With its alluring portrait gracing the Gulf region, Qatar is enticing travellers from all four corners of the globe more than ever. Aleksandra Wood draws the curtain on the country’s most salient tourism updates and developments.
Perhaps one of the most influential destinations in the Middle East, Qatar is an undeniable and continuously soaring powerhouse; the embodiment of modernity. The world may know it as the wealthiest country, a result of its seemingly never-ending oil reserves, but behind this global reputation lies an entire world of undiscovered touristic destinations and hospitality gems.
Qatar’s hospitable and welcoming society, traditional visitor experiences, world-class museums, galleries and public art installations, and heritage attractions are ever-appealing to international travellers, according to area general manager, Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Tareq Derbas, who is also the general manager of The St. Regis Doha Hotel.
Elaborating on the most popular options for visitors, he said: “The nation’s top visitor attractions are the Al Zubarah Fort and archaeological works, a UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the remains of a historic pearl diving and trading centre; the Souq Waqif for its authentic taste of traditional Qatari street life, architecture, culture and food; and The Museum of Islamic Art for its modern architectural masterpiece and finest art and artefacts exhibitions.”
Much of Qatar’s glowing success can be attributed to its Government, which works hand-in-hand with hospitality industry entities across the State to ameliorate the nation’s tourism sector and orchestrate fruitful yet sustainable strategies each year.
One such authoritative body, the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), has managed to lead the sustainable development of Qatar into a world-class hub with deep cultural roots, by planning, regulating and promoting sustainable tourism with the aim of driving economic growth and social development.
The Authority has maintained a fierce focus on augmenting the country’s product and service portfolio in various categories such as Urban and Family Entertainment, MICE and Business Events, Culture and Heritage Tourism and Sports and Recreation Tourism.
This year, the Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030 has taken centre stage, with the overall goal being to increase the total number of visitors to nine million by 2030, as explained by area general manager – Qatar, Minor Hotels, Thomas Fehlbier, who is also the general manager of Banana Island Resort Doha: “Qatar Tourism Authority’s new strategy is to diversify and enhance the range of tourism facilities and activities, as well as hotel accommodation across Qatar, focusing sharply on maintaining quality development. We are working with the Authority to promote a more efficient tourism strategy, in line with the Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030, to support the planned economic diversification in Qatar and reduce its considerable reliance on energy resources.”
Fehlbier explained that this will help expand the economy, boost the contribution of the tourism sector to the country’s GDP, boost the number of SMEs and encourage entrepreneurship and a greater role for the private sector in the economy.
Indeed, the previous year proved fruitful for the nation, with a total of 2,938,096 visitors and a 62 per cent average occupancy rate across hotel establishments.
Building on the success of 2016, the Government has made groundbreaking moves to expand its outreach in markets spanning the globe. One such move is the recently introduced visa policy by Qatar’s Ministry of Interior, QTA and Qatar Airways, permitting visa-free entry into Qatar for 80 countries.
Director of sales and marketing, InterContinental Doha The City, Saheb Sadaghiani revealed to TTG: “With the Qatar Stopover Programme including the new Transit Visa free of cost and with visa-on-arrival available to 80 nationalities, Qatar has seen an influx of visitors coming from all over the world. While in previous years the focus was mostly on attracting visitors from the GCC region, there has been a rise in visitors coming from Europe, the UK, Turkey and Southeast Asia.”
Meanwhile, also commenting on the positive result of Qatar’s visa developments was hotel manager, Mövenpick Hotel Al Aziziyah Doha, Musa Al-Nammari, who said: “According figures released by QTA, the number of tourist arrivals to Qatar increased by seven per cent from January to May 2017, compared to the corresponding period in 2016. The largest contributors to the growth were visiting nationals of the Americas and Europe, whose numbers increased by nine per cent and 14 per cent, respectively.”
And with an ever-increasing frequency of tourists flocking to Qatar from emerging markets, the nation has cleverly invested an imposing sum in infrastructure, including transport, which will ultimately redefine its offering.
The biggest investment thus far is a reported $103 billion to be spent on infrastructure in preparation for the FIFA 2022 World Cup, to accommodate a wave of enthusiastic, sports-loving visitors from around the globe.
Transportation follows closely behind, with Qatar introducing a new railway and metro system, including an urban metro, high-speed passenger railway and a freight line, making up one of the largest civil engineering projects the world over.
Such investments will not only streamline the country’s economic evolution, but will allow the tourism industry itself to flourish and reinvent itself to provide the most seamless and high-quality offering to travellers.
A key contributor to Qatar’s hospitality evolution and a shining beacon of hope for the nation is Qatar’s flagship hospitality organisation, Katara Hospitality.
CEO, Katara Hospitality, Hamad Abdulla Al-Mulla spoke to TTG about broadening the industry’s horizons: “We are proud to have played a significant role in shaping Qatar’s hospitality industry over the last five decades and we are grateful to Qatari citizens and residents for being staunch supporters and ambassadors of the country’s tourism sector. Our strategy remains consistent – investing in the highest quality hotels in Qatar, while growing a collection of iconic hospitality assets globally.”
There is no end to Qatar’s tourism mastery, and this galvanising nation is ever-developing its efforts to reinvent and reestablish itself as an influential tourism leader.