Qatar has set its sights on domination of the Middle Eastern Tourism market with a series of ambitious developments and expansion plans.
As the destination gears up for the annual World Travel Awards Grand Final, Breaking Travel News calls in to check out the latest developments in this most exciting of destinations.
Hotel Developments in Qatar
Qatar is currently leading hotel growth in the Middle East and Africa with plans to grow its current number of 6,604 rooms by nearly 80 per cent, according to the recent figures released by STR Global.
There are currently 77 new hotels and 42 hotel apartments under construction in the destination, bringing a total of 21,107 new rooms into the Qatari hospitality market over the next few years.
Many of these are luxury hotels offering the finest service and facilities, including world class restaurants and spas.
Ritz Carlton’s Sharq Village & Spa in Doha is one of these luxurious properties.
The hotel’s general manager Joe Ghayad explains: “When I arrived in Doha in 2001, we were maybe the only luxurious hotel.
“Nowadays in 2011 you can see more than 22 five star hotels. So really it was a boom, especially in the last five years.”
He added: “This year alone, around 30 hotels opened in Doha.”
This year also sees the opening of the Qatar National Convention Centre at Education City – which will host some of the highest profile events and conferences.
Hotel Giants Eye Qatar
More than 35 hotels are set to open in Qatar in 2011, according to Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA).
Despite this large number of new rooms, occupancy rates for all hotels in Qatar grew by two per cent, reaching 63 per cent in the first six months of 2011 compared to 61 per cent for the same period in 2010, according to a report released by QTA.
QTA reported the number of tourists saw a 12.3 per cent increase during the same period, which it attributed partly to the Asian Football Cup and other sport events held in Doha.
Jumeirah is among the among the hospitality giants eyeing up opening new properties in Qatar in the wake of major events including the 2022 World Cup.
The group recently confirmed that Qatar is in their development pipeline.
Qatar in Sports Focus
Qatar continues to be chosen as a venue for high profile events and sporting competitions, including the Arab Games and the World Petroleum Congress, both being held in December 2011.
And as Qatar steps up to become the first Arab nation to host the FIFA World Cup, in 2022, the next decade will provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Middle East to narrow the sport tourism gap with the West.
Tourism is a major cornerstone in Qatar’s strategy to diversify its economy away from oil and gas. It receives approximately one million international visitors a year, but about 90 per cent of these are currently business travellers.
QTA anticipates that the World Cup will attract a whole new market of leisure visits, keen to experience Qatar’s cultural and attractions and sport tourism. It is expecting a 20 per cent growth in tourism over the next five years.
Ahmed Abdullah Alnuaimi, chairman, Qatar Tourism Authority, explained to BTN: “The tourism industry in Qatar is changing. By winning the 2022 World Cup, all eyes will be on the region – especially Qatar, so we expect tourism to grow really fast in Qatar and the region.”
The bid victory has kick started an unprecedented construction spree in Qatar that aims to ensure fans have access to the most state-of-the-art facilities ever deployed at a World Cup.
As part of its bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar says it will build nine stadiums and refurbish three more.
In addition, 140 major projects are currently underway as the country focuses its investments on its transportation infrastructure.
Billions have been spent upgrading the extensive road networks connecting the country to the rest of the Middle East.
In addition, the $25 billion, 2,200 km Qatar National Rail Scheme will link to the six-state GCC Railway network, worth $30 billion, from 2017.
New convention centres are also a key focus for the destination, which is bidding for additional major sporting events.
Abdullah Alnuaimi added: “We have been developing so much infrastructure to continue the World Cup momentum. We are bidding for huge events coming to Doha including the 2020 Olympics.
“With the expansion of hotels in Doha, we are creating demand from visitors to Doha.
“The Qatar National Convention Centre just opened and the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre will open by the end of next year. Those will give us more than a push to host huge events.”
The first phase of the New Doha International Airport will open in 2012, and by the time it is fully operational in 2015, an estimated 50 million people will be transiting through the airport each year.
This will establish Doha as a regional hub in the Middle East, as well as a major international gateway.
With Qatar Airways flying to more than 100 destinations and other international carriers flying through Doha, Qatar has never been more accessible.
The first phase of the new $4.4 billion Doha Port will be functioning by 2014.
The port, spread over 20 square kilometres, will be equipped to handle the world’s largest ships, each laden with up to 12,000 containers, therefore increasing the destination’s position as a key trading post.
Additionally, planning is underway for the Qatar-Bahrain Friendship Causeway, the world’s longest suspension bridge, which will link the two countries.
And construction is well advanced on the Lusail City, a development to the north of the capital which will see the creation of a distinctive 21st century iconic city which celebrates the special cultural and geographical heritage of Qatar and the Gulf Region.
Located on the shores of the Arabian Peninsula, Qatar is a modern and thriving country in the heart of traditional Arabia.
Renowned for its outstanding hospitality, Qatar offers business and leisure travellers a completely unique and unforgettable experience.
With sprawling dunes in the country’s south, sandy coastlines and islets, reefs and salt flats, the small peninsula nation offers as much natural beauty as it does cultural richness.
With its 560 kilometres coastline, Qatar is a community linked with the sea.
From a centre for fishing and pearling trades in a bygone era, Qatar’s identity has been shaped by an age-old seafaring civilisation, always hosting travellers as welcome guests.
Qatar is a centre of both tradition and innovation and is home to world class educational and research facilities as well as some of the most striking and compelling cultural attractions in the region.
World Travel Awards Grand Final comes to Qatar
After a rigorous selection procedure, Qatar was chosen as the host of the WTA Grand Final Gala Ceremony, reflecting the Arabian nation’s rapid emergence as a tourism hotspot.
Qatar is recognised as the Middle East’s Leading Business Destination by the prestigious World Travel Awards.
Graham Cooke, president and founder, World Travel Awards, highlights how his organisation selects host destinations that are driving the industry to new heights through innovation and experimentation.
He said: “We are delighted to host our Grand Final Gala Ceremony in Qatar as it is such an exciting place to be right now with incredible opportunities within the luxury sector.
“Our Grand Final will see the winners of our five regional heats, who represent the cream of the global travel and tourism industry, compete head to head for the ultimate travel accolade.”
Emergence of e-Marketing
In the build up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, City.Mobi has launched its new guide to the capital.
Doha.Mobi provides users with information on accommodation, restaurants, attractions, entertainment, nightlife, shopping, and transport.
City.Mobi guides include user reviews and traveller utilities such as a translation guide, currency converter, news and local weather guide.