By Shane McGinley
Despite growth, new hotel openings meant occupancy levels remain at a modest 59%
Qatar saw a 50 percent surge in Gulf visitors last year, with international tourism up 12 percent, according to official government figures.
Around 845,630 visitors from the Gulf visited Qatar in 2011, according to data from the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA). As a result, the QTA said hotel occupancy rose 19.25 percent and revenue for four and five-star hotels rose to QR5bn ($1.3bn).
While the Gulf recorded a surge in visitors, Asian tourists were still the dominant group last year representing, 58 percent of the total visitors.
Qatar is investing heavily in its tourism sector ahead of its hosting duties for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Eight new hotels were opened last year, bringing the total number of hotels and rooms to 74 and 11,341 respectively.
This represents an increase of 18.45 percent, but is still some way off the 90,000 hotel rooms Qatar said it was aiming to have in place by 2022. Despite the increase in tourist numbers, occupancy rates have remained at a modest 59 percent.
The first two months of the year, during which Doha hosted the Asian Football Cup, hotel revenue increased by nearly a fifth among luxury four and five star hotels, with income reaching QR2.77bn, compared to QR2.32bn in 2010.
“Tourism is central to Qatar’s vision of creating a diversified and sustainable economy,” QTA chairman Ahmed Al Nuaimi told reporters. Looking ahead to 2012, Al Nuaimi said another 3,500 rooms were set to come on stream.