Qatar has revealed plans to invest $20 billion in its tourism sector over the next five years, as the Gulf Arab state seeks to diversify away from oil.
Authorities plan to triple the number of hotel rooms in the country, with as many as 30,000 on offer to guests by 2015.
Ahmed Abdullah al Nuaimi, chairman of state run Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), said: “Tourism was never looked at as a sector or industry that would be good for the country but now things have changed.”
“We are talking about $20 billion of investment in five years, including infrastructure, hotels, airports, and ports, that support tourism.”
“We are not looking at mass tourism. We are targeting the high end and business people,” he added.
The state is presently bidding to host the 2022 World Cup, and recently announced some high-profile sporting endorsements from across the region.
Funding is in addition to the already rapid growth seen in Qatar in recent years.
Room numbers in the Arab state jumped from 2,700 to 8,500 over the past three years, while 40 new, mainly luxury, hotels with around 7,000 rooms are due to open in the coming year.
Qatar is the world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas, with an economy projected to grow 16 per cent in 2010, leaving the state expecting a budget surplus of 9.7 billion riyals ($2.67 billion).
The new $14.5bn Doha International Airport is scheduled to open at the end of this year. It is hoped the development will allow Qatar to compete with Abu Dhabi and Dubai to become the regional hub for international aviation traffic.
Also in buoyant mood is Qatar Airways, which has also been outlining expansion plans.
“I am delighted to say we are well on track with our strategy, opening up routes in all corners of the world, introducing brand new aircraft into the fleet at a phenomenal rate and investing in our existing airport in Doha while the New Doha International Airport is under construction,” said Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker at Arabian Travel Market this week.
The airline has so far launched four new routes from its Doha hub this year – to Bengaluru (Bangalore), Copenhagen, Ankara and Tokyo – with a further three, Barcelona, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires, set to begin next month.
Qatar Airways also outlined plans to increase revenue by 40 per cent during financial 2010, ahead of a 30 per cent expansion in capacity.
Al Baker added: “These are exciting times for Qatar Airways. Apart from new aircraft and new routes, we continue to invest in our airport infrastructure in Doha.
“A brand new arrivals terminal will open soon, which will free up space at the current airport where the departures check-in area will be extended.
“Qatar Airways is also opening a new hotel at the airport, aimed at corporate and leisure travellers, as well as transit passengers.
“With the pace at which Qatar Airways is growing, we must continue to invest in the existing airport until the new airport opens. This is an investment for the future.”