Exceptional Development in Tourism Sector Placed Qatar Among Tourist Destinations in the Region

Exceptional Development in Tourism Sector Placed Qatar Among Tourist Destinations in the Region By A Robin - June 15, 2023
H E Akbar Al Baker

H E Akbar Al Baker

HE Chairman of Qatar Tourism and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker stressed that the tourism sector in the State of Qatar has witnessed, over the past few years, exceptional development that made Qatar among the top tourist destinations in the region, especially after its distinguished hosting of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, which was a landmark event in the history of the State, not only for its importance as the most prominent sporting event in the world but also for its huge impact on various sectors in the country.

In an exclusive interview with Qatar News Agency (QNA) Al Baker said that the success of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 had a direct impact on Qatar's tourism, as the number of tourists to Qatar this year reached a record-breaking 1.5 million, in just the first half of the year.

He touched upon the positive impact of the tournament on the tourism sector in general and the role it played in highlighting Qatar's culture and modernity, pointing out that the tournament demonstrated to the world that Qatar is a world-class destination, from the beginnings of a visitor's travel experience all the way through to their stay and exploration of the country.

The Chairman of Qatar Tourism said, "Qatar had the exquisite privilege of hosting the first FIFA World Cup tournament to ever be held in the Arab world and a tournament that has recently been voted as the greatest this century. Its success was the product of twelve years of imagination, hard work, and a unique brand of infectious enthusiasm that can only be found in Qatar." HE highlighted the major role the tournament played in introducing the world to the State of Qatar, as the country welcomed more than 1.4 million visitors from around the world, and this marked the first visit to the region for many, who were introduced to the authentically warm Arabian hospitality that characterizes Qatar.

He noted that in the lead-up to 2022's most anticipated global event, Qatar underwent significant infrastructure development, both for the tournament and in line with the longer-term tourism strategy.
HE Chairman of Qatar Tourism highlighted the rapid change witnessed by the country over the past decade, which included eight state-of-the-art stadiums, a brand-new metro system, the construction of an entirely new cruise terminal, the expansion and beautification of Hamad International Airport, and the development of Lusail Qatar's smart, future city, in addition to one-of-a-kind districts and tourism attractions such as Msheireb Downtown Doha which integrates both sustainability and heritage, further presenting to global travelers Qatar's unique blend of modernity and authenticity.

HE affirmed that Qatar Tourism is committed to building on the success of the FIFA World Cup 2022 and continuing to promote Qatar as a world-class travel destination, adding that with its rich cultural heritage, modern infrastructure, and welcoming hospitality, Qatar has something to offer every traveler and the country is poised to become one of the most sought-after destinations in the world.

HE Akbar Al Baker noted that Qatar Tourism worked to support the success of the tournament, along with the rest of the authorities and institutions in the country that did not hesitate to exert every effort to organize this historic event, explaining that Qatar Tourism has delivered on all that it had set out to do to support the success of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and promote the country as a leading global destination for tourism, as Qatar Tourism's efforts included several initiatives aimed at enhancing the country's tourism infrastructure, developing new tourism products and experiences, and promoting Qatar's unique cultural heritage and natural beauty to visitors.

He said, "First and foremost, it was our number one priority to ensure visitors had a memorable experience at every touchpoint throughout their journey and this was something we had to achieve working with our private sector partners," adding that Qatar Tourism worked with its partners to make sure the highest standards are in place across all visitor touchpoints, from providing the necessary training to staff who interact directly with visitors and fans such as hotel receptionists, security personnel in shopping malls and restaurant staff, to licensing and operating holiday homes and making them available for rent during the tournament.

He continued by saying that Qatar Tourism has trained over 33,000 frontline service professionals in Qatar through the Qatar Host program to ensure they are prepared to guide visitors across every touchpoint. Internationally, Qatar Tourism has increased more than 700 global travel trade partners' knowledge of Qatar's diverse product offerings. 

