohol, sales of which are restricted.

Fewer international visitors than originally forecast led to an unexpected glut of accommodation but has also averted major over-crowding or traffic headaches in Qatar, the smallest country by both population and area to host the World Cup.

The influx of visitors represents a 25% boost to the country's resident population of 3 million, of which only about 10-12% are Qataris.

''With over a week of competition still to go, a wave of new visitors has started arriving from the nations that made it to the quarter finals,'' the Qatari official told Reuters.

More visitors are expected to flock to Qatar for popular matches and after the country lifted entry restrictions for nationals and residents of fellow Gulf states. Cumulative stadium attendance at the first 52 matches was 2.65 million, the document said. [AFP]


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