fig 1: Doha golf club (source: www.marriott.com)
Qatar, the second fastest growing economy last year, is attracting a lot of attention from all around the world. Doha, the capital of this US $ 133 Billion economy has catapulted itself into a lavish city, from a sluggish one, within a decade. The success saga of Qatar could not escape from the eyes of the given website and a detailed analysis has been done (The detailed analysis could be found in following link http://themanagmentguru.blogspot.com/2011/02/qatar-past-present-and-future-strategy.html) . The given blog will analyze the emerging tourism sector of Qatar and will be benchmarking its capital Doha against another oil rich emirate, Abu Dhabi. On account of its burgeoning GDP & rapid business growth, Doha aspires to replace Dubai as the capital of Middle East. This might be a possibility in other fields but in tourism, where the Emirate state receives more than 10 million tourists a year, it is far from reality. The tourism industry in Qatar, where 95% of tourists are business travelers, is still in its inception stage and has a long way to go.
Tourism Industry: General overview
In Qatar, where petroleum constitutes 70% of its govt. revenue and 85% of export has ambitious plans for diversifying into various other alternate sectors. Tourism is one of them. Though tourism sector at Qatar is not very matured, it surely is high up on the govt. agenda, and is attracting huge investments, direct as well as indirect.
In 2009, Qatar’s total tourism revenue had been US $ 0.7 billion, lagging behind Bahrain’s US $ 1.1 billion and UAE’s US $ 7.2 Billion (Euromonitor blog, 2010). The biggest driving force for the sector is Qatar winning the bid to host football World Cup, which is considered as the biggest sporting event across the world, in the year 2022. Qatar is the 1st Arab state to host such a huge sports event and this will surely enhance the tourism industry. To prepare for the World Cup, Qatar is in quest of huge investments in infrastructure, hotels, and sporting utilities.
Some of the major infrastructure projects include Lusail city, Qatar Entertainment City, US $ 20 billion Pearl Project, Qatar Metro Project, International airports, football stadiums etc. The following figure shows the inflow of tourists over the period of time. The slight spike in 2006 over 2004 is on the account of Asian games 2006, conducted in Doha.
fig 2: Inflow of tourists in millions
fig 2: Inflow of tourists in millions
(Source of data: Euromonitor Blog)
Qatar is vigorously building new hotels to bolster its emerging tourism industry. So far it is has a wide range of luxury hotels and is currently concentrating more on development of 3 star and 4 star hotels. In 2010, it was estimated that it had added 2,500 new rooms, thereby bringing the total number of rooms to more than 11,000. (Arabianbusiness.com, 2010) The following graph reflects the number of hotel rooms, including past as well as future projections:
fig 3: total number of hotel rooms in Qatar
fig 4: counrty profile of inbound tourists in 2008
Types of tourism in Qatar
Qatar’s tourism industry primarily depends on business tourism and, as discussed earlier, 95% of the travelers are business travelers. Along with business tourism, other forms of tourism which are getting developed are luxury tourism, sports tourism, desert tourism etc.
• Business tourism: The high end business tourism is the corner stone of the tourism industry at Qatar, owing to Qatar’s vibrant economy and emergence as a constructive place to do business. The capital, Doha, is also emerging as a powerful MICE (Meetings, Incentive travel, Conferences and Exhibition) venue, along with other Middle Eastern counterparts, like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Cairo . In order to support its MICE industry , Qatar has established an institution named QMDI-“Qatar MICE Development Institute”, which is in the business of advising, supporting and conducting top notch business events at Qatar, with international expertise. Presently, there are international hotel chains along with Culture and Heritage Village and Doha Exhibition Center, catering to the MICE segment. Next year, in 2012, the QNCC (Qatar national exhibition center) with a massive space of 40,000 Sq meters is expected to be operational, adding further strength to the MICE industry.
• Lifestyle tourism: Qatar is seeking huge investments in building lifestyle tourism avenues which includes luxury hotels, resorts, spas, marinas, golf courses, exotic islands, coastline development, cultural museums etc. Qatar is a place where modern brilliance blends well with the traditional Qatari charm. Blessed with exotic desert landscapes and magnificent coast line, Qatar has a wide range of things to offer for life style tourists, hailing from all around the globe. Though still in its initial phase, Qatar is coming up with multi-billion dollar master plans to transform itself into a magnificent lifestyle tourist destination.
