by ArabianBusiness.com staff writer Friday, 03 April 2009
Few destinations in the region can compete with the unique hospitality that awaits visitors to the emirate of Qatar. More properties are currently under construction, ensuring future visitors to the oil-rich country have an even wider choice of activities and places to stay. CEO Middle East meets Ahmed Abdullah Al Nuaimi, chairman of Qatar Tourism and Exhibitions Authority who answers our questions:
What are the most significant tourist attractions in Qatar?
Tourism in Qatar is not about entertainment, but high-end leisure alongside business activities, combined with cultural landmarks and sports events.
When coming to Doha you cannot help but visit the Museum of Islamic Art, where the finest artefacts of 1,400 years of Islamic civilisation are displayed, or strolling in the narrow pathways of Souq Waqif, searching for perfumes and handicrafts. You have to enjoy a desert safari and reach the sandy shores of Khor Al Adaid, also called the Inland Sea, to spend the night in a traditional Bedouin-style camp.
In just 48 hours, you relax and enjoy the proud Qatari culture shared with an open mind.
How many tourists visit Qatar every year? Has that number been influenced by the crisis, which is slowing tourism everywhere?
We received 967,000 tourists in 2007. For 2008, as we are still checking the final figures, our estimation is about one million visitors.
So far we did not experience any slowdown in tourism. Our tourism is so far mostly business oriented, with 95 percent of visitors coming to Qatar for business purposes. As Qatar has a very stable economy, we attract a lot of visitors inquiring for new opportunities, especially during this economic situation. All our conferences and exhibitions scheduled until now have taken place, attracting more exhibitors and public.
In addition, the number of visitors coming on a cultural purpose has significantly increased since the opening of the Museum of Islamic Art, last November. We noticed a net growth of visitors coming on week-ends to visit the Museum and enjoy the art galleries in Souq Waqif.
Has the infrastructure in the emirate developed in order to meet the demand in tourism?
As part of its five-year plan, Qatar is investing $17bn over the next five years into tourism infrastructure, including the construction of luxury hotels, resorts and other leisure facilities. To meet demand, hotel capacity will increase by 400 percent to over 29,000 luxury rooms and apartments by 2012.
One hundred and one new hotels under construction will cater to the needs of an already clattered market, with an average occupancy rate reaching 90 percent during conferences season and 65 percent on an annual average, for five-star and four-star hotels.
Slowly but surely Doha is building its credentials as a city of commerce as well as a new cultural centre and meetings venue. Kathi Everden takes a look at a few projects scheduled to open in the city this year.
ArabianBusiness.com staff writer , Saturday, 14 March 2009, ArabianBusiness/Features