Qatar to pump $15bn into new tourism masterplan

Drumming it up in Qatar

QATAR has unveiled an ambitious new tourism masterplan that will guide a $15 billion investment into an array of prestigious projects and establish the state as a high-quality destination for cultural tourism, beach resorts, shopping, lifestyle, business and sports events.

Qatar Tourism Authority chairman and Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker unveiled the plan at the fourth GTTS.
“The initiatives in this new tourism masterplan will position Qatar as a leading high-quality tourism destination, in accord with the forward thinking vision of our country’s leader, His Highness the Emir, Shiekh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani,” Al Baker said. “Qatar will offer the high end of the tourist market with a fantastic travel experience of beach resorts, sun, expansive desert landscapes, a rich Arabic cultural heritage, prestigious hotels and extensive conference facilities, and major international sporting events – all in a very safe environment.”
The authority expects tourism growth to more than double in the next six years, from the 400,000 visitors that presently visit Qatar, to more than one million tourists in 2010. To that end, Qatar and its partners will be investing US$15 billion into new tourism infrastructure, in what represents one of the largest investments in tourism facilities in this region.
“Qatar is well known for retaining its rich Arabic culture, and this masterplan will ensure that visitors and tourists will be able to share in our rich heritage,” said Al Baker. There will be significant investment in cultural facilities, including a Museum of Islamic Arts, the promotion of Qatar’s many historic forts and the redevelopment of Qatar’s National Museum. Qatar is also successfully creating a major cultural festival of international repute.
A major area of the plan is the creation of luxury lifestyle cities, says Al Baker. The first such project, Pearl of the Gulf, was announced in April, and will be followed by the 32-sq-km North Beach Development, just north of the Ritz Carlton on the coast and featuring a number of new features such as a dedicated family entertainment district.
Another key area of the masterplan is the considerable amount of tourism development that will take place outside the city limits of Doha. A variety of beach resorts and lifestyle precincts will be developed to take advantage of Qatar’s unspoilt natural environment, its golden beaches and the warm turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf. These include the traditional Arabic Al Fareej Resort at Al Khor, the stylish luxury Al Mafjar Resort and the large public beach at Al Sumaisma.
Eight new four- and five-star hotels are expected to open by mid-2006, among them such well-known chains as the Hilton, Shangri-La, Four Seasons, Marriott, Rotana and Renaissance. The new hotels will add 2,550 rooms and new MICE  facilities.
On the sports front, Qatar is preparing for the 2006 Asian Games by redeveloping and upgrading existing facilities and developing a number of new venues such as the Khalifa Sports City, which will feature a redeveloped Khalifa Stadium, new aquatic centre, a large sports hall and an additional indoor sports hall. The country already hosts a number of major annual sporting events, such as the Qatar Masters Golf, the Qatar Tennis Open and the Qatar Airways Squash Challenge.
Finally, the new masterplan also includes a new international gateway to Qatar – the new $5 billion Doha International Airport. “The new airport will open in 2008 and by the time it is fully developed in 2015, it will have an annual capacity of 50 million passengers and allow for Qatar Airways’ continued meteoric growth,” said Al Baker.