QATAR has become an increasingly popular destination for the MICE (meetings Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) market of late as well as hosting major international sporting events such as the Asian Games in 2006 and developing its cultural and medical tourism.
Qatar’s official tourism website already lists a number of conferences, exhibitions, cultural and sporting events through to August 2008.
Doha is now ambitiously bidding to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, alongside Rio De Janeiro, Chicago, Baku, Prague, Tokyo and Madrid.
But regardless of whether or not Qatar wins its Olympic bid, the country is going ahead with plans to build the world’s most advanced paralympics stadium, which bid chairman, Hassan Ali Bin Ali, says “will serve disabled sportsmen and women for generations to come.”
Qatar’s bid logo (a bird), tagline and website were revealed at a launch ceremony on October 25, attended by the Heir Apparent and head of the Qatar National Olympic Committee, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani.
“The Doha 2016 bid is an extremely serious bid. We are absolutely ready to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016,” said Ali bin Ali. “Hosting the Games in Doha in 2016 would bring the Olympic flame to the Arabic-speaking world for the first time. With Qatar’s sporting pedigree, the athletes and spectators in 2016 would experience the ultimate ‘Games of the future’.”
Having already hosted the world’s second-largest multi-sport event – the Asian Games – Qatar has much of the necessary infrastructure in place. Khalifa Stadium, venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of Doha 2006 would need to be expanded from 50,000 to 60,000 seats to comply with IOC requirements, and there would likely be a need for a new velodrome and basketball stadium, but the bid echoes everything that has been said about the way in which the country hopes to develop its tourism industry.
Government officials together with the emir have repeatedly said that Qatar doesn’t want to go down the same ‘mass tourism’ path chosen by neighbouring Dubai – a fact that has been reinforced by the recent merger of the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) with the Qatar International Exhibitions Centre (QIEC) to create the new Qatar Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (QTEA), chaired by Ahmed A Al Nuaimi.
As a result, the QTEA is currently in the process of fully restructuring and re-branding. As director of marketing and communications Daniela Grendene, explained: “We are making preparations for next year when we will be in a better position to give an update on Qatar tourism and its developments and objectives.”
In the meantime, the tourism infrastructure has expanded with some 7,000 hotel rooms now available in the country and an additional 10,000 rooms or so scheduled for completion within the next three to four years.
In July, the QTEA rolled out the first phase of a new hotel classification system, with the award of classification certificates and bronze classification signboards to all hotels and tourist apartments in Qatar.
On another tack, the new Doha Exhibitions Centre in the West Bay Lagoon area has almost reached completion and is due for a soft opening this month. The venue comes under the auspices of the Qatar Tourism and Exhibitions Authority.
Work is also progressing on the extensive new Cultural Village, controlled by the National Council for Culture, Heritage and the Arts, and the greatly anticipated and spectacular Museum of the Islamic Arts on its own island adjacent to the Corniche is scheduled to open in March 2008; all facilities that will help boost Qatar’s leisure and tourism infrastructure.
As yet, the QTEA does not have any representative offices outside Qatar, but QTEA’s Grendene explained to TTN that the issue “will be considered for the future as part of the [QTEA’s] overall integrated plan.”
The country will be mounting massive global publicity campaigns in support of its 2016 Olympic bid; the award will be made in Copenhagen on October 2 2009, giving Qatar just under two years to make its mark felt.
by Gina Coleman