With so much attention focused on the successful hosting of the FIFA World Cup 2022, it is easy to forget there is so much happening right here in Qatar right now.
Here Breaking Travel News brings you all the latest developments from this fast emerging tourism hotspot.
Qatari hospitality has been enjoying a boom in 2013, with hotel consulting group STR Global Research releasing results for June 2013 showing Doha’s hotel occupancy rates rose by nearly 27 per cent, the largest increase of any country in the Middle East and Africa.
The report also highlighted Doha as one of the best performing markets for revenue per available room with a 23.5 per cent increase to $119.52.
Emphasising the growth, Qatar Tourism Authority recently released figures illustrating Qatar’s growing tourism which show that despite a 4.5 per cent increase in hotel rooms available, QTA’s second quarter (April – June 2013) showed hotel occupancy rates rise from 58 per cent to 67 per cent.
Furthermore, the total value of stays in four and five star hotels increased by $42.8 million with a 20 per cent increase in revenue at five star hotels.
His Excellency Issa bin Mohammed Al Mohannadi, chairman, QTA, commented: “The fact that the city of Doha topped the list of Middle East and Africa for gains in hotel occupancy reflects the success of QTA’s strategy to develop the tourism sector.
“The high level of demand reflects positively on the products and services of the tourism sector in Qatar, which is witnessing rapid growth.”
He added: “This result marks the direction of the Qatari tourism and hospitality sector, with Qatar moving toward a more diverse economy the tourism industry is also rising in tandem. We see a bright future for Qatar as a tourist destination.”
In the past year, a number of international hotel brands have opened new properties in Doha including the Intercontinental Hilton and the St. Regis, plus with many more in development, this demonstrates Qatar’s growing appeal to global investors as a lucrative and long-term market.
Many of these exciting hotels can now be seen on Virtual-Doha, an exciting showcase of some of the best properties in the city.
Breaking Travel News recently caught up with Issa Al-Mohannadi, chairman, Qatar Tourism Authority
Qatar Airways has also seen rapid growth in 2013 as it completers 16 years of operations.
The carrier currently flies a modern fleet of 129 aircraft to 133 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and the Americas, with a number of key routes added this year.
These include Gassim (Saudi Arabia), Najaf (Iraq), Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Chicago (USA), Salalah (Oman), Basra (Iraq), Sulaymaniyah (Iraq), Chengdu (China), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Ta’if (Saudi Arabia) and most recently Clark International Airport (Philippines).
Over the next few months, the network will grow further with Sharjah, UAE (March 1st, 2014), Dubai World Central, UAE (March 1st, 2014), Philadelphia, USA (April 2nd, 2014) and Miami, USA (June 10th 2014).
Doha will also welcome the new Hamad International Airport in the first quarter of 2014, with the location set to revolutionise air travel to the Middle Eastern destination.
With waterfalls running down the walls, a dome-shaped blue mosque and a wave-like roof that rolls from check-in to immigration and the departure lounge, the airport is certainly something to behold.
The $15 billion development covers an area of 22 square kilometres, a third of the size of Doha, and will cater for 28 million annual passengers when it opens, before being expanded to 50 million within about three years.
In true Persian Gulf style, 60 per cent of the airport is built on reclaimed land from the sea, and it has two runways, one of which at 4,850 meters, is one of the longest at any commercial airport.
About 8,700 passengers will be able to move through the airport each hour, roughly 80 per cent of which will be transferring onto to other destinations.
There is even a separate terminal for the Qatari royal family that can accommodate an Airbus A380.
Qatar Airways has been one of the success stories in the Middle East in recent years
Marking its arrival on the world stage, the Qatar Museums Authority is presently celebrating the first solo exhibition in the Middle East of iconic British artist Damien Hirst.
Taking place at the Alriwaq, Doha exhibition space, the event runs until mid January and has already welcomed thousands of guests from across the region.
Held under the patronage of Sheikha Al Mayassa, the exhibition is the largest collection of Hirst’s work ever assembled and includes both iconic and previously unseen pieces.
One of the highlights of the year for Qatar Tourism Authority came during Eid-al-Fitr, with the organisation engaging families from around the GCC in one of the region’s largest festivals.
Nearly 75,000 visitors from the GCC chose Qatar as their destination of choice for the Eid-al-Fitr holiday as celebrations swept across the country at Doha Exhibition Center, malls, Katara Cultural Village, Souq Waqif, museums, Aquapark, The Pearl as well as at other locations.
The visitors joined a large number of citizens and residents in the fun, games and entertainment that provided options for people of all ages and interests.
