Destination Qatar

The State of Qatar, globally recognised as a business powerhouse, is setting its sights on new possibilities and is thus reshaping its strategies to warmly embrace all categories of travellers. Tatiana Tsierkezou explores the methods put in place to attract the burgeoning leisure segment.

Proud of its heritage and ever striving to maintain its unique identity, Qatar is one of the Middle East’s most heralded success stories.

With a tourism industry that has been predominantly stimulated by business, in recent years the country has begun noticing great potential in other segments, such as sports tourism, in light of the approaching 2022 FIFA World Cup, which has spurred a building and development boom.

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However, tourism stakeholders have also identified great revenue-generating possibilities in the ever-fruitful leisure market; a market which is rapidly gaining interest in Qatar as a tourism destination of choice.

“Visitors are spoilt for choice when visiting Qatar, with options available for all,” shared CEO, Katara Hospitality, Hamad Abdulla Al-Mulla.

“Travellers can explore our beautiful landscaped parks, relaxing beaches, browse shopping malls, catch a show in a theatre, visit the traditional Souq Waqif or check out one of Qatar’s many landmarks, among other attractions,” he outlined.

WAYS TO ENTICE

And with all of these enticing opportunities guaranteeing unforgettable experiences, the contemporary traveller cannot help but admire the country’s eclectic hospitality portfolio, which is largely dominated by illustrious, high-end properties and leading international brands.

Having opened its doors to the public in early 2015, the utterly luxurious Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara makes for the ideal option for any leisure traveller.

Speaking to TTG was director of sales and marketing, Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara, Elias El Khoury, who expressed confidence in Qatar with regards to magnetising the leisure segment: “Qatar is seeing a highly encouraging growth from global travellers and it is clear that it has what it takes to appeal to visitors from all across the globe, both business and leisure.

“With Qatar traditionally perceived as a major international business hub, leisure travel is on the increase and we expect this trend to gain further momentum,” El Khoury added.

On a mission to attract this profitable segment and contribute to the State’s development, he shared that Banana Island Resort by Anantara is engaging in a wide variety of year-round marketing activities, including tradeshows, exhibitions and B2B events with airline operators, travel agents and other industry partners.

“We look forward to making our presence felt at many other significant events to reaffirm Qatar’s global position as a destination for leisure travellers,” El Khoury explained.

Meanwhile, regardless of the fact that this property boasts the word ‘business’ in its name, Crowne Plaza Doha The Business Park has also noticed the opportunities brought forth by the leisure market, and has therefore adopted various strategies to further magnetise this segment.

Director of sales and marketing, Crowne Plaza Doha The Business Park, Shadi Kassem shared: “[In an effort to further stimulate this market], we are actively participating in familiarisation trips and local and international exhibitions spearheaded by the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA).

“Also, to further support and enhance local (GCC) leisure tourism, the hotel has partnered with tour operators for weekend stay packages that comprise of city tours and other activities for the entire family to enjoy during their visit to Qatar,” Kassem explained to TTG.

And speaking of QTA, which pulls out all the stops to ensure that the country’s tourism industry is ever-growing and developing, tourism stakeholders regularly turn to this entity for guidance.

“Grand Hyatt Doha is working in parallel with the plan set by Qatar Tourism Authority to promote Doha as a leisure destination especially for families from the GCC,” explained director of sales, Grand Hyatt Doha, Ali Moussa.

Echoing this sentiment was director of sales and marketing, Grand Regal Hotel, Shamsa Ali, who also declared that the property is in sync with QTA: “We are collaborating a lot with the Authority and we work closely with travel agencies, wholesalers and online booking engines, which are mainly focused on leisure travellers. Apart from that, we are paying much more attention now to the online reputation of our hotel.”

Meanwhile, in an effort to accommodate the needs of the leisure traveller, Grand Regal Hotel provides visa services, an absolute must nowadays for leisure travellers.

“Besides this, our hotel offers transportation to major historic sites and leisure attractions (Souq Waqif, Qatar Islamic Museum, Corniche road and so on), which also makes the property more attractive for tourists,” Ali added.

AUTHORITATIVE INITIATIVE

And while TTG explored the eclectic strategies put in place by hotels to attract the leisure segment, forming part of Qatar’s National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030 (a long-term strategy that will assist with the advancement of the tourism industry through a series of well-defined plans, programmes, projects and policies), the beating heart of the industry, Qatar Tourism Authority, shared its vision on the country’s outreach to holidaymakers.

Speaking exclusively to TTG was chief marketing and promotions officer, QTA, Rashed AlQurese: “Qatar has its sights firmly set on the quality high-end [scope] of the tourism market. Within that general definition, we are interested in attracting a broad spectrum of travellers, whether seeking a luxury break, new cultural experiences, a family holiday or to pursue a particular special interest, such as sport, nature or history for example.”

AlQurese shared that while the State is diversifying its facilities and attractions to build a destination with the widest possible appeal, QTA’s marketing strategy is highly targeted so as to ensure both cost-effectiveness and maximum impact.

“The key point is that Qatar is not narrowly focused on one particular type of tourism. Our aim is to offer something for just about everyone, and it is the combination of different attributes that makes our destination special,” he told TTG.

In an effort to spread this message, the Authority has been working on building up its international network of representative offices. Currently, QTA has three offices in Europe (the UK, France and Germany), two in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which cover the GCC region and one in South East Asia, responsible for Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

“In each of these markets, we pursue a two-pronged strategy focused, firstly, on the travel industry – tour operators, MICE organisers and travel agents – and, secondly, on the consumer market,” shared AlQurese.

But QTA additionally uses other platforms to spread the word. Tourism exhibitions, roadshows, presentations, sales visits and joint promotions with tour operators also form the core of its ethos, while new initiatives such as ‘Tawash’, an online destination training programme, have been introduced to train overseas travel agents on how to sell the destination.

On the consumer side of things, the Authority has been placing great emphasis on promoting positive destination awareness via the media through press releases and briefings, whilst also organising familiarisation visits alongside joint promotions with influential media.

Concluding, AlQurese stated: “The core Qatar message remains consistent for all markets, highlighting the sights and attractions, the high quality of the hotels, the authentic cultural experiences and the myriad of family orientated events and annually organised festivals taking all preferences and tastes in tailoring our message to specific markets. Likewise, the promotional methods we use vary from market to market depending on local conditions and preferences. We follow the philosophy of ‘global planning, local implementation’.”

With a conscientious outlook and great plans for its tourism industry, QTA seeks to boost tourist numbers from 2.83 million to around the seven to nine million mark within the coming 15 years.