Destination Qatar

Qatar

Qatar’s tourism stakeholders have invested heavily in the destination’s business sector, with a view to ensuring the future of the country’s tourism industry in the region. Panayiotis Markides reports.

With Qatar’s travel and tourism industry taking leaps and bounds lately, diversifying to include a variety of tourism segments with Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) at the helm, the destination continues to hold one of the top positions in the region for business travel.

QTA continues to drive the destination forwards as a business hub with the recent creation of the Qatar destination brand and the Qatar Business Events sub brand, which according to QTA’s tourism strategy seeks to triple the number of business event tourists by the year 2030.

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Chief marketing and promotions officer, QTA, Rashed AlQurese stated how the new brand will improve the destination’s hold on the market, revealing that the destination brand is in line with the country’s persona, vision and actions. He commented that by unifying the voices of the business events sector, the sub-brand will contribute to consolidate all promotional efforts and will provide innovative impetus to the business events sector in Qatar.

To this end, key tourism stakeholders were eager to tell TTG what makes Qatar almost an unrivalled destination for segments such as business, corporate and MICE.

Director of sales and marketing, Four Seasons Hotel Doha, Julian Crane commented to TTG: “Qatar is perfectly positioned to act as a key strategic base for businesses looking to expand in the region. The country is dramatically expanding its economy and reinvesting its wealth so that it is well-prepared for the future. This makes the destination very attractive.”

It is not just its strategic location that ensures Qatar will be a successful business trip. Director of sales and marketing, Grand Hyatt Doha, Walid Kamel explained that the destination is constantly improving its infrastructure to stay ahead in the region’s overall tourism landscape. He cited new projects such as the metro and stadiums for the preparation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, meeting facilities in hotels or both the new exhibition centre and Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC), as well as good weather in the winter for the European sports teams, as key factors in consolidating its tourism future.

Agreeing with Kamel was cluster director of marketing and communications, Oryx Rotana Doha and City Centre Rotana Doha, Lana Jwainat, who added that the country is reportedly investing $17 billion on tourism related infrastructure projects overseen by QTA over the next five years. “The volume of hospitality projects is particularly increasing at an accelerated pace as Qatar plans to build more than 60,000 new hotel rooms in time for the country’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2022.”

According to QTA’s Annual Tourism Performance Report 2015, these hotel rooms include 15 properties, ranging from three- to five-star properties that opened in 2015 and were open long enough to report data to QTA, with a further five that opened and will report data in 2016.

One such new and upcoming hospitality project is Centara Grand West Bay Hotel Doha, set to open in 2016. Senior group director, business development (new projects and source markets), Central Hospitality International (CHi), Philip Hall also commented on how Doha makes the ideal MICE destination. “[Doha] is also a reasonable distance from Europe for MICE activities with convenient connectivity to many other regions.”

It seems that QTA’s strategy of investment has been paying dividends. According to the Annual Tourism Performance Report 2015, the destination saw 2.93 million visitors during 2015, marking a 3.7 per cent growth from 2014.

In terms of arrivals demographics, this translates to an increase in travellers from the GCC of 16 per cent in 2015, compared with 2014, as well as an increase in visitors from non-Arab African countries, Europe and the Americas of five, four and one per cent respectively over the same time period, showcasing where QTA’s aggressive marketing strategy has been most effective.

MEETINGS HUB

Demonstrating expertise in the art of catering to business travellers, it comes as no surprise that Qatar’s tourism bodies have ensured that there is no shortage of services available to these travellers from both international players and home-grown brands.

One of these homegrown brands is Aiana Hotels & Resorts, which was established in 2015. Vice president – business development and sales, Aiana Hotels & Resorts, Jai Sreedhar informed TTG exclusively how the company’s upcoming Doha property is perfectly geared to business travellers. “Our flagship property is the 180-key Aiana Suites and Residences Doha that will be located in the prestigious central business district of West Bay and is expected to welcome guests in 2016.

“[The property] has been designed in response to the needs of tomorrow’s traveller. At Aiana, we call it ‘Hospitality 2.0’. Our guest will be the global traveller who is a smart user of technology, environmentally and socially conscious, and expects exceptional value.”