Activities on offer included amusement rides, an international circus, music festivals, cultural and artistic sightseeing tours, theatrical performances, firework and laser shows, as well as other outdoor activities including paragliding and shooting.
In all, there were many scheduled events took place during the Eid-al-Fitr holiday.
Hend Zainal, head of marketing, Qatar Tourism Authority, commented: “We are delighted with the success of this year’s Eid-al-Fitr festival and the thousands of citizens, residents and tourists who have joined us for this week of special celebration.
“We thank all our partners for their support and contributions in spreading the festive spirit throughout Qatar.
“The seasonal festivals are part of our efforts to stimulate the tourism industry as a driver of economic diversification and solidify Qatar’s reputation as a preferred family destination in the region.
“We expect visitors will have experienced something new in Qatar and will return throughout the year to discover more of what we have to offer.”
Zainal explained that hotel occupancy rates during the Eid holiday in Qatar hit more than 80 per cent in many hotels, with some recording 100 per cent occupancy.
The country’s largest entertainment city, Wanasa, saw great attendance with large number of guests visited during the week of the Eid celebration.
Families discovered a massive footprint of amusement rides, shows, a wide variety of food vendors and merchants to purchase household goods and specialty items.
The Eid Festival is an initiative of Qatar Tourism Authority to elevate Qatar as a family tourism destination, that was supported with QTA’s launch of the Eid destination campaign in the GCC, the largest source of tourism to the country.
Over the second quarter 2013 QTA announced experienced increased tourism across all categories.
GCC visitors increased 17 per cent over the same period 2012, and international arrivals increased 6.6 per cent.
Additional family-centered activities are planned for the remainder of the year, including the ongoing Eid festival, which will include the return of Cirque du Soleil in September to Aspire Dome.
Al Zubarah has been recognised by UNESCO
Visitors to Qatar can now experience the largest archaeological site to be inducted into the UNESCO World Heritage List, the town of Al Zubarah.
A historic coastal town that is now abandoned, Al Zubarah is situated approximately 100km north-west of Doha.
Founded in the mid-18th century, the town developed into a centre for pearling and international trade and rose to become the country’s largest and most important settlement.
The success of Al Zubarah attracted the attention of other Gulf powers, and after several attacks the town was eventually burned to the ground in 1811.
It never fully recovered and was abandoned by the mid-20th century.
Today, the abandoned settlement is regarded as one of the largest and best preserved examples of an 18th to 19th century merchant town anywhere in the Gulf.
Covering an area of 60 hectares, the archaeological site showcases remains of palaces, mosques, streets, courtyard houses, fishermen’s huts, harbour and cemeteries.
A layer of sand blown from the desert has preserved these remains, which now enable visitors from around the world to step back in time and experience the rich Qatari history.
Al Zubarah was first reported as an archaeological site by a Danish-led team of archaeologists in the 1950s, and then excavated by Danish and Qatari teams.
As a result of the studies conducted at the site, a large number of archaeological finds from the 18th-19th centuries are now part of the National Museum of Qatar’s permanent collection, and will be featured in the museum galleries.
The Al Zubarah is the first Qatari site to be added to the World Heritage List, which includes more than 900 historical and cultural sites around the world including the Yellowstone Natural Park in the United States of America and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
The addition further cements Qatar’s status as a top destination in the Middle East, offering diverse attractions and experiences to suit all tastes.
La Cigale will welcome the World Travel Awards later this month
World Luxury Expo
Qatar recently welcomed the four incarnation of World Luxury Expo, with the event taking place at the magnificent St Regis Hotel, Doha.
The event was officially opened by Ebtihaj Al Ahmdani, board member of the Qatar Chamber of Commerce & Industry and chairperson of the medical and educational committees, the first Qatari woman to hold this position.
World Luxury Expo is a showcase of luxury goods, designed to appeal to the elites of the Middle East.
The World Luxury Expo series has steadily gained momentum and status in the region, having recently concluded three successful events, the first at Burj Al Arab, Dubai in January, the second in February at the palatial Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh and the third edition took place at Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi in September 2013.
Following the Doha edition, World Luxury Expo will return to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi in 2014, creating an annual signature series of events in the GCC region.
World Travel Awards
Before the end of the year there will be one more celebration in Qatar, with the World Travel Awards headed to La Cigale Hotel in the capital, Doha.
The event is set to take place on November 30th, with hundreds of industry leaders in town to see who will claim the coveted prizes.
WTA was launched in 1993 to acknowledge and recognise excellence in the global travel and tourism industry.
Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, it is regarded as the highest achievement that a travel product could hope to receive.
There is more information on the official website.
Want to know more about visiting Qatar? Head over to the Qatari Tourism Authority website to find out more.