The 320-room Ramada Doha has recently opened a newly-designed business centre offering three executive meeting rooms plus everything the travelling businessperson would require. Director of sales for the hotel, Ian J Lillie tells TTN why the future is bright but the road ahead is an arduous one.
Q. With the conflict in Iraq and Sars affecting the tourism industry over the last few months, do you foresee a return to normalcy in the near future?
A. After the problems that were experienced in the earlier part of the year with Sars and the situation in Iraq, we are now seeing a return of the business traveler, however the business that was lost from the leisure segment has gone forever and we can only concentrate on ensuring that next season's prospective visitors are assured that the area is safe and more than ready to welcome them for some winter sunshine.
During March and April especially, we had many cancellations from visiting trade delegations and residential conference groups from Europe, the majority of these have now re-booked for later in the year, and one returned in June to hold their delayed trade mission. The summer is forecast to be strong within the corporate segment, as the oil and gas sector continues to expand, and many new projects related to this, and of course for the 2006 Asian Games.
Q. How do you see the hotel sector in Doha shaping up in the future?
A. The future for the hotel sector in Doha will go from strength to strength. The economy is growing at a tremendous rate, even with the new hotels that are coming on stream, there will be plenty of business for all.
Leisure business which has been only a very small segment up till now will expand with Qatar Tourism Authority and Qatar Airways promoting the destination now in a far more professional manner.
Doha will see a huge increase in this market over the next two to three years.
The corporate sector will continue to grow and the build up to 2006 will see more and more sporting activities taking place in the country.
Q. How was the Ramada Doha affected by the crises?
A. Year ending March 2003 our occupancy was 70.5 per cent. March, which traditionally is a strong month saw this drop to 68 per cent against 92 per cent the previous year.
April, again a strong month, saw sale occupancy drop to 57 per cent against 88 per cent the year before.
Not only did our room business suffer, but also the outlets saw a huge drop in business from the local community, resulting in a total loss of business of 40 per cent year on year.