Breaking Travel News
Breaking Travel News explores: Qatar welcomes sport world to Middle East

Breaking Travel News explores: Qatar welcomes sport world to Middle East

Excitement is building in Qatar as the Middle East destination prepares for kick-off at the AFC Asian Cup 2023.

Qatar are the defending champions, having secured a memorable 3-1 final victory over Japan during the last staging of the event in 2019.

The hosts are well-prepared for the showcase this time around, with the tournament set to kick-off on January 12 at the magnificent Lusail Stadium.

The victory capped a long run of success for sport in Qatar, with the destination recognised as the World’s Leading Sports Tourism Destination by voters at the prestigious World Travel Awards last year.

Visit Qatar has worked hard to position the destination as a sports tourism haven in recent years - not least with the hosting of the FIFA World Cup 2022 - and here Breaking Travel News takes a tour of what is on offer in the country.

Qatar is passionate about sport and like every successful athlete, the country is determined to better itself, push boundaries and break down barriers.

That is why the second Tuesday of every February is designated a public holiday in the country – the National Sports Day.

The first National Sports Day was held in 2012 and its purpose is to promote participation in sport, with hundreds of sporting events taking place throughout the country.

“Sport day reflects, from year to year, the commitment of the Qatari people to the gains that have been achieved in the State and gave it a privileged position on the map of sports in the world,” said Salah bin Ghanim Al Ali, minister of youth and sports, Qatar.

Qatar has a strong track record of hosting international sporting events, developing sporting talent and investing in world-class training facilities – and there is a great deal on offer to visitors.

The AFC Asian Cup is part of the national ambition, and will be hosted from January 12 to February 10.

Taking place across six stadiums, the event will welcome 24 national football teams competing with one another.

The AFC Asian Cup will be one of the largest sporting events of the year.

The tournament is set to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors during its month-long run, with attractions surrounding the stadiums for visitors to enjoy, complementing the matches.

Lusail Stadium will also act as host venue for both the opening and closing ceremonies, a testament to Qatari innovation and grandeur.

Take a look at the full fixture list here.

Ahead of the kick-off, Qatar Airways and the Asian Football Confederation recently announced a global partnership.

The deal will run until 2023 and includes other key competitions, such as the AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027, AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2026, AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024, AFC Futsal Asian Cup 2024, 2026 and 2028, as well as all AFC youth national team competitions during the period.

Qatar Airways’ sponsorship also includes all matches of the AFC Champions League 2023/24 knockout stage and three eagerly-anticipated new AFC flagship club competitions which will take place from the 2024/25 season onwards: the AFC Champions League Elite, AFC Women’s Champions League and the AFC Champions League 2.

The airline’s leisure division, Qatar Airways Holidays, is launching travel packages for global fans to attend the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023.

With return flights, a choice of hotels, and match tickets, these packages are designed to bring passionate fans closer than ever to the action and transform the way that fans across the continent experience Asian football.

To book packages and guarantee a place at this exciting tournament, customers can visit the dedicated site.

His excellency, Saad bin Ali Al Kharji, chairman of Qatar Tourism, has masterminded the growth of the sector

Sport plays a major role in the Qatar National Vision 2030.

The destination has an ambition to become a global leader in sports and bring the world together through sustainable sports development, building on the achievements to date.

Qatar has played host to more than 500 international sporting events in the past 15 years, across all sports and age groups.

Throughout the years, Qatar has been the venue for many international championships, including the 2006 Asian Games, the 2015 Men’s Handball World Championship, the 2015 AIBA World Boxing Championship, the 48th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, the International Handball Federation Super Globe, the 2019 ANOC World Beach Games and the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019 and 2020, as well as the IJF Masters 2020.

Annual international tournaments held in Qatar include the ExxonMobil Qatar Open (tennis), the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters (golf) and the MotoGP Superbike Championship.

The country is proud of hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the first in the Arab World, which worked to change perceptions and drove development across the entire region.

Looking ahead, Qatar also recently announced it had won the Doha 2030 Asian Games bid.

Having submitted a plan to the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), the event has the full support of the Amir of the state of Qatar.

The bid committee has drawn from extensive sports events hosting experience of Doha and leveraged its wealth of state-of-the-art venues and infrastructure to develop a world-leading plan.

With all permanent sports venues in place or already planned, Doha 2030 is able to focus on delivering a games that brings benefits to all of Asia before and after 2030.

Find out more about the event here.

To support the sports tourism industry, Qatar recently launched a new marketing campaign to make visitors aware of what is on offer in the destination.

The ‘Hayyakum Qatar’ campaign highlights four main angles: Here’s to Your Joy, Here’s to Your Gatherings, Here’s to Your Laughter and Here’s to Your Excitement, each of which is reflected by images of specific destinations or events.

Commenting on the new campaign, Abdulaziz Ali Al-Mawlawi, chief marketing and promotion officer at Qatar Tourism, said: “We are thrilled to reveal this campaign and showcase the family-friendly attractions and events that await residents and visitors this winter.

“Having already welcomed more than three million visitors this year, Qatar is poised to keep up the momentum and welcome even more visitors in the upcoming season.

