x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Qatar gains ground in push for visitors as it builds for 2022 Fifa World Cup

Qatar is ramping up its business and leisure tourism offerings to prepare for 2022 Fifa World Cup.

In line to host the 2022 Fifa World Cup, Qatar is ramping up its infrastructure to attract tourists to the country.

The country already has 13,400 hotel rooms, with another 14,000 rooms about to enter the market.

There are 67 hotels and 43 hotel apartments under construction.

"We saw the growth of tourism in Qatar because of 2022 World Cup and we have to prepare for it and after 2022," said Abdullah Al Bader, the director of tourism at the Qatar tourism authority.

To attract tourists to Qatar ahead of the big event, the country is looking to expand in the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice) sector, as well as in leisure, cultural and educational tourism.

The 2013 Qatar International Rally, 2006 Asian Games, annual Aspire Zone and 2011 Arab Games have already attracted their share of tourists.

About 70 per cent of the tourist arrivals in the country are business travellers, Mr Al Bader said.

To promote Qatar as a Mice hub and develop local talent in the sector, Qatar has introduced hospitality training programmes at the Qatar campus of Stenden University of the Netherlands and Qatar Mice Development Institute.

Overall tourist arrivals rose 18 per cent last year over 2011, mainly, Mr Al Bader said, thanks to Qatar's stability amid Arab Spring turmoil. Hotel occupancy was 60 per cent.

One million visitors came from the Arabian Gulf region alone, up 13 per cent from 2011.

And Qatar's entry into the tourism market would not drive away business and leisure tourists from the Emirates, according to Mr Al Bader.

"Competition is good for all of us because one family flying 15 hours to come here would also visit two or three countries in the region such as the UAE, Oman and Bahrain," he said.

A series of infrastructure projects would open in the next six years in Qatar to promote Mice and prepare the country for the World Cup.

The new Hamad International Airport is due to open next week, and a new port with a cruise passenger terminal is scheduled to open by 2016. A metro rail network will run through the country by 2019, and a 30,000 square metre Doha National Convention Centre is set to open next year.

The new facility will be an addition to the existing 15,000 sq metre Doha Exhibitions Centre and the 40,000 sq metre Qatar National Convention Centre.

Souq Waqif, the Katara Cultural Village and Museum of Islamic Art add a splash of cultural offerings.

Qatar is putting the finishing touches on its tourism strategy for its 2030 vision after six months of talks.