Interview: Qatar's tourism chief Issa bin Mohammed Al Mohannadi


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Imagine lying back in a sun bed slightly sunken in yellow sand and taking in the flurry of activity along the beach, or walking along a coastal strip buzzing with restaurants and cafes.

It’s a scene typically conjured up in Dubai, or, increasingly, several of the other emirates in the UAE. But picture this in Qatar.

The Gulf state is preparing to launch several “mega” beachside developments as part of its new tourism strategy, which aims to increase visitor numbers from 1.2 million in 2012 to 7 million by 2030.

It also will focus on boosting its cultural, health and wellness, sporting, nature and educational offerings to reduce its reliance on business tourism, which presently accounts for more than 70 percent of visitors.

The strategy aims to naturally reduce that to 36 percent by creating a more vibrant leisure market.

Qatar Tourism Authority chairman Issa bin Mohammed Al Mohannadi says tourism had been identified as a key avenue to diversifying the country’s economy from oil and gas, which have helped propel it onto the international stage but will eventually dry up.

“We have to realise that tourism is an important industry and the fact that oil and gas will not last forever for us, so it’s strategically important to start thinking to diversify the economy,” Al Mohannadi tells Arabian Business.

“We’re focusing heavily on how we can develop the products and boost tourism.”

Tourism presently accounts for less than 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and the government hopes to increase that to 1.6 percent by 2020 and eventually 3.1 percent by 2030. It also intends for tourist spend to rise from $1.3bn in 2012 to $11bn by 2030, helping to reverse its negative tourism balance of payments (outgoing tourism expenditure surpassed incoming tourist receipts by $400m in 2010).

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