He added that Qatar Tourism has also issued more than 3,500 Holiday Homes licenses for over 9,500 rooms since the launch of the initiative, adding to the variety of accommodation options that were available for visitors during the FIFA World Cup 2022, ensuring that short-term property rentals are regulated to promote a safe and enjoyable experience for those who visit Qatar.

On Qatar Tourism's cooperation with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and FIFA, His Excellency spoke about the challenges facing fans that want to get into a country hosting a World Cup, which led the three sides to develop the Hayya Application, which simplified the process for the guests, providing them with access to the country.

He noted that Qatar Tourism's digital transformation journey has also been a critical factor in promoting the country. To date, Qatar Tourism has received 13 international awards for its digital transformation, demonstrating its success in leveraging digital technologies to enhance the visitor experience, increase engagement, and drive tourism growth, His Excellency pointed out.

Qatar Tourism collaboration efforts are not limited to preparing personnel and contributing to the logistics of hosting the World Cup, as it worked with various institutions to enrich the tourist experience in the country, Al Baker stressed that Qatar Tourism has demonstrated a strong commitment to developing the tourism sector in the country through its collaborative efforts with various institutions and entities. He highlighted the education campaign launched in collaboration with Qatar Foundation and Qatar University, which aims to promote Qatar as a world-class education hub, adding that this campaign is targeted towards students and parents in the region, showcasing why they should consider studying in Qatar.

He added that Qatar Tourism's monthly 'Qatar Calendar,' which gathers information from stakeholders and promotes their events, is another example of cooperation. It provides locals and visitors with all the information they need, including event details, dates, times, and much more. Its stellar line-up of Qatar Live events, Qatar Tourism was o able to support Qatar's entertainment venues, such as the Katara Amphitheatre with unforgettable performances during the Katara Horse Festival, as well as promoted the Katara Traditional Dhow Festival and Katara International Hunting and Falcons Exhibition, HE Al Baker said.

"Moreover, Qatar Tourism collaborated with ten different shopping malls during its flagship annual event, Shop Qatar, to bring residents and visitors to these malls to enjoy their unique offerings. " With all the significant work done to prepare the country to host visitors from around the world during the World Cup, it is only logical for the State of Qatar to continue capturing the attention of travelers for its unique blend of modernity and cultural authenticity, in addition to its numerous exhibitions and events throughout the year.

HE Chairman of Qatar Tourism Akbar Al Baker believes that Qatar Tourism has firmly established itself as a premier destination for both leisure and business travelers, saying that with an array of exciting events and festivals always lined up, visitors can look forward to a year-round schedule of entertainment and cultural activities. The Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition and Qatar International Food Festival are just two of the many events by Qatar Tourism that annually draw visitors from all corners of the globe. Additionally, with the F1 Qatar Grand Prix and Geneva International Motor Show scheduled for October, as well as the upcoming International Horticultural Expo 2023, we have a diverse and robust schedule of events that are slated to persist throughout the year, which are expected to attract a significant number of visitors from around the world." In addition to those interested in experiencing the Arabian traditions of Qatar and attending the numerous events and festivals held in the country, His Excellency stressed that Qatar is a hidden gem for celebrities and VIPs looking to shop and dine in ultra-luxurious outlets while not being disturbed by busy crowds and photos.

Also spoke about that another significant characteristic of Qatar that makes it appealing to all types of travelers, is safety and security, as Qatar consistently ranks as one of the safest countries in the world.

On this topic, His Excellency stressed that safety is a top priority in Qatar, and visitors can rest easy knowing that the country is one of the safest in the world. Additionally, Qatar's seamless connectivity makes it easy to travel to, get around, and explore, with modern infrastructure and transportation options available for visitors.

Qatar's security and safety, developed infrastructure, and unique cultural nature made it an ideal destination for families, HE Akbar Al Baker pointed out that Qatar has already become an ideal destination for family holidays due to the abundance of theme parks, beautiful beaches, cultural attractions, sports events, and family-friendly hotels, in addition to several theme parks like Angry Birds World and KidZania, which offer entertainment for all ages.