• Sports tourism: Like other Middle Eastern/GCC cities such as Dubai and Bahrain, Doha is emerging fast as a sports tourism destination. The very 1st thrust for sports tourism in Qatar was conducting the 2006 Asian games, the second largest sporting event after the Olympics. Qatar built around 30 sports facilities for it. The Asian Games 2006, the biggest Asian game of its time, witnessed 45 countries participating in 40 competitive events. (European business review, 2005). Since then, Qatar has conducted some world class events like, SonyEricsson WTA Tour, ExxonMobil Tennis Open, Qatar Masters Cup (golf), Asian Cup Football 2011 and some more. QTA (Qatar tourism authority), QSI (Qatar sports investment) and the Qatar Olympic Committee, in association with other private players, has invested extensively in developing world class sporting complexes such as Aspire Zone, Khalifa stadium, Doha golf course, Lusail international race circuit etc with state of the art facilities. The biggest success which Qatar has got in the area of sports had been winning the bid for hosting 2022 Football World Cup. Qatar had got ambitious plans for this grand event.
Major tourism development projects
The tourism industry at Qatar will go through a very interesting phase in the coming years. There are loads of huge development projects, including a new airport, under construction. The following part of the blog will be having a look at some of these projects:
• Lusail city: It’s a US $ 7.2 billion real estate development project which can accommodate 200, 000 individuals. Spread across an area of 37 Sq Kilometer, it consists of residences, towers, resorts, hotels and an offshore island with 500 villas. The project was announced in 2005 and is expected to be finished by 2020. ( Arabianbusiness.com, 2010)
• Qatar Entertainment City: Qatar entertainment city, a project funded by ADIH (Abu Dhabi investment house) is the part of grand Lusail city development project. Entertainment city is a step taken by Qatar to transform capital Doha into a world class tourist destination. Spread across an area of 10 Sq Kilometer, with a unique Kilometer long waterfront, the project will serve three purpose- residence, retail and entertainment. Along with sea front apartments and villas, five star hotels and retail outlets, the US $ 10 billion entertainment city project will be providing a wide range of entertainment options such as roller coasters, theme parks, cafes, go carting, rain forests, theatres etc. (ecqat.com, 2011)
• Pearl island project: The US $ 20 billion pearl island is a manmade island spread across an area of four Sq Kilometer, developed by United Development Company (UDC), the biggest private equity firm in Qatar. The mixed used project will be consisting of world class apartments, villas, sea front accommodations, hotels and resorts along with wide range of entertainment facilities such as Marinas with around 1000 boats, yacht club, Restaurants etc. The project started in 2006 and is expected to finish by 2011. Once being fully complete, the island will be having 18000 luxury houses, capable of accommodating 41,000 individuals along with 2 million Sq feet of retail space used for retail outlets, restaurants etc. (pearl island homepage, 2011)
• New Doha international airport: By 2012, the new Doha international airport (NDIA) will be operational. The US $ 11 billion airport, with an annual capacity of 24 million passengers (once being fully complete, it can handle around 50 million passengers) and 1.3 million cargos, is expected to be one of the most high tech airports in the world. Once being operational, the base of Qatar airways, the national career of Qatar will be shifted to NDIA. (Constructionweekonline.com, 2009)
2022 World Cup: Preparations
One of the biggest success that Qatar witnessed in the recent past is winning the bid to conduct Football World Cup 2022. The entire state is very excited with this and is preparing hard for the same. In order to successfully conduct the event, huge investment plans are on cards. The following part will be discussing the road map of preparation for the world cup:-
• Road, railways and sea networks: It has been estimated that during the World Cup, 400,000 fans will be visiting Doha from all around the world. In order to facilitate their smooth and fast movement, Qatar is having huge investment plans. It includes allocating US $ 20 billion for the development of road and highway networks, US $ 11 billion for the new airport discussed above, US $ 5.5 billion for deepwater port, US $ 4 billion for building a bridge between Bahrain and Qatar over the sea. There will be an investment of approximately US $ 40 billion in developing a 340 Kilometer, 98 station metro railway networks for Doha and its outer skirts. (Dubaimetro.eu, 2011)
• Football stadium: There is a US $ 4 billion investment plan for building nine stadiums and renovating three existing stadiums. In order to cope with the intense heat, prevalent in this part of globe during the time of world cup, Qatar will be implementing cutting edge climate technologies, which will keep the temperature with in 28 degree Celsius. (worldarchitecturenews.com, 2010)
• Hotels: To accommodate the vast pool of fans coming from all around the world, Qatar has invested religiously in developing 3 star and 4 star hotels. It is expected that by 2022 Qatar will be having around 90,000 rooms. Along with the existing 100 properties, 140 new properties will be used for meeting the accommodation requirements. Qatar is also planning to use a cruise ship with 6000 rooms for accommodating the fans. (HotelierMiddleEast.com, 2010)
Doha vs. Abu Dhabi
Both Qatar and Abu Dhabi are considered as emerging tourist destinations and have striking similarity. In the following part the tourism industry of Qatar and Abu Dhabi will be compared on various parameters.