“Visitors will directly experience our country’s unique offering of cultural and contemporary offerings, all set against a safe and inviting atmosphere.”

The decision has met with success, having been honoured with the title of World’s Leading Marketing Campaign at the World Travel Awards.

The campaign also appears to be paying dividends.

Qatar crossed four million visitors in 2023, exceeding annual visitor numbers of the past five years.

Announced by Qatar Tourism, the latest figures highlight the positive momentum of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and the ongoing efforts and initiatives to promote its tourism sector.

Back with sports, Qatar hosted its first ever Formula One Grand Prix in November 2021 at the Losail International Circuit.

The country has also signed a ten-year deal to host Formula One starting from 2023, thus continuing its breakthroughs for the next decade in the field of sports.

In December 2022, Qatar signed a contract to host the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2024 to 2029.

This championship, which will be staged at the Lusail International Circuit, will pave the way for future international motorsports events in the country.

In April last year, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) announced that Qatar was awarded the right to host the 2027 edition of the men’s FIBA Basketball World Cup, making it the first MENA country to organise this event.

The FIBA Central Board stated that Qatar’s bid won for several reasons, including the country’s advanced facilities and its great interest in developing sports in general and basketball in particular.

Qatar not only welcomes international athletes but also develops its own sporting talent, with Qatari athletes competing at the highest levels of international sport.

In 2023, Qatar made an impressive mark at the 19th Asian Games held in Hangzhou, China, by securing 14 different medals.

Notably, Mutaz Barshim, a world-renowned champion, continued to record international achievements by winning the gold medal in the high jump, marking a remarkable milestone as the first professional athlete to achieve this distinction in three editions of the Asian Games.

Furthermore, the Qatar handball team succeeded in winning the gold medal for the third time in a row, making them the first team to achieve a triple victory.

Younousse and Ahmed Tijan secured gold in beach volleyball, while Mohammed Al Qarni won the gold medal in the 1,500-meter race, and Abderrahman Samba took gold and dominated the 400-meter hurdles race.

In 2012, Qatari swimmer Nada Mohamed became the first female to represent Qatar at the Olympics in London.

The first-ever silver medal for Qatar was won by high-jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim at the London Olympics in 2012.

He also won the Olympic silver medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

A year later, he won a gold medal for Qatar in the IAAF World Championships in London and was named Men’s Athlete of the Year by the International Association of Athletics Federation.

Qatar was also represented at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

Two athletes – Abdulrahman Abdulqader and Sara Masoud – took home silver medals.

In the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, Abdulqader claimed the bronze medal of the men’s shot-put event.

Masoud also participated in the Paralympics and ranked sixth in the women’s shot-put competition, as well as beating her personal record.

Qatar is also home to a number of successful regional and international sports teams.

The handball team won the Asian Men’s Handball Championship four times in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020, and brought home a silver medal at the 2015 Handball World Championship.

Moreover, the national football team has emerged as a force in Asian football.

The national team recently had its most successful tournament of all time, winning the 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup and moving Qatar from 93rd to 55th place in FIFA’s latest world rankings.

The team has additionally won the Gulf Cup three times, in 1992, 2004 and 2014.

Qatari footballer Akram Afif was also named 2019 Asian Player of the Year at the Asian Football Confederation’s annual awards in Hong Kong.

In 2021, Qatari champion Amal Mohammed claimed the gold medal of the running target event at the Asian Airgun Championship in Kazakhstan.

In addition to hosting sports tournaments, Qatar has invested significantly to ensure that it has the very best in sports training and medical facilities readily available to athletes from all over the world.

Aspire Academy is a highly advanced youth sports academy, both in terms of its strategic ambitions which are aligned to Qatar National Vision 2030, and its student-athlete development methodology.

Since its establishment in 2004, Aspire Academy has been mandated to provide training and education to students with sporting potential, in an exceptional sporting and learning environment.

The academy has set itself the ambitious target to be, by 2020, recognised as the world’s leading sports academy in the development of youth athletes.

In 2017, Aspire received an award for best Arab sports organisation.

Each year, Aspire engages more than 6,000 young children (ages 6–12) through sport and football skill development and talent identification programmes throughout the country.

The most talented children are offered scholarships to join Aspire between the age of 12 to 18 and develop in the Academy’s “core” sports (football, athletics, squash, table tennis, and fencing) as well as in federation sports.

Aspire Dome is an IAAF accredited training centre and has also played host to many sporting events – from the 2006 Asian Games to the 2018 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships.

Furthermore, many international athletes choose Aspire as a destination for their training camps and in the winter months, world-renowned football teams such as Manchester United, Everton FC, Ajax Amsterdam, FC Bayern München, Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke 04, Zenit Saint Petersburg, and many more are regularly seen at Aspire during their winter break.

More Information

His Excellency, chairman of Qatar Tourism, Saad bin Ali Al Kharji, spoke to Breaking Travel News at World Travel Market in London

Qatar Tourism recently unveiled a list of over 80 new events for 2024, from sports and shopping to exhibitions and festivals and much more.

Find out more about visiting the destination here.