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A round-trip taxi from Saudi Arabia will cost $532

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A general view of the skyline from the Doha Corniche on March 31, 2022.

Nick Potts – Pa Images | Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Dubai-based rideshare app Careem is offering inter-country taxi journeys for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, as hundreds of thousands of soccer fans from all over the world descend on the tiny Gulf country for the Middle East’s first-ever go at hosting the large tournament. 

The offer doesn’t span all the countries around Qatar but will probably be accessible to those traveling from two parts of neighboring Saudi Arabia: the town of Dammam, which is 250 miles (402 kilometers) away from the capital Doha and takes roughly 4.5 hours to get there, and Al Ahsa City, roughly 160 miles away from Doha with a journey time of three hours.

The fare? A hard and fast $266 each way (1000 Saudi riyals), or $532 for the round-trip, with a maximum of three passengers per taxi.

But will people go for a multi-hour road trip somewhat than simply taking a fast flight? Bassel Al Nahlaoui, Careem’s managing director for mobility, thinks so. 

“This trip is actually convenient. It’s around 3.5 hours and in the event you compare that to a flight, it matches the time it takes you to go to the airport and take the flight, land there, etc — except you are in a automotive, you are paying a fraction of the worth, and in the event you split that with a few friends it becomes even cheaper,” Al Nahlaoui told CNBC.

Potential challenges

Still, travelers can only book the ride to Doha someday prematurely, which could make planning ahead difficult. 

And crossing the Saudi-Qatar border requires taking a shuttle bus, going through border control and meeting a recent driver on the opposite side. But Careem says this a part of the journey has also been fully accounted for.

The Careem ride-hailing app on a phone outside the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, United Arab Emirate.

Christopher Pike | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“What happens is you open your app, you book a automotive from certainly one of these two cities, a captain [driver] picks you up and drives you to the border,” Al Nahlaoui said. “On the border, now we have Careem staff that may allow you to cross the border, find the captain that is waiting for you on the Qatari side, after which that is the last leg of the trip.” 

“And our customer care is monitoring the trip throughout the journey itself,” he added, noting that Careem’s customer support staff numbers have been boosted.  

To this end, contingencies have also been put in place if riders or drivers face problems or unruly behavior, Al Nahlaoui said. 

The official Al Rihla FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 match ball

Robbie Jay Barratt – Ama | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

“Our care team supports all verticals … we’re capable of increase and reduce our support volume nearly by day, that is how flexible we’re and the way quickly we’re capable of adjust to support incoming calls,” he said. “When it comes to crisis, now we have a particular support line you possibly can access through the app itself.”

In case the drivers themselves face trouble from passengers, “our captains have the identical access to care that our customers have,” Al Nahlaoui said. “We’ve multiple channels for them to get immediate access or various kinds of support depending on the situation, in order that has all the time been in place for captain support.”

World Cup boosting region’s demand

The rideshare app, which has grown right into a “super-app” over the previous few years to supply quite a few services along with rides and was acquired by Uber in 2019, expects customer demand to balloon in the course of the World Cup, which runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18. 

But during large events within the region’s cities like international conferences or the Dubai Expo 2020, Careem cars were often difficult to seek out, and wait times multiplied, leaving many purchasers frustrated.

Al Nahlaoui says he hopes this may not be the case this time, and that the corporate has amply prepared for the large influx of individuals. 

Careem, which operates in 80 cities, has “steadily expanded its fleet size by 1,000 additional cars over several months,” to organize for the World Cup, the corporate said in a press release earlier this month.

The corporate expects the overall variety of Careem vehicles in Qatar — which span taxis, vans, luxury cars and motorbikes — to grow by greater than 50% in time for the tournament.

Dubai International Airport. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Karim Sahib | AFP | Getty Images

Careem’s fleets in nearby cities like Dubai, the business capital of the United Arab Emirates, have been growing in tandem, Al Nahlaoui said. 

The region’s top city for leisure tourism is predicted to see an enormous surge in visitors alongside Doha, as many opt to remain in Dubai but fly to Qatar for individual matches.

That is due not less than partly to the struggle that Qatar, with a population of about 3 million, has faced in build up hotel capability for its 1.2 million anticipated visitors in the course of the tournament period. Qatar Airways is even offering “match day shuttles” that may allow spectators to fly into and in a foreign country inside 24 hours for individual games.

To that end, Careem says it would have dedicated pickup lanes at Qatar’s Doha International Airport and Hamad International Airport providing direct rides to all eight World Cup stadiums. 

And to organize for the massive volume of tourists coming into Qatar and the broader region from elsewhere in Asia, Careem has partnered with other countries’ popular rideshare and payments apps — Grab, Alipay, and Kakao — based in Singapore, China and South Korea, respectively — for direct app integration in order that users can book Careem taxis on the apps they already use. Grab is the most-used rideshare app in Southeast Asia.

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