Qatar steals the spotlight in GCC

Last year, Qatar made history by becoming the first nation in the Middle East to host one of the world’s largest sporting events, the FIFA World Cup. Today, Qatar stands out as one of the most luxurious family and business destinations in this region and continues its legacy, shares Bertold Trenkel, Chief Operating Officer, Qatar Tourism, in an interview with TRAVTALK.

Dr. Shehara Rizly

What are the main focus areas for tourism?

In 2022, Qatar made history as the first ever Arab and Middle Eastern country to host one of the world’s largest sporting events, the FIFA World Cup. The impact of the tournament on the country’s tourism industry was extraordinary and the momentum has continued, with two million visitors welcomed to Qatar in the first half of the year.Building upon this sporting legacy, sports tourism has become a pivotal focus area for our country. This year, Qatar is set to host the upcoming Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix. In 2024, we will be hosting the AFC Asian Cup and the World Aquatics Championships, as well as the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2027 and the Asian Games in 2030.

Beyond sports, Qatar has emerged as an ideal destination for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (M!CE) events. Our track record of hosting highly successful events in the past has paved the way for upcoming milestones, notably the Geneva International Motor Show in 2023 and the Web Summit Qatar in 2024. Additionally, we are actively expanding our presence in cruise tourism, having witnessed a staggering 152 per cent increase in the season just passed. We were delighted to receive five maiden calls over the 2022-23 season, including the Costa Toscana, Ocean Odyssey, AIDAcosma, Emerald Azzura and Le Bougainville. The steady rise in cruise ship arrivals and passenger numbers over the years highlight the global interest and growth potential toward this sector in Qatar, and we anticipate even more substantial expansion of our cruise sector in the seasons to come.

Throughout the year, Qatar Tourism hosts world-class events that are a draw to international visitors and that allow the tourism sector to continue to thrive. Through multiple campaigns, including Feel Winter in Qatar, Eid in Qatar and Summer in Qatar, Qatar Tourism has hosted the likes of the 19th edition of the Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition, the 11th edition of the Qatar International Food Festival, numerous music concerts featuring acclaimed local, regional and international artists as part of the Qatar Live program, to name a few. Visiting fans get to enjoy the events, as well as experience the expanded hospitality sector of Qatar, which includes a proliferation of new hotels and resorts that offer stunning beachside views and exquisite dining options.

How will you attract more travellers to Qatar?

By 2030, we aim to become the fastest growing destination in the Middle East. To reach our goal, we take a multi-faceted approach to our strategy, focusing on 15 priority markets that are further segmented to those best suited to point-to-point or stopover travel. Internationally, we are expanding our presence worldwide with representative offices that can promote the destination overseas.

Our strategy also identifies six demand spaces that cross Qatar’s strongest tourism assets with traveller needs. Creating new attractions and exciting programs and events within these demand space will help to reach our 2030 goals.

We continue to attract travellers by bolstering a range of engaging marketing campaigns. Most recently, our ‘Feel More in Qatar’ brand platform has been a resounding success, showcasing Qatar’s rich culture, heritage, cuisine, and warm hospitality to the world. At the same time, we launched our stopover campaign with David Beckham to encourage transit passengers at Hamad International Airport to enjoy a quick 24 or 48-hour stopover and explore the wonders of Qatar.

Additionally, we have an active and diverse calendar that sees over 300 events taking place across the country and which attracts travellers from all corners of the world. Major upcoming events include the Geneva International Motor Show Qatar and Expo 2023 Doha, which are expected to see hundreds of thousands of visitors.  At the same time, Qatar has unmatched experiences that make it truly unique. It surprises travellers to know that we have lush landscapes amid our desert, or that we have a UNESCO-heritage site and the world’s first contemporary wellness resort integrating traditional Arabic and Islamic medicine. These assets, among many others, allow Qatar to rise in its profile as a world-leading tourism destination and offer a holiday unlike any place else.

Travelling to Qatar is seamless, and the country ranks as one of the 8th most open in the world in terms of visa facilitation. We grant citizens of more than 100 countries visa on arrival free entry. And for those who need a visa, we have re-launched the Hayya platform to unify and simplify all tourist and business visa processes. To facilitate even smoother travel, Hayya has been enabled for e-gate entry at Hamad International Airport, and for GCC nationals, Hayya provides an option to apply for an entry permit for companions.

Will you be participating in any international exhibitions over the next few months?

Absolutely. We continue to participate in global exhibitions such as the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), the Riyadh Travel Fair, ITB Berlin, ILTM Asia Pacific, Seatrade Cruise Global and many others, to raise Qatar’s profile internationally.

Looking ahead, we are proud to be taking part in upcoming international trade shows, such as the World Travel Market (WTM) in London, the Incentives, Business Travel and Meetings (IBTM) in Barcelona and the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) in Cannes.

Which source markets are you focusing on during the latter quarter of the year?

Our Tourism Strategy 2030 focuses on 15 priority markets all year around, including the GCC, as well as markets such as the United Kingdom, China, France and Spain. Through its presence in international trade fairs and collaboration with international cruise lines such as Tui and Mein Schiff, Qatar Tourism is able to raise awareness and familiarity of the destination to international audiences, bringing the latest developments to
global travellers.

In addition, Qatar Tourism’s promotional campaigns are tailored to various markets. For instance, Qatar Tourism launched ‘Eid in Qatar,’ inviting GCC residents to visit Qatar during the joyous occasion and avail of the attractive promotions across stays and leisure facilities while partaking in Qatar’s exciting program of events.

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