Qatar signs UNWTO agreement

Qatar is positioning itself as a leading tourist destination

ALIGNED with Qatar’s new tourism strategy, Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) signed a 17-month agreement with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to develop the policies, regulations and strategies needed to take Qatar’s  booming tourism into the future.

The agreement aims to align the tourism boom with Qatar’s 2030 vision, ensuring that tourism is also sustainable.

Commenting on the initiative, Issa Bin Mohammed Al Mohannadi, chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority, says: “QTA has been hard at work creating an ambitious strategy to solidify Qatar’s position as a leading tourist destination. However, we are conscious of the importance of environmental sustainability for tourism development and as the regulator of industry standards and codes, we are taking the lead in ensuring sustainable growth and development of Qatar’s fast-growing tourism sector.”

UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai welcomed the agreement, as “an important step forward in developing Qatar’s tourism policies, legislative framework and institutional capacities.”

QTA’s overall tourism development strategy is aimed at lowering Qatar’s carbon footprint, energy and water consumption, and so also at protecting Qatar’s natural habitats, its wildlife and its marine reserves.

The phased approach includes creating a policy framework for the institution of regulations, standards, and codes of conduct for all activities and businesses related to tourism products and services; creating a policy framework, sustainability indicator instruments, and tourism environmental impact assessments which guide development planning and implementation of environmental sustainability practices in Qatar; and implementing guidelines for the creation of foreign and direct financial investment codes and policies for tourism in Qatar.

The initial phase will cover five major areas of tourist activities – desert safaris and camps; tour guides; tourism investment, event management companies; retail, wholesale, DMC and both inbound and outbound travel agencies and theme/ amusement parks. Phase two will cover destination marketing themes, hotel energy systems and related sustainability areas.

Qatar’s tourism sector grew 13 per cent in the first quarter of 2013 as compared to 2012, fuelled by a hotel boom. The hospitality sector plays a crucial role in the growth of tourism and Qatar’s hotel sector is growing at an incredible rate – 110 hotels were under construction last year, which when finished will offer 19,931 rooms to visitors.

As per industry reports, hospitality and leisure is the third largest area of consumer consumption of carbon after homes and transport closely tracked by retail.

“Hospitality has a significant foot print, which makes sustainability a key priority for QTA. We have engaged the first UNWTO Consultant to operate as per our agreement and the timetable developed. Shortly, we will also be starting a series of development programmes specifically aimed at Hotel Energy Solutions. Over the next six months QTA, with the UNWTO, shall introduce a wide range of environmental issues, topics and proposals to the industry,” Al Mohannadi adds.

Based on international benchmark standards, the UNWTO and QTA shall develop a consistent and locally-relevant monitoring and quality control system across the wide range of tourism activities described under Law 6 of 2012 – the “Tourism Law.”

While progressing to ensure a successful World Cup in 2022, the UNWTO partnership will further ensure that Qatar has a well-planned, high quality and reliable tourism industry to meet expectations of the international travel trade.