Qatar has, over the past couple of years, been attracting thousands of overseas visitors to the country through the development of its MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) market.
It provides a safe, hospitable, attractive and efficient venue – and many visitors can apply for a visa on-line through the Internet, or at least on arrival in the country. At the last count, 41 new hotels and hotel apartments were under construction or on the drawing board, adding almost 10,500 rooms by the end of 2007 or the beginning of 2008. The UAE’s Dubai Holdings has reserved a prime location on the waterfront corniche for a new ‘boutique’ luxury hotel. New conference facilities are also under construction to cope with the burgeoning demand. Last year, Doha hosted a huge meeting of the G77 and China; this December it hosts the 15th Asian Games – Doha 2006, the largest multi-sport event after the Summer Olympics.
The Four Seasons, which opened in 2005, officially opened its world-class Spa and Wellness Centre this January; and work on Phase 1 of the West Bay Resort and Hotel, adjacent to The Ritz-Carlton, Doha, is progressing.
Marriott International expects to open three new properties in Qatar, on adjacent sites. All are scheduled for completion in 2007. Guests at a 250-room Renaissance – to be located adjacent to the huge City Center-Doha shopping mall and entertainment complex – a 200-room Courtyard by Marriott and a 120-unit Marriott Executive Apartments will be able to share some facilities. Hilton and Shangri-La are headed for Doha, as are the Radisson, Rotana, and Al Maha Sofitel. A 256-room extension to the Ramada hotel Doha, already well under construction, will make it the largest Ramada in the world. The five-star La Cigale hotel is nearing completion on Suhaim Bin Hamad Street, and either Starwood or Meridien are likely to manage the 496-room Al Jaidah Hotel in Dafna, scheduled for completion at the end of the year.
The Qatar National Olympic Committee has unveiled plans for a luxury 5 star Digital Sports Hotel with 250 rooms, to open in December 2007 to cater to the increasing number of top sportsmen and women visiting the country for world championships and major international tournaments. Al Fardan Real Estate is building Barjeel Tower hotel apartments with 284 rooms, scheduled for completion in mid 2007.
But Qatar is also building a range of four and three star hotels. North of Doha there are proposals for the 248-room four-star Al Sultan Beach Hotel. Back in Doha, other proposed four-star properties include Sheikh Mohammed Apartment Hotel in Al Sadd, Al Jazeera Tower apartment hotel, Oasis International Hotel, Al Reem Hotel in bin Mahmoud south, Najma Hotel, Mohamed Al Naser Hotel in Al Ghanim Al Qadeem. Three star properties include the Carlton Hotel apartments in Mushaireb, Qatar Royal Hotel in Al Najada, Le Mirage Executive Residences (an apartment hotel), Al Khalaf apartment hotel in Ghanim Al Qadeem, and Doha Grand Hotel in Bin Mahmoud. Exciting new resorts are planned for the north shores of Doha and for the coastal town of Al Khor, 40km to the north. Three new golf courses will supplement the facilities of the superb Doha Golf Club.
In addition to attracting investment in tourism at home, Qatar is also investing in tourism developments overseas. Qatar and Syria have announced the formation of a joint holding company with a capital of $200 million for investment in industry, tourism and transport. Qatar has also recently signed an agreement for investment in Tunisia’s tourism industry and another with Morocco – for the development of an investment and tourism programme in Tangier and Tatwan.