table 1: comparing Qatar and Abu Dhabi across various parameters
Tourism is high up on the agendas for both the Arab state- Qatar as well as Abu Dhabi, and are seeking huge investments in tourism infrastructure and are marketing them very aggressively. While Qatar is preparing hard for 2022, Abu Dhabi aspires having around 7.9 million tourists by the end of 2030, as a part of its vision 2030. ( a detailed blog on Abu Dhabi 2030 could be found in the following link: http://themanagmentguru.blogspot.com/2011/02/abu-dhabis-economic-vision-2030-brief.html ) They have their similarities, as well as individual competencies. While going by the table, it can be inferred that Abu Dhabi has slight advantage over Qatar, on account of various parameters such as number of, tourists, hotel rooms etc. Qatar’s plus point is its robust economic growth, escalation and expansion plan for its tourism industry, emergence of its national carrier Qatar airways as a world class carrier and winning the bid for organizing football world cup 2022 which can do unprecedented marketing for Qatar as a destination. One interesting point that has to be observed is that since both the Arab state share a lot of similarities and are also geographically closely placed, their ambitious plans for tourism are bound to clash at some point of another. One’s gain will definitely be another’s loss.
Recommendations for tourism industry at Qatar:-
Unique Branding: - Over the period of time Qatar needs to Come up with a unique position for it. In the present scenario, Qatar may have made a mark as one of the fastest economies in the world, but as far as tourism is concern, there is hardly anything differentiating Qatar from Abu Dhabi, Bahrain or Kuwait. It is like any other cash rich/ oil rich GCC state with upcoming, real estate projects, sky scrapers, shopping malls, spas and resorts etc. Qatar needs to build its promotional campaign on something, which can directly differentiate Qatar from rest of the Gulf States. Unique selling prepositions could be its Arabic heritage, economic growth, safety, friendly populace etc.
• 2022 world cup: 2022 world cup will provide a great opportunity for Qatar to showcase its grandeur to the whole world. After winning the bid, Qatar is getting a lot of international attention. The entire process of preparation for the world cup can do wonders in building brand Qatar. Hence it needs to use it judiciously in building a positive brand image for itself.
• Use of large number of hotel rooms post world cup: Qatar is planning to build 90,000 hotel rooms for the world cup. Once the world cup is over, further utilization of such a large inventory of hotel rooms will be difficult for Qatar, until unless it does not develop a strong alternative tourism market for itself. Qatar needs to develop a strong market for a wide range of tourism such as, leisure, life style, sports, desert, cultural, tourism.
• Engaging business travelers: 95% of the travelers visiting at Qatar come for business travelers. Qatar needs to engage such travelers for some leisure activities. It had been observed that business visitors had high chances of revisiting a location for leisure activities.
• Strong focus on inbound tourism: With a per capita GDP of US $ 93,000 in 2008, (Euromonitor, 2009) Qataris are among the richest individuals in the world. Hence it is essential that the tourism authorities at Qatar should not only be focusing on inbound tourism but also emphasize on domestic tourism, given the fact that Qatari nationals have huge disposable income to spend.
#: includes major construction projects along with preparation for the world cup.
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12> Euromonitor, 2009, Euromonitor international: travel and tourism in Qatar, p-48