Eager to showcase its tourism mastery more than ever, Qatar is out to secure its position among global tourism leaders. Aleksandra Wood reports
The State of Qatar has witnessed major industry growth over the past year, impelled by new tourism products and services, business events, large-scale sporting events and a budding cruise sector.
According to the latest tourism data, 2.1 million arrivals to the small but mighty State were recorded in 2019, marking an increase of 17 per cent over the 1.8 million visitors received in 2018.
“Qatar welcomed 588,072 visitors in the first quarter of 2019, representing a 10 per cent increase compared to the same quarter in 2018,” director of sales and marketing, The Ritz-Carlton Doha, Georges Akar revealed exclusively to TTG. “Arrivals peaked in March with over 200,000 visitors – the highest monthly total arrivals since the beginning of the blockade.”
Qatar has gained a significant competitive edge in the regional travel and tourism sphere because of its unique cultural offering, which includes alluring Arabian experiences, historical sites and museums, art galleries and public art installations, as well as its urban entertainment segment, comprised of world-class shopping, entertainment, dining and relaxation experiences. Finally, the destination’s sizeable sporting events schedule, supported by excellent facilities, have been somewhat of a magnet for travellers the world over.
Chief marketing and promotion officer, Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC), Rashed Al Qurese told TTG: “It is through the efforts of empowered stakeholders that QNTC is able to work together to build newer tourism products, host large-scale events and develop infrastructure which enhances service and the visitor experience.”
UNENDING VISION FOR DEVELOPMENT
Over the last year, Qatar has been keeping things fresh with countless advancements, in preparation for the much anticipated 2022 FIFA World Cup Finals – an event that will ultimately change the face of the country’s travel industry for years to come.
W Doha’s general manager, Wassim Daaje, corroborated this, saying: “We have seen tremendous progress when it comes to infrastructure – including the launch of stadiums, new roads, the Doha Metro and various other projects, as Qatar gears up to host the world’s biggest sporting event in 2022.”
The country’s hospitality sector is booming to say the least, having welcomed several luxury arrivals in the past year, including the five-star Park Hyatt Hotel in Msheireb Downtown; Al-Najadah and Souq Al-Wakrah hotels by Tivoli Hotels & Resorts; and Mandarin Oriental in Msheireb Downtown Doha.
“This year will see the launch of properties such as Pullman Doha in West Bay and Zulal Wellness Resort, Qatar’s largest wellness resort, ecolodges and desert ‘glamps’ (luxury camps) – hospitality options that are products in and of themselves that will further enhance the visitor experience in Qatar,” QNTC’s Al Qurese shared.
Among the most important developments currently taking place in Qatar is the evolution of transportation infrastructure, which has previously been overlooked. However, due to the rise in visitor numbers from around the world, the Government is working to make every corner of this engrossing State accessible.
Akar of The Ritz-Carlton, Doha told TTG: “Ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Finals, Qatar is investing heavily in the public transport sector, with the aim of reducing the country’s dependence on the automobile by offering sustainable transport methods. Among the projects are the Doha metro, the Lusail tramway and a number of electric shuttles that will operate in several areas.”
The highly anticipated Doha Metro is now largely operational, with 36 of 37 stations open. Further to this, the metro already connects Terminal 1 at Hamad International Airport to the city centre.
Meanwhile, cruise tourism is surpassing all standards, with advancements of its own racking up notable figures. Inaugurated in 2017, Doha Port has achieved major milestones and is on its way to becoming a major turnaround hub in the region. The 2019-2020 cruise season is expected to be the largest in Qatar to date, with a total of 248,123 expected visitors, a 77 per cent growth, on 74 cruise ships.
“With partnerships with two of Europe’s leading cruise operators – AIDA Cruises and Costa Cruises – and the opening of the new temporary passenger terminal at Doha Port, the 2019-2020 season promises to continue on the upward trajectory,” Al Qurese opined.
Meanwhile, alongside its major development scheme, Qatar’ National Vision 2030 aims to enforce projects that demonstrate its commitment to a greener and more sustainable economy. The country has set plans in motion to host a zero-carbon footprint World Cup and intends to develop environmentally friendly stadiums, such as the Ras Abu Aboud stadium, which is almost entirely built using recycled containers.
Daaje of W Doha stressed that environmental consciousness is a pivotal step forward: “As a leading luxury lifestyle hotel in Qatar, environmental responsibility is at the heart of what we do. We offer a ‘go green’ experience, including ‘green’ meeting packages, ‘green’ menus at the hotel’s trendiest dining spots, as well opting for ‘green’ cards to foster a culture of environmental responsibility amongst the staffand guests.”
Ongoing development of its infrastructure, coupled with the diversification of tourism services, is a vital objective to Qatar, that will play a decisive role in shaping both its economic and social future as a tourism destination.