The beaches, including Katara Beach, Sealine Beach, and West Bay Beach, provide a perfect spot for relaxation and fun, he said, adding that the Museum of Islamic Art, Katara Cultural Village, and Souq Waqif showcase Qatar's rich cultural heritage. Additionally, Qatar's family-friendly hotels provide amenities like kids' clubs, swimming pools, and playgrounds, ensuring a comfortable and safe stay for families. 

"Overall, Qatar offers a perfect blend of entertainment, culture, and relaxation for families looking to create unforgettable memories together," HE said.

It is important to note that Qatar's family-friendly facilities and events made it attractive destination for travelers from Gulf Cooperation countries.

On a question about Qatar Tourism's strategy to attract these visitors from other Gulf and Arab countries, and how will Doha distinguish itself from other cities in the region in terms of tourist attractions, offers and events, His Excellency said that Qatar distinguishes itself from its regional neighbours by actively establishing a thriving cultural hub. "By emphasising the importance of cultural development and showcasing our diverse heritage, we have successfully developed Qatar as a cultural destination and a global centre for arts, literature, and innovation," he added.

With its shared cultural values, proximity and an array of premier assets and unique leisure and hospitality offerings, Qatar continues to be a highly attractive popular world-class tourist destination for GCC visitors, especially from Saudi Arabia, HE Akbar Al Baker said. He went on to explain that Qatar is an excellent choice for GCC visitors given its multiple points of entry by land, air and sea, adding that visitors enjoy Qatar's range of entertainment that is fit for the whole family, and the country's recent and ongoing expansion of its hotels and tourism assets provide families from the region with new reasons to visit, as they realize there is more to see with each trip.

He noted that in particular, Qatar proves to be a prime destination during national holidays and special occasions, adding that Qatar Tourism expect to see a strong influx of travellers in the upcoming Eid holidays.

On marketing campaigns to continue highlighting the appeal of Qatar as tourist destination in GCC, HE Al Baker said that they launched campaigns such as our 'Feel Winter in Qatar' campaign. In addition, Qatar Tourism is increasing its participation in trade exhibitions in the region, to highlight the most prominent tourist attractions in Qatar and the county's distinctive offers available to visitors.

He mentioned that in late March of this year, Qatar Tourism attend the 2023 Jeddah International Travel and Tourism Exhibition (JTTX), marking Qatar's first formal activation in Saudi Arabia since 2017. Qatar Tourism also attended the Riyadh Travel Fair, further cementing its relationship with key trade and travel stakeholders.

HE Chairman of Qatar Tourism Akbar Al Baker focused during his interview with QNA, on foreign cruise ships, which became an important source of visitors, as Doha Port received numerous ships carrying thousands of tourists and visitors from different countries of the world since the end of 2022.

On Qatar's cruise season, HE said that this sector has been long identified as a key area of growth for the country's tourism industry. The country's strategic location on the Arabian Gulf and its world-class infrastructure makes it an attractive destination for cruise lines looking to expand their regional itineraries, he explained.

He explained that Qatar has invested heavily in developing its cruise tourism sector, building state-of-the-art facilities that can accommodate even the largest of cruise ships, adding that the newly renovated Doha Port has a dedicated cruise terminal that can handle up to 12,000 passengers and is equipped with all the necessary amenities and services to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience for passengers.

He noted that in total, 162,403 cruise ship visitors arrived in Qatar between December 2022 February 2023, an increase of 184 percent on the same period the previous season (57,202).

"We've seen the debut of several international ships to the Doha Port, including the Italian cruise ship, Costa Toscana, the German ship, AIDAcosma, and the super yacht, the Emerald Azzura. This season also saw, for the very first time, embarkations for MSC Cruises & Costa Cruises from Doha port offering passengers 7-night itineraries around the Gulf." Qatar continues to make significant strides to position itself as a premier destination for cruise tourism in the region, His Excellency said, noting cruise passengers to Doha will be treated to the new state-of-the-art Grand Cruise Terminal, a beautiful infrastructure that reflects classic Arabian architecture at Doha Port. He added that the port extends a distinct offering in that it is adjacent to the brand-new Mina District which offers food and beverages options with stunning views of Doha's skyline. Additionally, Doha Port is close to some of the city's most prominent landmarks. Visitors will find themselves at some of Doha's most iconic attractions such as National Museum of Qatar, Souq Waqif, Msheireb Downtown Doha, or the Doha Corniche, within a short walk or drive.

