Interview: Bader Al-Darwish

In what ways are developments such as Hamad Port and Hamad International Airport impacting growth in the retail and distribution sectors?

BADER AL-DARWISH: These new developments coupled with the new free zones are key to facilitating growth in the retail and distribution sectors. New and modern infrastructure is a vital factor in the success of any sector to boost prospects and deliver progress. Furthermore, a safe and efficient infrastructure is critical to the retail industry and the communities we serve. We rely on roads and transit to get consumers and workers to our properties and we also need reliable routes to get products to our stores.

Qatar has made significant progress in this field, and its infrastructure is one of the best in the region and world. Hamad International Airport is a major growth factor for the number of people visiting Qatar, who in turn are willing to spend money on retail items, and enhance the position of Doha as a city of shopping and luxury brands in the region. The international airport also plays a significant role in attracting investment into the sector and wider economy in the medium and long term. Similarly, the new Hamad Port is the largest port in the region, and the main gate for trade between Qatar and the world. It is important to secure our supplies and enhance the cycle of retail and distribution business in general through this port.

How has Qatar progressed in terms of establishing alternate flows of retail tourism to the country?

AL-DARWISH: The country is fast becoming a major tourist destination in the region. Thanks to the vision of our leadership, Qatar is well positioned with alternative plans for any developments or challenges. We have thrived with government-led initiatives, becoming a leading destination for retail tourism in the region. The efforts of the Qatar National Tourism Council should be credited as well as they were able to promote our country in a positive light. As a nation, our plan is to boost tourism by improving the visa application process to enable the number of visitors to grow.

Thanks to the cooperation between government authorities and the public sector, we are now in a strong position and recording an increasing number of tourists and visitors who fuel the retail sector. A key to success was attracting more visitors from neighbouring Gulf countries like Kuwait and Oman, and targeting new markets across Asia and Europe. The cruise ship industry is also flourishing; we recorded around a 100% growth in the number of tourists from cruises since 2017. The extensive list of international and regional conferences and events across multiple sectors, such as academia, finance, science, entertainment and sports also contributed to this evolution. I believe that this growth in tourism is stimulating the retail sector and will continue to do so.

What strategies are being put in place to ensure the retail sector can take advantage of the influx of visitors associated with the 2022 FIFA World Cup?

AL-DARWISH: The 2022 FIFA World Cup will surely raise the country’s international profile, especially as a tourist destination. Being a host nation will open doors for different sectors, including retail, to benefit from this immense influx of visitors. Visitors will overall be concentrated in major cities, such as Doha, and as such we have developed plans that will allow us to strategically leverage this large inflow of potential customers. Retail is expected to be one of the major sectors that will be positively affected. Building on more than 70 years of presence in the market, we are preparing suitable packages and stocking appropriate items, running timely promotions, increasing the number of staff on duty where needed to meet the increase in visitors, and adapting opening hours. We believe that we are well prepared, and we are confident that we will meet visitors’ expectations by presenting the best of what our country has to offer to its international guests.