Qatar may be forced into accommodating football fans at the World Cup on cruise ships in order to meet the hotel room demand.
The Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) announced this weekend at a cruise shipping convention that it would be contracting rooms from liners during the World Cup period as a "means of additional accommodation".
As part of its controversial bid to host the tournament the tiny gulf state stated it would have 100,000 hotel rooms available for fans, more than the minimum 60,000 required by Fifa.
In a statement the QTA said:
Over the past few years, QTA established a number of strong relationships with international cruise operators as well as with other specialists involved in the industry. This has proved to be of great importance especially that Qatar will be extensively benefiting from cruise ships over the 2022 World Cup, as a means of providing additional accommodation supply for fans and visitors over the period.
QTA will be contracting a minimum of 6,000 rooms on cruise ships for the 2022 tournament, and is building its knowledge base to develop this sector of the maritime industry.
Doubts have been shed on Qatar's ability to reach the required 60,000 rooms in time for the tournament. A Deloitte report into the country's tourism industry found that the country at the end of the second quarter last year Qatar still needed to build another 42,000 rooms to reach the Fifa-designated target at a rate of around 30 new hotels every year.
Offshore, temporary accommodation sich as cruise ships could help the QTA hit the all important 60,000 figure and alleviate the potential for thousands of unoccupied rooms once the tournament comes to a close.
The Deloitte report found that with current levels of growth in demand for tourist accommodation, only 38,000 rooms would be filled by 2022. Growth in demand must increase by around 5 percentage points in order to support the supply demanded by Fifa.
If Qatar does miss its target, it is unlikely to cost it the right to host the World Cup. Not only does the country face ongoing accusations about its mistreatment of workers, but it has already reneged on a commitment to host the World Cup during the summer months.