Qatar saw a 73% decrease in visitor arrivals between 2019 and 2020, due to the closure of borders from the pandemic. The drop in hotel occupancy was only 18% stemming from a rise in domestic tourism and from the mandatory quarantine on arrival program for residents.
But things are changing in a big way.
From cutting-edge hotels, 100 of which are under construction, to world-class sporting events not the least of which is the World Cup 2022, diverse culinary scene, museums, and cultural sights, Qatar hopes to attract six million visitors a year.
Luxury hotels and attractions
Berthold Trenkel, chief operating officer for Qatar National Tourism Council, reveals its master plan to Globetrender.
He said the Hilton Salwa Beach Resort & Villas, the seventh Hilton hotel in the region, is set across 3.5 km of private beaches, where guests can stay in their own beach villa with private pools and gardens. It also includes the Desert Falls Water & Adventure Park, which sprawls 57,000 sqm and features 28 slides and rides.
“We will welcome Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som, a unique sustainable resort in Khasooma, which is set to be the first wellbeing resort in the region and the biggest wellness destination in the country. The resort will offer treatments and facilities for sun-seeking families or couples looking to escape to the Arabian dunes.
“We’ll also see Ras Brouq, scheduled to open in 2022, a collection of 48 thoughtfully designed tented villas, assimilated into the desert landscape and the Bin Ghannam Eco Resort, which aims to encourage the local population to improve their knowledge of the conservation of ecology and biodiversity.”
He said that Hamad International Airport (HIA), where arriving passengers are to undergo thermal screening, temperature checks, and random COVID-19 PCR tests, is the first airport in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded a 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating by Skytrax.
Trenkel added: “We have a range of hotels currently under construction including 22 new hotels in Lusail City. The Fairmont & Raffles Lusail Hotels and Residents Qatar is set to become a flagship address not only in Qatar but also for the Middle East.”
“Lusail City is a major innovative urban project in Qatar and the first development of its kind. Located across 38 sqkm, the vision is for the city to be a blend of residential and commercial neighborhoods, five-star hotels, golf courses, and an amusement park. It is the largest single sustainable development to be undertaken in the State of Qatar.”
Hygiene standards for hotels
Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) marks a milestone in its Qatar Clean program, with 100% of QNTC-licensed hotels now “Qatar Clean” certified. Launched in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) in June 2020, QNTC’s Qatar Clean program ensures the highest standards in hygiene and cleanliness, with rigorous procedures in place to ensure the safety of customers.
With 100% of hotels now fully certified, the program is now being expanded to restaurants and can be rolled out to other sectors including transport, retail, and culture.
The mandatory track and trace app, Ehteraz, as well as measures such as the compulsory wearing of face masks and social distancing, have enabled the country to open domestically and to visitors from the GCC, and prepare for the return of inbound tourism.
Top sporting events
Trenkel said Qatar is expecting to welcome around 1.5 million visitors for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
With an impressive $6.5 bn being spent on Qatar’s eight stadiums for the event, the country has set up The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy to ensure the World Cup goes off without a hitch.
“This year we had the privilege of supporting the Australian Open men’s qualifiers in January, the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Commercial Bank Golf Masters, Qatar Total Open 2021, and MotoGP.”
Qatar tourism on app
The tourism industry in Qatar is one of the largest non-oil contributors to Qatar’s GDP.
Data from statista.com projects the GDP revenue volume from tourism to rise from 16.15 billion in 2016 to $55 bn in 2028.
Qatar’s massive investment in the digital sector has opened a wide range of opportunities to innovators and young entrepreneurs and the development of digital solutions.
One such digital solution is Turismo, an indigenous application founded by Nada Farouk, a graduate of engineering from Qatar University.
Turismo aims to digitalize Qatar’s sports and cultural tourism by being a marketplace app that provides cultural tours and sports activities, staycations, and private rentals and tourism events.
On the radar screen are expats living and working in Qatar who usually spend nine to 11 months in the country who will be made aware of places to explore in Qatar.
In the last six months, the app’s active users have grown to 17,000, and it continues to feature among the top tourism apps in the region.