Expos, World Cups, mega events: Temporary tailwinds with lasting effects on real estate

The first quarter of 2021 has seen an upswing in many real estate markets in the Middle East. Property Finder Qatar recently reported that recorded enquiries, in Q1 of 2021, were an amazing 74% higher than Q4 2020. Likewise, the Dubai Land Department’s ‘Real Estate Updates’ bulletin, released in March 2021, recorded a 27% growth in real estate transactions for Q1 2021, compared to Q1 2020, and 47% growth when pitted against Q1 2019. Meanwhile, real estate transactions in Bahrain, for Q1 2021, were 36% higher, than the corresponding quarter in 2020, according to that nation’s Survey and Land Registration Board.

Partly such buoyant figures reflect the good government response that was able to contain the ill-effects of the global pandemic, in the Middle East. However, a closer look also reveals the positive effects of the international mega events, which the region will be hosting, in the coming months – namely the upcoming FIFA world cup 2022 to be hosted by Qatar, and the rescheduled Expo 2020 event in Dubai.  

Qatar is successfully leveraging the FIFA world cup for growth

Although the Qatar economy contracted marginally, during the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, an early rollout of its “National Vaccination Programme”, and the rebounding oil and natural gas markets, have positioned it well for a robust recovery this year.

In H1 2020, when uncertainties in the wake of the pandemic had dampened market sentiment, the Qatari real estate market seemed like it would suffer from a glut of unwanted properties, built in anticipation of the demand that the FIFA world cup was expected to unleash. However, the deft introduction of regulations allowing expats ownership rights, and confirmation that the world’s biggest sporting event is expected to go-ahead, have led to a renewed surge in interest, among homebuyers.

In fact, the development of state of the art infrastructure and residential properties is fast putting cities like Doha on the path of challenging heavyweights like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in the regional business hub stakes.  

Dubai’s rescheduled Expo 2020 event is revitalizing UAE real estate

If Qatar’s response to the pandemic was effective, the UAE can claim to have orchestrated one of the best management of the crisis, in the world. As a result, Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management recently released an updated list of precautionary measures for public events, which allows entertainment venues a capacity of 70%, and upto 100% occupancy, for fully compliant hotels and hospitality properties. A trial period of one month has also been announced, for live entertainment and activities, in restaurants, cafes and shopping malls, effective immediately.

This successful phased reopening of the economy has positioned the UAE perfectly, to host the upcoming Expo, by the end of 2021. Like Qatar, the UAE too has succeeded in minimizing uncertainties surrounding a mega event, while working out a strategy to successfully host it, and derive maximum economic benefit.

A confluence of positive outlook and opportunity

Real estate is all about sentiment. GCC economies, such as the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and the KSA, have successfully contained the threat of the recent global crisis, while restoring something approaching normalcy, off the back of well-executed vaccination drives. In the case of Qatar and the UAE, mega events which appeared in jeopardy a mere year ago, are now back on track.

The successful resumption of economic activity has created a positive aura around these economies. Even more significantly, huge upcoming international events, and recent regulatory reforms, have set these markets up as lucrative options, for overseas and expat investors in real estate.

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