As major international hotel chains compete for space in Qatar, a growing number of mid-market and budget hotels have also been eyeing the landscape, hoping to get a piece of the FIFA 2022 action.
More than US $100 billion worth of infrastructure is expected to be developed by 2022 including the construction of 77 new hotels and 42 hotel apartments in Qatar bringing a total of 21,107 new rooms into the Qatari hospitality market.
The growth of mid-range hotels in Qatar (and the greater Middle Eastern region) looks set to mirror Europe’s budget hotel growth twenty years ago, according to a recent report by consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle.
The country has already been tapping into the MICE market with two new conference centres that have been developed and a host of events taking place in 2012, from the World Travel Awards Grand Final at Katara next week, to the UN environmental summit in December.
Low cost, high quality hotels eying the market are hoping to tap into the money conscious business traveller market, the religious market, as well as sports enthusiasts who plan to travel to Qatar for FIFA 2022 and a raft of other sporting events.
Demand for four star hotels is already evident as the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA)– nominated World’s Leading Tourist Board by the World Travel Awards (WTA) - have pointed out a marked increase in revenues for four star hotels in August and September 2011 compared to the previous year.
Ahmed Abdullah Al Nuaimi, chairman, Qatar Tourism Authority said the results from August, although recording a decline in occupancy rates, actually registered the highest increase in the amount of revenue achieved by the growing four star hotel sector. This rose from over £5 million revenue during the third quarter of 2010 to over £16 million over the same period this year.
“This reflects a strong local tourism sector during the month of Ramadan, especially in the food and beverage sector where the percentage increase in revenue was around 216%,” he said. “This reflects an increase in spending on services in hotels during Ramadan.”
It is perhaps of little surprise that the UKs largest budget hotel chain, Premier Inn, is planning to expand into Qatar’s capital this year. Premier Inn recently signed a deal with Dohaland to build a 200 room hotel in Education City scheduled to open in 2012.
This is good news for the recently opened Qatar National Convention Centre whose international conference delegates are likely to demand reasonable hotel rates in an uncertain economic climate.
Premier Inn caters to business travellers with an en-suite bathroom complete with shower and bath, 32” flat screen television with freeview, laptop safe, tea and coffee making facilities, a spacious desk area with WiFi internet access.
In addition, the hotel will also have a restaurant. The Education City Premier Inn will be the hotel chain’s fourth hotel in the Middle East region with properties already in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Darroch Crawford, Managing Director of the Premier Inn in Qatar explained: “We are delighted to have secured a prime location in Doha Education City for the first Premier Inn in Qatar, which will open in 2013 with 200 rooms.
He added: “We know that the hotel will be extremely successful in this excellent location and that our winning formula of really comfortable rooms at a great price and with excellent service will be as well received in Qatar as it is elsewhere in the world. The World Cup in 2022 will be an exciting time for everyone in the country, but it is the pace of growth in Qatar that has attracted us, rather than that one event.”
In addition Accor, Europe’s largest hotel company, is planning to open at least one of each of its brands in Qatar and grow its Mercure brand through refurbishment of existing hotels in the region. The company has announced an interest in bringing its Ibis, Novotel and Sofitel brands to Qatar. There are at least two properties that are currently under construction with the Mercure Grand Hotel Doha City Centre already open for business and welcoming mid-market travellers.
In addition to the long awaited Hilton Doha which will open in 2015, Hilton has also announced its intention to bring its mid-market brand, the Hilton Garden Inn to Doha as it continues its expansion into the destination.
Rudi Jagersbacher, president for Hilton Worldwide (Middle East & Africa) commented: “With the new Hilton Garden Inn in Doha, we’re addressing the mid-market segment, by offering Hilton Worldwide’s trademark hospitality and innovation at a cost-effective rate. “
He added: “And this is exactly the right time to be growing in Qatar – the tourism industry in Doha is at a very exciting stage of development and the country is gearing up for the FIFA World Cup 2022.”
Qatar and Doha in particular has been evolving at a most tremendous rate for the past decade. Joe Ghayad from Ritz Carlton’s Sharq Village & Spa spoke to BTN about the rapid changes takes place in Doha, which just ten years ago, boasted only one luxury hotel with no budget brands in sight.
He explains: “When we arrived in Doha ten years ago we were the only luxury hotel and now there are over 22 five star hotels so there really has been a boom especially over the last five years.”
Explaining the significance of winning the bid for the FIFA world cup in 2022, and the resulting changes that are beginning to take place, he added: “More five star hotels and chains are coming and we are beginning to see four and three star hotels which we did not see before. This is because the World Cup does not only host five star guests. There are four star guests and budget guests, who cannot afford five star, so Doha will be ready for this”.
A similar trend has already taken place in other more mature markets in the Middle East such as Dubai, with low cost carriers including Air Arabia and Dubai’s FlyDubai having already achieved a presence to accommodate mid-market budget travellers.
According to reports, there has been a number of discussion around the benefits of Qatar Airways establishing a low cost off-shoot.
Qatar Airway’s CEO Akbar Al Baker has previously stated: “If we find low cost is becoming a threat, in 90 days Qatar Airways can launch a competitive product. We are completely prepared, we already have a test plane that is flying about under the guise of a full service aircraft.
There certainly seem to be no limits for Qatar Airways, which was recently named Middle East’s Leading Airline Business Class by the World Travel Awards. The carrier has announced plans to expand its presence in Australia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, in addition to a raft of new destinations set to join the airline’s rapidly-growing global network.
Highlights include Perth in Western Australia, the Finnish capital Helsinki, Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb, Gassim in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and three East African cities – Zanzibar, Kigali and Mombasa, in Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya, respectively.
World Travel Awards Grand Final set for Qatar
In just three days, Qatar will play host to the World Travel Awards Grand Final on January 11 at Katara. Qatar Tourism Authority has been nominated in the categories of World’s Leading Business Travel Destination and World’s Leading Tourist Board. For more information on nominees, booking or the event itself click here