At the end of his statements about marine tourism, he said that "growing our cruise tourism sector is critical as it provides a boost to the local economy and allow thousands of visitors at a time to experience the country's unique cultural heritage and natural beauty." While the majority of the focus is on Doha, Qatar Tourism is also focusing on highlighting location outside the capital, as he affirmed that Qatar Tourism continuously works with stakeholders to promote tourist locations and develop assets inside and outside of Doha.

He pointed out that Qatar Tourism recently partnered with Qatar Airways to host The Visit Qatar GKA Freestyle Kite World Cup 2023 at Fuwairit Kite Beach which is nestled along a natural lagoon and is an easy hour-drive north of Doha. It also have been promoting a first of its kind accommodation in Qatar, The Outpost Al Barari, which is situated in a stunning nature reserve and is surrounded by soaring sand dunes and desert wilderness.

Qatar also recently developed the Middle East's first ever panda park, situated 50 km north of Doha, where visitors can get up close to two pandas living in a spacious custom-built panda house, he said.

As for Doha, the HE Chairman of Qatar Tourism said that the it continue to host events and entertainment throughout the year that draws regional and international visitors; for example, the most recent Eid Al Fitr celebrations by Qatar Tourism took place all around Doha. The much-loved kids' show, "Shaun the Sheep" headed to the Lusail Multipurpose Hall for three days while some of the region's most popular artists put on live performances. At the same time, Asian Town came to life with a Sports Festival and live stage shows by prominent artists.

All these efforts by Qatar Tourism and its partners highlight the significance of the tourism sector as a fundamental pillar of the economic diversification of the State of Qatar, within the framework of Qatar National Vision 2030.

On this topic, HE Akbar Al Baker said "We are well positioned to achieve our 2030 strategy. Qatar offers new and undiscovered experiences for people to enjoy. It extends the best of the Middle East, all in one place. Our strategy rests on robust research that has identified key drivers that determine a destination choice and we have mapped these insights against Qatar's strongest tourism assets. As a result, we focus on six key areas to grow our international visitation figures; continuing to adhere closely to this well-considered strategy will allow us to achieve our vision." He noted that Qatar has unmatched experiences that make it truly unique, adding that it surprises travellers to know that we have lush landscapes in the midst of our desert, or that we have a UNESCO-heritage site and the world's first contemporary wellness resort integrating traditional Arabic and Islamic medicine. These assets, among many others, allow Qatar to rise in its profile as a world-leading tourism destination and offer a holiday unlike any place else.

He pointed out that their strategy is supported by an ongoing and robust calendar of events year-round. In consideration of Qatar's sporting legacy alone, Qatar has hosted over 600 sporting events over the last ten years and will continue to host major sporting events such as the Formula One Qatar Grand Prix coming up later this year.

From a corporate perspective, Qatar has a track record of hosting major events and conferences. We have just closed the 9th Annual Destination Planners Congress, the world's biggest B2B event for destination weddings.

HE Akbar Al Baker stressed that Qatar Tourism continue to raise the profile of Qatar internationally by working with its stakeholders to lead a Qatar-based delegation at the biggest trade and travel exhibitions taking place around the world, including the Arabian Travel Market, ITB Berlin, ILTM Asia Pacific, Seatrade Cruise Global and Riyadh Travel Fair.

At the end of his interview with QNA, HE Chairman of Qatar Tourism and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said, "Qatar, located at the crossroads of East and West, with its seamless travel and connectivity through Qatar Airways and Hamad International Airport, and with its diverse range of activities and varied itineraries suitable for every type of trip and traveller, is well-placed to be a leading global tourism destination."


By A Robin - June 15, 2023

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