Qatar masterplan eyes 1.4m visitors by 2010


By Kamleshkumar Desai

Qatar's drive to become a major tourism destination in the region has gathered pace with the launch of a new masterplan by the Qatar National Hotels Company (QNHC) which aims to attract 1.4 million overnight tourists and 750,000 day-visitors by 2010.

The masterplan was prepared by the German-Arab Tourism organisation (GATO) for QNHC which owns the country's major luxury hotels including the newly opened Ritz-Carlton Doha.

The plan also envisages a total of 45 hotels in Qatar, including 15 five-star, 20 four-star and 10 upper three-star, by 2010 offering a total of 10,000 rooms.

"It is not too high a target," said GATO project manager Andreas Hauser who presented the masterplan at a seminar at the Sheraton Doha Hotel.

Of the 1.4 million targeted visitors, the strongest will remain the business traveller segment with 39 per cent and MICE sector with 25 per cent, he said.

The plan outlines a vision of Qatar as a "high quality destination for upmarket, business, leisure and MICE tourism, offering excellent facilities for business, leisure, sports, wellness and health".

It also sets out qualitative and quantitative targets for the development of Qatar's tourism products following a "holistic approach", Hauser said.

"To realise the vision, all those involved in the industry have to work closely with each other for a comprehensive development," he said.

An executive summary of the plan says that for the success of the forecast model, a pre-condition was that the Qatar-Bahrain causeway is operational by 2006.

The plan recommends that Qatar follow an "axes oriented approach with one centre (Doha) and three defined axes".

Beside the development of Doha as the centre, the other three axes suggested by the plan include a culture and heritage axis covering Doha, Al Khor and Al Zubara; discovery axis covering the peninsula of Zekrit and Dukhan; and a nature axis covering the Doha to Khor Al Udaid area offering an experience of beaches as well as the desert.

In terms of quality, the plan envisages maintaining and further developing up-market products; and to target and reach high growth rates that are feasible.

It also seeks to introduce new tourism products for selected target groups such as European/leisure-orientated guests from Western countries, expatriates from the GCC countries, GCC nationals, Qatari nationals and foreign labour force (low to mid-level).

The plan seeks to increase the duration of stay in hotels from the present 1.07 overnights to 1.93 in 2010. The hotel occupancy rate has to increase from the present 48 per cent to 57 per cent in 2010, while smoothing the seasonal effects.

The plan suggests several steps to improve the product policy including an improvement of existing hotels; better conference facilities and setting up of a convention bureau, cruise ship infrastructure and recreation and health facilities.

It also urges price stability as well as cooperation with large and selected niche tour operators and establishment of tourism offices overseas as well as tourism information centres in Qatar.

The plan recommends an initial expenditure for the General Tourism Authority (GTA) of $2.62 million with subsequent annual budget allocation to be $9 million.

Hauser said implementation which was the key to the success of the masterplan would increase the number of tourism related jobs to 44,150 by 2010.

It will also draw investors to the country and the plan urged the establishment of a tourism investor relations office in Qatar as part of the GTA aimed at making the country "a leading platform for tourism investment in the Middle East".

The presentation was attended by QNHC chairman, Shaikh Abdullah Ahmed Al Thani, GATO chairman Dr Erich Kaub, GTA vice-chairman Ibrahim Al Asmakh and officials from the travel and hospitality industry.

Presentations were also made by Ursula Scorcher, CEO of the German Tourism Board who highlighted the German experience in tourism; Hans Reinhard Horl, director of ADAC, the tour operator branch of Germany's largest automobile association; Dieter Semmelroth, senior manager-asset finance, Preussag; Adolf Tauberger, vice-president of Messe-Berlin, the organiser of ITB Berlin travel exchange, and Daniela Wagner, vice-president-corporate affairs of World Travel and Tourism Council.