Authority targeting Mice and sports visitors

Al-Nuaimi…ideal stage

QATAR is on track to welcome around 1,100,000 visitors this year, a rise of 10 per cent on 2009.

A Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) spokesman said the majority of visitors stay one-and-a-half days but this is being targeted with the organisation’s 48 Hours campaign, which aims to get travellers to spend an extra two days taking the time to get to know the country and visiting the many attractions.

So far the campaign has been promoted with a roadshow in Europe, which will be repeated in Asia, targeting Mice travellers and stopover passengers.

The opening of the New Doha International Airport next year is also expected to boost tourism. The airport will initially be able to handle 24 million passengers with the figure rising to 50 million on its completion and QTA is aiming to encourage at least five per cent of these fliers to spend an extra 48 hours in the country.

Another major draw for tourists is Qatar’s sporting facilities with more than $2.8 billion having been spent in recent years on infrastructure to support sporting competition.

Ahmed Abdullah Al Nuaimi, chairman of QTA, said: “Qatar is eager to promote itself as the ideal stage to host world-class sporting events. After successfully  hosting the 15th Asian Games in 2006, the country now looks forward to staging the 2011 Asian Cup football tournament and the 2011 Pan Arab Games. Qatar has revealed its intention to bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics and is a bidding nation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup championships.”

Qatar also boasts the Aspire Zone, a premier all-purpose complex for athletics, entertainment, recreation and wellness and venue for the 15th Asian Games.

Earlier this year the World Economic Forum published its annual Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report for 2009 which ranked Qatar 37th in the world and second in the Mena region. The report takes into account issues such as the accessibility and security of the environment, the availability of good tourism infrastructure and availability of qualified human resources.

And Qatar’s efforts in attracting increased visitor numbers are already paying off with hotel occupancies showing a two per cent rise, to 61 per cent, in the first half of the year, despite a number of new properties having come online since the same period in 2009.

Al Nuaimi said: “This increase is a sign of recovery in the hotel sector from the world economic crisis of 2009. In spite of the indicators of the global tourism industry to its lowest status in 2009, Qatar’s interest in increasing tourism activities in the country by promoting various unique attractions regionally and abroad and the interest in sports and culture tourism led to positive results. This recovery in the hotel sector can also be attributed to the continuous expansion in Qatar Airways’ routes around the world and the rising size of the fleet.”

It is expected the occupancy rate over the second half of the year will continue to improve with various large-scale events, exhibitions and conferences due to take place in Doha.