Another property set to join Doha’s eclectic offering of properties in 2016 is Centara Grand West Bay Hotel Doha. Hall enlightened TTG about how the upcoming property is able to cater to the needs of its business guests. “Centara Grand West Bay Hotel Doha will have 261 guest rooms and 96 residences.” He added that the property is a short 25-minute drive from Hamad International Airport.

“As we are located in the heart of the prestigious West Bay district, with Doha Corniche at your doorstep, Centara Grand West Bay Hotel Doha also offers easy access to the WIRED Business Center as well as the diplomatic and financial districts; plus Qatar Financial Center and Qatar Petroleum. The newly completed Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre is just a stone’s throw away.”

For guests looking for a more leisure-inspired stay, Hall was keen to note that the Centara Grand property also caters to family friendly travel, and not just business. “This is a fast-changing scene, with leisure visitors beginning to join the strong corporate travel market here,” commented Hall.

Another Doha property which is keen to spread its wings to capture both business and leisure travellers is Oryx Rotana, according to Jwainat, despite stating that the property’s guests are mainly corporate.

“All the facilities of the hotel, right from the rooms to the meeting rooms, and the conference facilities are tailored to the corporate client who roughly constitutes a huge percentage of our business pie.” Oryx has also been joined by the recently opened City Centre Rotana Doha.

Also positioning the property as a business events venue was director of catering and event management, The St. Regis Doha, Yulia Chelyakova, who exclusively told TTG: “Our extensive venues play a crucial role in affirming Qatar’s reputation as a leader in the MICE industry. We ended 2015 on a strong note hosting over 1,200 events with close to 140,000 attendees. Whether it is an international brand launch or exhibition, The St. Regis Doha’s extensive and dynamic spaces allow MICE customers to create an event tailored to meet their specific requirements. Featuring over 6,000m2 of flexible space, The St. Regis Doha is the address in the city that can host up to 4,000 delegates at one time. It also has the largest ballroom in Doha with natural day light which can accommodate up to 2,000 delegates theatre-style.”

Meanwhile, general manager, Marriott Marquis City Center Doha Hotel, Andreas Wissdorf commented that the property is able to take the experience one step further with Marriott’s ‘Meetings Imagined’ service.

“Meetings Imagined is based on the belief that every meeting should inspire participants by being uniquely designed to achieve specific objectives,” he explained. Wissdorf informed TTG that following extensive research by Marriott, seven purposes for meetings emerged: celebrate, decide, educate, ideate, network, produce and promote.

“On site, these purposes are executed across four main aspects of each meeting – set up, food and beverage, technology and the overall experience,” Wissdorf concluded.

TECH VISION

Qatar’s Business Events brand, in addition to promoting the destination, is providing a foundation for innovation as stakeholders make use of the technology segment to promote and enhance their services.

As part of this, QTA is expected to launch a new online resource and business events guide to facilitate planning and hosting business events in Qatar.

Chelyakova enthused: “This will help shed even more light on venues and hotels such as The St. Regis Doha.”

Sharing Chelyakova’s sentiments about technology enhancing a property’s presence on the global stage, Wissdorf noted that his property offers guests the Red Coat Direct Meeting Services App, which allows guests to personalise their meetings at the property.

“With Marriott’s Meeting Services App, guests can manage their event without ever leaving their seat,” he explained.

Wissdorf noted that it connects meeting planners and the hotel team on any web-enabled device in real time 24/7. “It creates more time to empower, showcase and personalise every event from planning through to billing. This technology feature has been embraced by meeting planners hosting events on property and provides a competitive edge for the Marriott Marquis City Center Doha.”

Jwainat also remarked to TTG about the importance of implementing technology to market Oryx Rotana Doha. “Nowadays, social media plays a major role in each organisation’s marketing strategy. What we need to do is to fully harness the power of social media in order to connect with our customers, especially in a crowded region like the Middle East. The tone of our social messaging should always match the impression our customers have when they visit in person.

“We have to be unique, either by creating simple and easy-to-remember hashtags; add videos, since interesting videos are increasingly essential; or just simply show our food journey,” she concluded.

With confidence in its stride, Qatar is using all the right tools to enhance its business event travel proposition globally.